More than fifteen years ago in my old job my boss casually told me that I am unlikeable. And it struck me big time because I’ve always secretly thought I was unlikeable and hearing it from an authoritative figure instantly confirmed my greatest fear. Even if up until that moment I thought I was already easing out of my defeatist behavior --- I loved my job dearly and I was surrounded with supportive friends. But in that instant, everything that I had tried to build in the past two or three years crumbled so fast and so easily. After that, I cannot un-hear the voice every time I got a crappy assignment or a heartbreaking rejection. The reason is simple: It’s because I am unlikeable.
And this is just one of the many voices percolating inside my head on a daily basis. You are untalented. You are crap. You are stupid. You will never amount to anything. Or, as one of my favorite lines from Game of Thrones tells it, “If you think this has a happy ending you haven’t been paying attention.” Yes, I have Ramsey Bolton as my spiritual twin. It’s like sitting on a nice beach during a bright sunny afternoon but instead of enjoying myself my eyes are looking dead straight at the ominous dark clouds crawling slowly towards the shore.
Yesterday, The School of Life (Alain de Botton’s Youtube site) uploaded this interesting video. The defeatist voices in our heads, they said, are just echoes of the dismissive voices we had heard for years. And these voices which we had internalized so badly ultimately became the voice of reason. The video made so much sense to me because I grew up in an environment where I had to hide my true self in order get along with others. To tell you frankly, the video could have not come at such an appropriate time because lately I’ve been hiding from people. I have been hiding from friends because I can no longer hear words of encouragement. I could only hear destructive criticism. I could only see malice and not kindness. And this nagging feeling had made me retaliate more than once. I’ve become nasty and irritable. I’ve become boorish and unforgiving.
But knowing the origins of the voices is one thing. Taking them out of my head is another. How indeed does one unclutter the head with these nasty voices? Therapy, perhaps? A klonopin in the morning and Prozac in the evening? I don’t know. What I do know for now though is that I have to begin with those simple words stuck inside my head for the last fifteen years. I am not unlikeable.