My inner voice is an asshole. For as long as I can remember, even as far back as elementary school, it taught me important things like, You’re not good at art. You suck a dodge ball. Your bangs are dumb looking. You can’t spell. But like a hostage with a diabolical captor, I didn’t know anything else and quickly developed Stockholm syndrome. I not only liked my inner voice, I would defend it as wise and insightful…yo, my bangs were pretty jacked up. But, what it really was, and still is, is Hannibal Lecter holding me hostage, and no matter how much lotion this chick puts on herself, he’s still going to skin her alive if she doesn’t escape.

So, where does this hyper-critical inner voice come from? I’m guessing the non-stop bombardment of messages of impossible perfection we get every day in advertising, television, movies, and magazines. When I was growing up, I dreamt of being fair-skinned, blue-eyed, and blond. Why? Well, when I was working in the magazine industry in my thirties, I learned brunettes on the cover sold fewer issues. So, yeah, message received! Messages of perfection are constant. Female perfection. Male perfection. Parenting perfection. Career perfection. Academic perfection. Athletic perfection. Healthy food perfection. Vacation f-ing perfection. And my personal favorite, Imperfection perfection…ya know, like how adorably flawed I am in all my blogs.

But as we get older, we realize no one gives a shit about our dodge ball skills and bangs are optional (thank the lord). We intellectually understand that perfection doesn’t exist and begin to see ourselves as strong, beautiful, smart, and capable…more than good enough. So, you would think we would no longer be held captive. Well, think again. We stay by choice. And not because we suck, like the voice likes to tell us, but because our inner voice is not only an asshole; it’s tenacious and cunning. Forget the color of your hair, it’s onto bigger and more nuanced things, namely exploiting your deepest self-doubts, convincing you you’re a fraud, and oh, it thinks you’re fat. Inner voices are obsessed with weight. Kinda makes you long for a good ol’ fashioned dodge ball shaming.

Well, I’ve been working on escaping my inner voice for years and have figured out that I’m not the fraud; my inner voice is the fraud, and here’s why…

No one hears it but you. This is a key concept to grasp if you want to shut up this loud-mouthed jerk living in your head. I used to think that my inner voice was about some form of humility. Bahahahaha. It’s not. I thought if I didn’t beat myself up first someone else would…and isn’t it better to be in control of knowing my faults and shortcomings and hating myself for them before someone else could? The answer to that is, no. No, it’s not better at all. It’s also cray-cray because no one hears your inner voice but you. Your self-criticism doesn’t make you come across as humble, it just makes you feel perpetually shitty about yourself for no other reason than it’s a habit.

It’s mean. God, my inner voice is like the meanest, most unforgiving d-bag on the planet. If I met my inner voice at a party I’d be like, Who invited this jerk? I would most definitely NEVER entertain the words of my inner voice if they were embodied in another human being. And yet…I’ve somehow invited this psychotic person to live in my brain? Yeah, it’s messed up.

It’s negative. Every now and again my inner voice says something nice, but then quickly follows it up with something negative, so I don’t get too full of myself. As if! Inner voices are never satisfied for long, so you can only sustain fleeting moments of self-love before that evil, shrewd, manipulative yapper reminds you how much you are failing in looks, career, marriage, parenting, existing…whatever.

It’s wrong. Yeah, that’s right. It’s wrong. This one is tough to accept because it’s confusing. Sometimes you do suck. Sometimes you are stupid.I did suck at dodge ball. And, again, my childhood bangs were really awful, like objectively. But my inner voice made those things out to be serious defects of my existence instead of one-shoulder shrugs about myself that don’t matter. It’s like how we say, “I’m fat” when that’s simply not true. I’m this whole interesting and complex person who has some fat. I promise you that whatever you are habitually beating yourself up about, it’s not true.

Look, being held captive and brainwashed for so long requires some serious deprogramming. Sadly there’s no quick fix to shut this fucker up, but meditation has helped me. Not to be that “you should meditate” person, but…you should meditate. It will help you see yourself in a more loving, positive light, and it’s all the relief you might imagine it to be, and more. When I started meditating I was sure there was no way I could quiet this bad boy mind of mine. Have you met me? I never stop pondering the meaning of life from existential death issues to how soul-sucking it is to load and unload the dishwasher. But, it was surprisingly easy and gave me the strength to confront my asshole inner voice Patrick Swayze, “nobody puts baby in a corner,” style.

But even meditation, as mind changing as it is, can’t stop your inner voice from having your ear. It will always have your ear…it’s in your ear, literally. So, my other strategy has been trying to make friends with it. I know it means well. It was a form of protection for me – to have such a low opinion of myself I could always exceed. But what it did, and what it’s been doing, is keeping me from my full potential and that’s no way to live. Years ago I read this quote by Marianne Williamson in a speech by Nelson Mandela and thought, oh my god, this.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

I truncated it a bit, but I love the line, “Your playing small does not serve the world.” Holy shit, yes. Yes!

I’d like to end this here and tell you that some meditation and one quote have completely freed me from my inner voice captor, but the truth is, it got visitation rights. It’s a battle, man. But I no longer believe what it says. I can’t possibly always suck. I’m actually not stupid. And, I’m not even fat, for the love of snot. What I am is this thing called, human. Flawed, learning, struggling, thriving. I have preferences. I have strengths and weaknesses. I have moments of wise clarity and many, many moments of, what the fuck am I doing? I’m just me, and that has to be enough.

So when my inner Hannibal Lecter shows up telling me to put lotion on myself, I confidently tell it to shut up until it cowers and adds, No, I just mean your skin is dry and I want you to take care of you because I love you. Good, weirdo cannibal inner voice captor, good boy.


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  1. My inner voice tells me that I’m fat and have man-boobs. It has been this mean since I was in middle school.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom and wit on this topic!

  2. Swayze and Williamson. Damn, this is good. My voice is screaming at me these days but I’m working on it because “I can’t possibly always suck”……

  3. I’m reading you loud and clear and I’m in total agreement. I love your emphasis on the fact that there’s no quick fix but that there are things that help tremendously, and some of these things are easy! My asshole inner voice has always told me not to write, a few weeks ago I decided not to listen anymore and that evolved into me publishing a blog! I’d love for you to check it out sometime if you feel so inclined and I’d welcome any feedback you might have. I’m joining the imperfect perfection crusade and I love spreading that message. Thank you for your amazing inspiration over the years. My all time favorite post was one you wrote on how family dinners actually throw down. It made me feel so much better about our own sucky dinners! Here’s a link to copy to view my first post:

  4. Great piece, M! Your meditation and desire to evolve into more of who you is so inspirational! Congratulations! I refer to my ego as the untrained puppy that craps whenever, and nips at me for attention unless I am mindful of what it’s up to:) I love Marianne Williamson too!

  5. Love the Marianne Williamson quote…that book is amazing.
    I actually used that quote teaching my very first yoga class because I was trying to be so perfect and I was a nervous wreck! Telling myself how terrible I was going to be at it…I have the same inner voice as you I guess.
    Love this artice, makes me feel like I am not the only one that is terribly hard on myself. Thank you for bringing normalcy to my life!

  6. Finally got around to reading this post and I’m glad I did!! Everything you said rings true. I especially liked the first line: “My inner voice is an asshole” and the party reference…so accurate! I wish I could shut that bitch up. You actually have me thinking about meditation, which seems sort of fake to me, to be honest.

    On a side note, while I was reading your blog post, my Pandora station played a Ben Folds song called “Learn to Live With What You Are.” Coincidence? I think not.

    And all your F-bombs mean we could seriously be good friends!

  7. Thank you so much for writing this blog! I couldn’t agree more with each and every point you’ve made.

    I am a 50 year old, white man that is also a disabled and homeless veteran, struggling with PTSD. I never knew I was considered a disabled veteran until 4 years ago.

    While in the military, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt after sexual trauma I experienced. I was 19 years old at the time and had been married about 2 months when it happened.

    Did wonders for my self-esteem (yes, much sarcasm here), as one might imagine.

    The military decided to give me an honorable discharge once they were confident I was no longer a danger to myself or others. They released me from the hospital care, discharged me and sent me home.

    Since no-one told me to apply for disability benefits, let alone the fact that I was considered disabled, I missed out on 28 years of disability pay and free medical care.

    When I’d lost the job I had 4 years ago, it was the case worker in unemployment that explained what a short line at the bottom of my dd214 was actually saying.

    She referred me to a Service Officer in the area explaining that I should apply and, if approved, I could get the aforementioned benefits.

    I was confident I could handle talking about it all, as I had never told a single soul about what occured. Not my ex wife, kids nor anyone in the military.

    Looking back at my life, it is easy to see that I was indeed suffering from PTSD. I was trying my best to behave as if nothing had ever happened.

    To say that I was ridiculously, almost comically underestimating things would be an epic understatement!

    The Service Officer had obviously gone through this kind of situation before. He began by filling out the forms for me. Only now do I realize he did this, not only to be helpful (I do have terrible handwriting, after all), but to legitimately have a reason to fix his eyes on the paper alone, granting me as much privacy as was possible.

    He was leaning almost directly above the paper in his desk writing very, very slowly.

    When I said the words out loud for the very first time, that someone had silently snuck up behind me, throwing a bag over my head, so I could see absolutely nothing. That was when I was silently raped by 3 men. Since not even a single voice was heard, I never knew who any of them were.

    It was the next day I attempted suicide.

    Fortunately, the attempt failed and I was quickly hospitalized. Unfortunately, I could not muster up the inner strength to tell anyone what happened. The bonus for the day while saying all of this for the very first time, was that I experienced my first panic attack, side by side with my first flashback.

    It most likely took about one whole minute for me to regain my senses and self control, although it felt like hours to me.

    The Service Officer pretended to still be writing something, the entire time. During the entire process, he had not looked at me, even once. I am grateful beyond words to this man and what he’d done for my sake.

    Opening up this old wound has made my life a living hell for the past 4 years.

    That inner voice introduce himself you me and moved in without waiting to be invited in. He’s stayed with me this entire time. In one, very recent email to my councillor, I had explained that this voices strategy were insidious and totally a dick move! (Reminded me of that similar comment you made here)

    Along the way I have learned that those with PTSD can compare an older MRI to a new one and actually see changes to the inner structures of their brain. Also, that these same people have their brain chemicals, normally produced and combined together in certain ways, messed up or no longer made at all.

    This can lead to an utter lack of emotions which can create a sense of detachment. With all of these changes going on, a persons feelings of friendship, joy, love and so on, simply begin to fade away.

    I think that this can lead to us feeling alone and even unwanted. Then, whenever someone says things to express their love to us, we respond with mistrust.

    I believe this can lead us into being more accepting of the things that inner voice of suicide has to say. After all, it is the only companion in our lives that has proven itself not to not two-faced. It is someone that has never changed what they have been saying all along.

    This is where I suspect that Stockholm Syndrome takes root.

    Because most people have never experienced PTSD, nor had their inner brain structures physically changed, let alone having their brain chemistry massively altered, it is beyond impossible for them to understand why anyone would listen to such an inner voice.

    They simply have no frame of reference to allow them to, “step into my shoes”. If there were a way (makes me think of the baby device men can wear to see what it’s like to be pregnant) to have someone feel, or not feel, as we do, everything would change.

    Possibly for the better, but who knows?

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