“An inner voice always used to be an outer voice.”
“We internalized the unhelpful voices because in certain key moments in the past they sounded compelling.”
If you ever heard a Jamaican say the phrase “Dark an’ fool“, they’re referring to a person who avoids the company of people at all costs or who’s extremely shy if forced to join a crowd. This person usually stammers, chats rubbish, is suddenly clumsy or has magically lost all their senses. The term usually makes the person sound as if they brought it on themselves for entirely no reason but for fear of the one thing you have no excuse fearing – your fellow species. It says, “If yuh fool/coward enough fi fear yuh own kind, wah yah go do when animal attack yuh?”
Growing up in my house, “dark and fool” was my nickname. I was a bookworm, and for some reason:
bookworm + less & less socialisation = nerd & nerd = lacking trust in the people around you who you think are incapable of understanding anything you have to say.
There. I said it. So that’s what that was…
Anyways, because I was pissed at being considered stupid for “being precautious” (the excuse I told myself), I withdrew further & further into my shell as self-defence. I consoled myself with the thought that if there was an apocalypse, I’d live because they’re the real idiots (“they” being anyone who doubted me).
But something else buried itself in that shell with me. Because the outside world constantly met me with withdrawn politeness, I started to wonder if I really was overreacting so much as to make it obvious that I didn’t trust people. People would talk to me, but not directly because I probably gave a sense of unwelcome. I started to hear things they wouldn’t say out loud in my head. Things like,
“Why she so boring” or “She couldn’t dress better? Why she so tomboyish?” or “Lawd, just cuz she bright she feel like she must answer to everything? We nuh done see her?”
The moment I started hearing that, I imagined that the people who said them in my head were those who stood before me. Their smiles and eager expressions were masking how they truly felt – disgusted at my awkwardness & upset at having to endure my presence. So I started pulling away from them. The messages became infrequent & if anyone saw me after a long hiatus, the atmosphere was sure to be filled with “Wow, you look so different!”
I started to believe everything the voices in my head would tell me. I’m not funny. I don’t have any real talent. I’m only book smart / I’m not as smart as I think. I’m too skinny. No one will like me enough to accept a big belly. Why am I even writing if only I will read it? Why should I think anyone cares enough to support me?
An inner voice used to always be an outer voice. That line is what helped me understand why I tricked myself into believing I don’t like me, & why when I’m alone, I ignore consciousness of self completely. Coming into this world, I was fed only negative ideas about myself. I was told whenever I was singing that I was making noise and upsetting peace as early as being age 7. I was criticised for having bad penmanship when I was just learning. I was told no man would want me, or I’d be beaten by one because I had no interest in learning how to cook “properly” at 17. Nothing I cleaned was thought to be clean enough. As soon as I was no longer in the presence of someone who called me pretty, I was reassured by who remained that the comment was only made as part of the small talk. When there’s little to no one saying the opposite, it’s hard to believe in the contrary.
But things have been changing. Videos like this one help me to understand myself & understand why the world is the way it is. They might not offer advice that is directly related to all your needs, but they help you along. And to me, if I can make sense of why there’s any kind of negativity, I can be better able to forgive more freely.
What do you use to cope with inner voices? Let me know in the comments below.