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Fine-tuning your listening skills: hearing the voice of wisdom through the cacaphony of self-doubt

Sometimes the words we need to hear — those messages that really guide us — are blissfully easy to hear. They might show themselves to us as we wake from sleeping, fresh and still unencumbered by the busyness of the day. Sometimes they flash across our consciousness like billboard signs. Or they tumble from our pens straight into our journals.

But mostly they don’t.

Usually the messages of truth struggle to be heard from within the shouting match in our heads. It’s a free-for-all in there: we’ve got doubt, self-criticism and fear piping up with convincing barbs, doing their best to drown out the quieter messages that come from that solid place of wisdom. The messages that arise to guide us have to be clever enough to dodge the naysayers, and clear enough to be heard over the shrill screeching of fear-based voices.

The cacaphony goes something like this:

(spoken quietly) I am ready to send out my manuscript.

ARE YOU SERIOUS? You’ll get rejected. Again!

It’s not finished. The ending isn’t quite right.

Who are you to write a book? You never finished your MFA.

Your writing group had so many criticisms, remember?

(spoken quietly) I’m sending out my manuscript this week.

YOUR NOVEL IS TRITE. Noone will like it.

It’s going to be so embarrassing to admit you failed.

Save yourself the heartbreak and write another book. This one sucks.

Sound familiar?

It’s interesting how the cacaphony gets loudest when we’re pushed right up against a growth edge; they’re at fever pitch when we’re on the verge of unfurling. The critical voices are the work of our inner critics, and they tend to be manageable when we’re staying small, keeping to the program, staying inside the boxes we’ve occupied for so long. But when we’re ready to play bigger, to take a stand for ourselves, to push the envelope — that’s when the inner critic gets out the big guns. That’s when we need to manage the cacaphony inside, or be deafened by it.

The good news is this: just because the voices are loud doesn’t mean they’re powerful. It’s more smoke and mirrors than actual obstacles in our paths. We’re poised to bust out in a big way, and this is a last-ditch effort to keep us small. The voice of the inner critic is a force to be reckoned with, but it isn’t reason to throw in the towel. We’re better than that. We simply need to be creative about dealing with the voices we hear, and clever enough to direct the unhelpful ones to the back of the bus.

Here are five ways to discern the voice of truth from those of the inner critic chorus:

Listen for the steady one

Your truth is never shrill or screechy; that’s the way your inner critic hammers you down. Notice the desperation in the messages arising from fear and self-doubt. Notice the panic these messages evoke inside of you. Choose to ignore these messages, and listen for the steady, constant voice that lies beneath them. Your truth doesn’t need to out-shout your inner critic. It will wait for you to hear it.

Tap into love

Love cannot provide an environment for fear to thrive in. In fact, it’s impossible for fear to co-exist with love. Impossible. So to find your truth, give yourself over to love. Find ways to bask in the warmth of love; call it in, bring it forth and welcome its ability to clear out the gunk so you can see more clearly. Tapping into love is different for everyone, but the end result is a you who sees more clearly and is able to operate with a big open heart.

Appreciate the sentiment, but gracefully decline

Your inner critic has, at the root, a desire to keep you safe. The messages s/he delivers come from a time in your past when you really did need some safekeeping, and when avoiding risk was wise. But the messages are outdated and no longer helpful. So tell your inner critic Thanks for the well-wishes; I won’t be needing this advice right now. Got it handled.

Face your inner critic head-on

They really aren’t very sophisticated, but they sure are clever. The inner critic is so believable because s/he uses information sourced from your worst experiences of insecurity and self-doubt. Call your inner critic on the garbage she’s serving you. Let her know that you’re aware of her tricks and you’re better than that. Shame him into silence.

Strengthen your relationship with your truth

Each time you navigate the storm of differing opinions and are able to choose your truth, throw yourself a party.  This is worthy of celebration.  You strengthen that discernment muscle each time you’re able to stand down the chattering ninnies.  Note the miracle.  Recognize what helped you, and how it feels to have persevered.  Know that your truth is reliably available to you, even if there are times you try, and fail, to find it.  In the end it always allows itself to be found.

So the next time your inner chorus reaches fever pitch, take the opportunity to listen for your truth.  As much as your inner critics are invested in keeping you small, your truth wants you to unfurl.  And it has the information that will assist your gorgeous unfurling.  Find it.  Own it.  Speak it.

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