I have been hearing a voice in my head. It tells me I am crazy, lost, unworthy, a poser, and stupid and ugly. It tells me I am loud and absurd, that people don’t understand me. It tells me I am alone and that the only safe place on this earth is by myself. It tells me I cannot rely on others, and that if I make a mistake, they will leave me without explanation. This voice reminds me constantly of how many times I have been let down. This voice is cruel and fear-driven. This voice is the inflated and injured ego that lives inside my mind.
But lately, I have been talking back.
What if every single thing that someone did, said, believed, and decided had absolutely nothing to do with me? What if each time I felt confused, annoyed, hurt, dismissed, attacked, or offended, I actually made a choice to not take it personally? I am beginning to think that this just might be closer to the truth than anything I have ever known.
Let me give you an example: If my friend habitually cancels our plans at the last minute, this voice might say, “She does not care about me, about us. She probably doesn’t even like me all that much.” I might then complain, and I might harbor resentment. I might push her out of my life. I might even do it with an air of judgment. Perhaps I feel rejected because I do not trust my own lovability. Perhaps I tell myself that I am too easy on my friends and should demand them to be more reliable? Yet, there are many good reasons my friend might cancel that have nothing to do with me.
Isn’t anyone’s pattern of unreliability more about them? Doesn’t it suggest many possibilities, like they are just not good at planning; they get overwhelmed easily; they’re just hoping I will have grace; or they could not predict the unforeseen? Is it not more likely that they struggle to say no, or they do not think to check their calendar before committing?
How does this have anything to do with me?
And even if it were about me, as if they were afraid to tell me they need a change, isn’t it their job to do so? Is it not their responsibility to be honest and let me in on it?
This only furthers my idea that such mismanagement of time and devotion is in fact NOT about me.
Additionally, let’s say someone thinks they have the corner market on reality. Let’s say, for instance, they are atheist. They do not believe in any source of a higher power, nor do they honestly respect those who do. Spirituality is hogwash for the weak. Let’s just say for the sake of my argument about that voice in my head, that I find them to be disappointing, naive, closed-minded, or blind. Clearly, we are at an impasse. We will possibly never agree as to whether or not some version of a god exists.
My ego, that defensive voice within, is ready for a fight. I want to convince this atheist that he is wrong and launch into the myriad ways in which it is undoubtedly obvious that my faith in a higher being is the better way, the best way in fact.
This is exactly when I need to pause. I can come up with twenty reasons as to why they think the way they do as they are sharing their beliefs with me. I can break it down and construct a multitude of ways in which their values do not coincide with mine. I can declare that I have lived this path and could write and have read an entire library on this subject.
Instead, I pause. Then I have a little chat with that voice in my head. It goes something like this:
Truth voice: Wait. This isn’t about me. This person is not even asking me what I think.
Ego voice: This has everything to do with me. I spend the better part of every single day almost obsessing about my spiritual world, my teachings, my rituals, my connection to the divine. My beliefs are a relentless and vigilant value which feeds and sustains my soul. This is who I am!
Truth voice: This person does not base his beliefs on what I do or feel or think. They base their atheist views on their own reality.
Ego voice: Why don’t they care what I think? Don’t they know how insulting this is? Do they even know me? This sucks!
Truth voice: This person may grow hostile if I insist on being heard and understood right now. If I cannot allow them their own mind, I am a hypocrite.
Ego voice: I wish I could control what they think.
Truth voice: I wish we could share a common ground on this subject. Well…we do share some common ground. We share friends, a community, basic decency and a love for the arts and the earth, and being our best selves. We share a sense of humor. We laugh together all the time. I love him. He is my friend. He is a good friend, even if he doesn’t consciously worship the divine inside himself or outside of himself. Perhaps he just doesn’t name it in the same ways I do.
This sort of conversation in my head is helping me. I am learning to let go of being understood much of the time. I am seeing that holding love for others has very little to do with me. Except that I have to also love myself. I have to love myself exactly how I am without convincing someone that I have value, that my beliefs have value.
Ego voice: If people really loved me, they would validate me.
Truth voice: If people really loved me, it is because I have the capacity to validate them.