The voices in our heads

Image by Jhonis Martins,

I originally posted a version of this to a trans forum in response to someone who’s having a really hard time with body image, with feeling that they look ridiculous, with being trans in a world that isn’t always a nice place for trans people. I thought it was worth posting a version of it here.

I think most of us have a voice inside us that amplifies everything negative we’ve ever heard, that makes us think the worst about ourselves. The world can do a good job of kicking away at our confidence if we let it.

Making us think we look ridiculous is part of that. We buy into it. But there’s nothing ridiculous about being yourself, about having a bit of fun with things. Maybe we don’t look quite like we’d like to, but nobody else does either. My very beautiful cisgender friends aren’t happy with their bodies or appearance either.

I’m finding counselling helps me get a handle on this. It’s helping me to silence the negative voice, to notice when I’m imagining the worst possible outcome or coming to the worst possible conclusions: I’m disgusting, I’m fat, everybody hates me, I’m a failure as a human being, if I go out I’ll be yelled at, laughed at or killed. All that good stuff.

It’s helping me to understand that the little voice is usually wrong, that I can choose not to listen to it, that I can choose to think and act positively.

You don’t necessarily need to go to counselling to do any of those things. It’s just a matter of recognising patterns, about realising that all too often we choose to amplify the voices that make us sad while ignoring the ones that don’t.

Here’s an example. When my women friends, who I really care about and whose opinions really matter to me, pay me compliments I immediately discount them. But if some wanker on a bus gives me a dirty look I will conclude that I look ridiculous, I’m a pathetic failure and I might as well kill myself.

I don’t necessarily realise I’m doing it, but I’m making a choice. In that example I’m choosing to think the worst. I’m choosing to see the world as negatively as possible. I’m choosing to reject anything positive and accept everything negative.

Being aware of that is half the battle.

Being aware of your thought patterns doesn’t mean there aren’t any wankers in the world. But it does help you realise that it’s up to you whether you make room for their bullshit in your head. It’s your choice whether to base your world view, your sense of self, on somebody you don’t know and whose opinion is of no consequence at all.

It takes time and effort to get there, and there will still be bad days. But when you become aware of the patterns, you have many, many more good days. You realise that your negative voice will say pretty much anything to try and hurt you. You realise that it’s full of shit.

You’re a better person than the voice in your head says you are.

The world is a better place than you tell yourself it is.

Here’s an example from this week. I stood up on a stage with a guitar and played some songs to a room full of strangers. The voice in my head told me that I was fat, that I was old, that I didn’t pass, that I was a freak, that I was a mess, that my songs are crap, that if I got up on that stage I’d be a laughing stock.

And I ignored it, and I had fun, and I was awesome.

You are too. Don’t let that voice tell you otherwise.