While finishing up an English assignment the other day, my eldest was asked to come up with a list of opinions and facts about herself. She cheerfully worked on her list, and came back to me. “Opinions: I love horseback riding. I like lettes (lettuce). I love cheese.”
We paused and had a quick discussion. A fact is a statement that is true and can be proven. You DO love horseback riding, and you like lettuce and cheese. An opinion is a statement that holds an element of belief. Broccoli is better than green beans. It’s better to have a birthday during the school year than the summer. The Beatles are far superior to the Rolling Stones. I’m bad at math, so I can’t do accounting. I’m not smart enough to run a really successful business.
Ooh wait a minute. Did those last two strike a nerve?
From childhood on, we believe opinions of ourselves, sometimes crafted within and sometimes driven home by others. We’re too short to be supermodels. (Fact? Maybe.) People in our family go to college. There’s no other option. (Fact? Partially. Opinion? Definitely) We don’t have enough time to run a really successful business. If we grow our business too quickly, we won’t be able to keep up with all the orders and it will be a failure. We can’t learn how to do social media as well as others because it doesn’t come naturally. There are too many bakers in my town for me to make a living. (All of these? Opinion. Opinion. Opinion.)
We say opinions to ourselves with such fervor, such faith that our brain takes it as fact, and will defend these ultimately damaging and FALSE opinions to the death. Because there’s a strong part of our brain that is the part that has kept civilization from going extinct for a reeeeaaaally long time. It’s the part that kept us safe in caves, fed in winter, cautious around fires, and careful around cliffs. And when there are no sabertooth tigers around to defend against? That small part keeps us “safe” from failure.
“Don’t try that new business, you might fail.”
“Don’t post that, someone might think less of you.”
“Don’t try that, you’re not good enough/smart enough/accomplished enough.”
“Don’t launch that, you don’t have a perfect product yet. Nobody wants to buy something that’s not perfect.”
What if we took these statements as the product of an advertisement? Or the promises of a political figure? We’re SO CYNICAL when it comes to pop ups and commercials and emails promising seemingly miraculous transformations (LOSE 50 POUNDS IN 10 DAYS! MAKE $10,000 IN 3 MONTHS! I promise I’ll lower taxes and everyone will get free ponies and Starbucks!) but sooooo willing to believe what our brain tells us. What if we were just as analytical and skeptical about the messages coming from inside us as we were about Facebook advertisements?
What if when we heard “I’m not as good as them” while looking at Instagram, that instead we could reword that? “I can appreciate another’s talent without feeling inferior. My work has improved vastly since last year.”
What if when we said “I don’t have time to read books” we said to ourselves “I’m not currently choosing to read books, but I’m perfectly capable of listening to audiobooks on the way to drop the kids off.”
When you take allllllllll the responsibility for the things in your life that you are not achieving, you’re NOT TAKING THE BLAME. I DO NOT want to see you hanging your head, beating yourself up, and feeling like a failure for not being where you want to be. CONGRATULATIONS! You have room to grow! Imagine how bad it would suck if you had done all you knew and it still didn’t work? (although that’s still not the end of the line, just the end of all you know).
So let’s stop lying to ourselves.
Look at your Inner Voice, and if she is a bully, I want you to slap her and invite the quieter, nicer girl inside you to speak up. She’s in there. You’ve just got to give her a chance to speak.