In our coaching work we frequently hear concerns like these:

  • I feel like my lack of confidence is getting in the way
  • I feel guilty if I _____ (fill in the blank – give tough feedback; stay late at work; tell my team what to do instead of solicit their input; stay home to take care of the kids; make sure my needs are met; make a decision without consensus; etc.)
  • Maybe I don’t have what it takes to ______
  • It would be out of my comfort zone to ______
  • That’s just not me
  • I really should _____; and/or: I really should stop ______
  • I can’t ______

These conversations with ourselves (and sometimes with others) are mostly a function of the amalgamated authority voices in your head. Those authority voices are there because we need them as children – it’s a good thing when you’re five years old and the voice in your head says “don’t cross the street without looking both ways”.

This voice is a cumulation of authority figures from your past – parents, caregivers, older siblings, grandparents, teachers, and sometimes a cross between two, like your mother and your pastor. They are there because they keep us safe. When you think about it, this is a brilliant design. A sort of artificial intelligence before AI became a thing.

When we’re young this voice keeps many of us from doing things that would harm us in some way (from not getting into “trouble” all the way to literally saving our lives) [Side note – for some reason this voice doesn’t work all the time, or for all of us, but that’s a different post].

However, when we become fully functioning adults [again – side note – Why doesn’t this seem to happen for everyone?] we do not need the same kind of safety and protection we needed as young people. We need our confidence and courage sometimes. We need to fail sometimes. We need to try things that don’t have predictable outcomes. We need to experience an existential crisis or two. We need to know what it’s like to sit with uncertainty and come through the other side. We simply need to DO sometimes without having all the answers. That voice isn’t going to help you with the capacity for uncertainty and potential failure – it will do everything it can to keep you from experiencing any of that.

The voice is not designed for growth. It’s designed for safety (mostly the kind of safety that keeps you small) and it’s designed to guard its own existence. But remember, this voice isn’t you. This voice isn’t your wise, adult self. You may think it’s you because you hear it in your head frequently and it sounds like you. But it’s not. And, the more you listen to it tell you why you can’t, why you aren’t, why you won’t, why you shouldn’t… the more existence (or life) you give it.

So, contrary to what the voice will tell you about how you are supposed to talk to authorities, this is one place where you can disregard politeness. Listen for this voice throughout the day and when you hear it whispering about what you should and shouldn’t do, tell it to STFU (shut the f** up!). If you are alone – say it out loud. If you are with others, do it in your head. Tell the voice you are done listening and then go DO what you know to do.

You know what the right actions are in each moment. Just do them.