August 14, 2015

Silencing our Inner Hater: From Jack*ss Whisperer to Kick*ss Whisperer.

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Warning: Naughty language ahead! 


“Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the Jackass Whisperer.” ~ Scott Stratten

It’s so true. I’m not the jackass whisperer and it is impossible to win over the haters.

Like a horse that doesn’t want to be soothed, a horse that’s been told way too many times that it can’t, a horse that now is bound by his own protective armor, afraid to jump, afraid to be ridden and afraid to leave the smallest of enclosures—if there’s no trust and only experiences of no, the result is getting kicked good and hard, simple as that.

But what if the hater is in me? What if my negative little, bratty, bossy, bitchy hater is the inner voice that’s constantly driving home the message that I’m not good enough, all my ideas have already been done, nobody needs me, and the best zinger: who do I think I am?

When I was a senior in high school, I had a World Literature teacher named Mrs. Ketchatorian, and while she was the best teacher I ever had, she was also the hardest. Every week we had a writing assignment and every week mine was returned redlined and with the words, “You can do more, you can go deeper, I need to see your soul. Why is it that you can’t go any deeper?”

Fear, fear, and more fear is what’s holding me back and the guardian of that fear is none other than my own internal hater.

Rewind to fourth grade: Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m riding my new red bike to school and to get there I had to go under an overpass. In Denmark, kids go everywhere without being attacked. Kids are free there. Nothing happens in a country made up of five million people.

Scary, dark, creepy, shadows playing catch with my fear off the sides of the walls. It’s the only way to get there. I’m hearing my dad’s booming voice in my head, “You can’t be such a baby. Why can’t you just get yourself to and from school without a big fuss? We can’t walk you to school each and every day, end of story. There will be no more being accompanied to school.”

Here’s the deal: my dad is a big black guy from North Carolina. He was once an amateur boxer and then a Sergeant in the Army. He is not violent, but you do not argue with the guy, especially not at eight years old. Once he laid down the law, that was it.

So each day, with all the bravery a fourth grader could muster, I entered the darkness. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel (no pun intended) but I could also feel eyes on me from behind. Don’t look back. All of a sudden I was at a complete stop, my bike had come to a screeching halt. Someone had grabbed the rear rack and was pulling back and before I knew it was off my bike and my papers in my backpack strewn like rice at a wedding, only this was no wedding, this was no happy occasion.

I was being attacked by two teens. My clothes ripped, papers everywhere and I totally blacked out.

Now I’m home without my bike and sobbing. Police come, reports filed, mug shots shown, but for nothing—no bike, and no capture. That’s one tally mark for the “I told you so” hater in me.

“Look what happens when you try to break through fear. Fear is safe. Fear is your best friend. Fear is how I keep you in line. Trying to venture out into the unknown…ha. Much good it did you. No, it’s much better to just stay put. Draw within the lines.”

Fast forward, Massachusetts, fifth grade. My teacher (who’s name has been erased from my memory like they do with unsuspecting people in Men In Black) has just given us a poetry assignment. I knew exactly what I would write about. I have long since forgotten the poem but remember the title: A Dog On A Log. I turn it in knowing she’s just going to love it.

I rehearse my thank you to her. I can’t wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and my poem is returned with a big fat F in blue next to my title. She looks at me with disappointing eyes and tells me she thought so much better of me. How could I copy someone else’s poem? I hadn’t, but the point was moot. There was no convincing her. And to top off the humiliation, I was not allowed to go to recess but had to stay at the chalkboard writing, “I will not steal” 100 times.

She left that mobile board with the words on both sides up for the rest of the week. Score for the hater in me: 2-0.

Incidents like these are the ones we play over and over again like a broken record in our heads. For those who remember what a record does when you play the song over and over and over again, it gets stuck in a groove. The more I played these tunes, the more fear I felt. The more fear I felt, the more the hater in me jumps forward with her bitchy comments:

“Who do you think you are? This is exactly what happens when you don’t listen to me. Stay put. Stay stuck. Stay safe. It’s the only way to go.”

We have all heard this negative voice inside of us, the one that wants us stuck in a groove, the one that, if ignored, gets louder and more and more bratty. Quite frankly, mine is a royal bitch when I ignore her.

So what’s the strategy to get to the other side of this negative chatter?

Well, if I’m not the Jackass Whisperer then I could stop trying to fight her and maybe win her over. I could give her a new job.

What’s this bitchy little hater’s job right now? On a good day, she is here to protect me, keep me safe and secure. Keeping me firmly rooted right where I am—that’s her job. On a bad day, she’s here to remind me of what happens when I don’t listen to her, when I color out of the lines. It’s been her only job ever since my mom told me that I couldn’t go too far out of sight because it’s dangerous, ever since I rode my bike to school and was attacked, ever since I wrote a poem and was accused of stealing it from a classmate…the list goes on and on. And she remembers all of them even if I don’t.

“Don’t be greedy, you have enough. If you get too much it will get taken away. Stay small. Stay insignificant. Color within the lines. The lines are your friends.”

There are a multitude of messages we receive when we first come into our own being. Some we remember, some we toss, and all of them get programmed into the hater. As we were becoming individual persons with individual personalities, independent of our parents, the hater decided that to avoid getting us hurt by these messages she would make it her sole responsibility to prevent us from stepping into that arena again. And she’s done a pretty good job of it. She is here and she’s here to stay.

So how do I give her a new job?

I listen to what she is saying and try to think back to another time that I heard these same words. I’m visual, so it’s usually a movie I see played out like the two incidents above.

Then, I remember a time where I rocked it, I mean really rocked it, a time where I knocked it out of the ballpark, a time where I was on top of the world and I was unstoppable. Like the time I finally bore my sole to my teacher and wrote something powerful and raw and real, something that resonated with my soul. Unbeknownst to me she took that piece of writing and submitted it to a professor at Smith College. “Apply to the writing program,” she urged.

Remember how I described my dad? Well…”No one makes money writing and you have a full scholarship to the Naval Academy with a letter of recommendation from Senator Kerry, himself. Who throws that away?” See how easy it is to take even the rocking event and turn it into a tally for the hater?

No matter, I have other ones: When I got the letter from Georgetown that I had been accepted to the School of Foreign Service. When I watched my first-born graduate from Cornell University. When I had the balls to leave my husband. When I started my company and could pay my own bills with my own money I earned for me. When I was invited to speak on a panel with Mrs. Obama.

I grab onto memories like that and I feel it. I really, really feel it.

I remember what that moment looked like, what she said, who was there, and what the room smelled like. Once I have that feeling etched in me again, I tell the hater to remember this new feeling and that she, and only she, is in charge of helping me get into more situations that evoke these emotions.

Bring it on, girl! This doesn’t have to be a competition. It can be a collaborative effort.

Erase the tally lines, help me color outside the lines, make “change” the safe word. And voila, my bitchy little hater is now my ally, and I am Jackass Whisperer no longer. I am now the Kickass Whisperer! That is until, I forget that if I don’t pay attention to her she can easily take on her old job.

And then it’s wash, rinse and repeat.


Author: Juliette Taylor De-Vries

Apprentice Editor: Celeste Ferrier/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: dplanet/Flickr

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