Tuning out that critical, inner voice

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I get the amazing opportunity to teach courses in emotional intelligence each week, to brilliant students from around the world. It is a humbling experience, yet oddly, I feel confident in doing so. I mean, sure, I still get nervous, because I so want to impart the class content in a way that inspires them to action, but I think it’s a healthy nervousness which keeps me prepared. But there was a time when the thought of teaching these classes gave me the sick pit of dread. After listening to a workshop this morning about rewiring our inner dialogue, by my talented colleague Grant Herbert, I reflected on how I was able to move from a crippling fear of public speaking to thriving from it.

And this is where where I want to say thank you to all of you who attended Pathways Church. It was you who gave me this confidence to defy what the voice tried to tell me. Ron Johnson asked me to share my story as part of his sermon one week and I heard myself saying yes, though everything in me wanted to say no. I’d never spoken in front of a large group of people, let alone a church. “You’re not a speaker, you have nothing of value to share, you’re not good enough”, the inner voice whispered. Soon after, Christopher J. Bloom asked me to take a shot at presenting the announcements/communion each week at services. Again, I said “Sure”, but inside I felt like shriveling up in my comfort zone and running away to a deserted island to hide. Before that first service, I sat out in the car, having a full-blown panic attack in front of my kids, and cried. Who am I to speak to this great people of Yours? “You are going to sound dumb, they will be bored, you’re not cool enough, you’re not worthy–you’re not even a good church girl!”, the relentless inner voice chanted. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, but those inner voices sure know how to play into that human weakness of ours.

Legs all weak and noodly, stomach sick, I remember walking up on stage in front of about 1,400 of you, self-conscious and shaky, feeling like an idiot, fully aware that the presenter who preceded me in weeks past was a professional (and funny!) comedian. Was I going to trip in my new thrift store heels? Is that a coughing fit I feel coming on? Was my zipper zipped? As I opened my mouth with a shaky, unsteady voice, glancing discreetly at the notes scribbled on my hand, the words fast-blurring as my nervous sweat stealthily trickled down my palms, I croaked out a feeble attempt at a slightly-humorous, self-deprecating story, to get a laugh and warm up the crowd to the sermon’s message.

Pathways Church, you laughed. You laughed, you nodded, you responded, and afterwards, came up, hugged me, and told me how much you could relate to what I said. And then the next week you did it again…and the next, and the next, and the next. I went from dreading the experience to almost enjoying it. Chris smugly grinned, knowing he was right about me all along — I could do it, even though that inner voice persistently told me otherwise.

My friends at Pathways Church, it was you who encouraged me to defy my inner voice and squeeze through the iron bars it so desperately wanted me to cower behind, to the point where I actually looked forward to getting up in front of you and sharing my mishaps and mess-ups, my mistakes and maladies. sometimes inviting a smile, sometimes evoking a tear, in way which I think helped us all feel connected, something we all longed for and needed. I know I did.

So thank you to all of you who encouraged me with your consistent, warm responses as I stumbled over my words, said things I later regretted, and learned, slowly, to stop listening to my negative inner dialogue and create a new story. It’s because of you I feel confident doing what I do today. Thank you for that.

What limits is your inner voice placing upon you? What is one thing it says you can’t do, which maybe you can? How much longer do you plan to listen to it? Maybe it’s time to rewire what it’s saying, from an “I can’t” to an “I can”.

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