How to Block Out Negative Voices From the Past

Photo by Jennifer Sando

“We’ve all got voices inside our heads and over time they blend into a mental orchestra that all sounds the same. This is where we assume every voice we hear is our own even though that is not true.” Toni Sorenson

 

Negative voices from the past can impact your creative ways by attacking your self esteem and self belief. It’s important that those voices stay in the past, and that they’re not a handicap on your creative journey.

It’s a problem well worth addressing because negative voices from the past can mar your future. They can strike at any time, when you least expect it, and when you are hoping to create. That unforgettable cutting comment or continuous comments can haunt you, undergird everything that you do, and stop you from making and sending out something that this world really needs.

Sometimes you can ward them off, depending on your confidence level, or what kind of support system you have around you. Most times, those voices will linger when you are feeling vulnerable or defeated in some way, or if your self esteem is low. Whether you see those weaker moments as flaws, or strengths-in-disguise, they do humanise you. They make you, you. Above all, they help you to create, and can be a driving force behind your creativity.

If a voice from the past is blocking you, unless you remedy this, or come up with a healthy coping mechanism, it will block your future, too.

You’ll keep hearing that voice while you are still yet to learn your lesson.

Why have those voices stuck with us?

It’s likely to be from fears instilled in us from childhood. Someone said something or we saw something when we were innocent and impressionable and unworldly and gullible. With some of us, those fears never left us. They may never leave us.

To me, this is okay and in fact positive when we can use that sensitivity as part of our creative process. But when we allow it to cripple us so that we don’t want to create, it’s a problem. It’s also an injustice when someone gives up on what makes them happy because a voice out there told them: you’re not good enough, or there is no demand for that, or you’re wasting your time…

‘Bah, that voice used to bother me, but it’s in the past now,’ you might be saying. That is, until you put yourself out there and create something. You receive an offhand comment, something perceived as criticism, and all that angst associated with your voices from the past comes flooding back. Yes, I am speaking from experience. If it were truly in the past, then it wouldn’t bother you now, right?

I thought that I’d become comfortable with my choice to finally pursue writing as a career. But after writing this post for Medium, there was an exchange with someone in my family that took me right back to why I veered away from writing in the first place. A place that I had decided not to visit anymore. Personally, I still have some resolving to do, too.

Throw it back in your perpetrator’s face but don’t make it your reason for wanting to succeed. You should always succeed for you.

Ways to Tackle the Voices From the Past

Don’t ignore the voices entirely. (This is starting to sound like a remedy for a unique chronic schizophrenia problem, but I trust that you know what I mean here.) Try to hear the criticism from outside of yourself. Perhaps your mum continuously told you that your visual art will never get you anywhere. Or a school teacher once gave you some feedback that made you feel like you would never write anything authentic. Imagine that you are looking down over that person as they are criticising you–as in, you’re floating above the scene, where you can see yourself and that person. Try to visualise this a few times until you can feel yourself detaching from the scene, and how it once made you feel. Until it doesn’t become personal anymore.

Another idea is to write down what your negative voices from the past have told you, and then your response in return. Include why you want to do what you want to do. Why is it important to you? Remind yourself of what you love about it. Follow that love, focus on it and be guided by it.

The goal is to re-centre yourself, get back to that point where deep down you know what you have to do. You know what makes your soul sing.

“The ear never forgets what the soul says.”
Matshona Dhliwayo

How Voices From the Past Can Be Used to Your Advantage

I believe that we have those voices because they are life lessons. You’ll keep hearing that voice while you are still yet to learn your lesson.

What can you do about it? Use that negativity in what you create. Use it to make you stronger. Use it to make your message clearer. Throw it back in your perpetrator’s face but don’t make it your reason for wanting to succeed. You should always succeed for you. If their negativity becomes your sole reason, your driving force, then when you become successful (whatever that looks like for you), you might feel unfulfilled, and have a big neon WHAT NOW? sign hanging over your head. That kind of thing happens when you lose your way, when you lose sight of what truly makes you happy.

My own writing journey is years in the making and I’m at a point where I can no longer deny that this is what I am meant to be doing. Whatever the reasons for the existence of our voices from the past, they should not be reason enough for us to second-guess ourselves, or nullify our calling, our purpose, our bliss…

The next time you hear that nuisance voice from the past, recognise that it’s fear trying to rob you of what you deserve to do. Try the exercises mentioned previously and then go and create anyway. You only have one life to do it in.

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About Jennifer Sando

I am a writer and photographer, and author of the book, Picture In A Frame.

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