Listening to Better Voices
“Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her favored memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and buffed for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.”
Kate Morton, The Clockmaker’s Daughter
Narrative that Pleases
I recently read The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton, and this is the quote that most stuck out to me in that book. We are curators of our own narrative. I think our memories reflect this practice of keeping the version of the truth that best fits the narrative, and we cast aside the parts that don’t work. This isn’t deceptive or fooling yourself. This is just the way the brain processes.
Because I believe this is how people process what happens to them, I believe we need to tell our stories to others. When we have friends and family whom we can trust, our narrative has a better chance of reflecting the best version of what happened in our lives and how we can best move forward. Vulnerability is the key to doing this. Vulnerability is always a risk, but vulnerability brings the light to the surface of relationships — it’s easier to see the cracks.
I want my narrative to have the best version of me possible, and the only way to do that is by hearing good voices in my head. I need reminders from my people. My own head voice can be my harshest critic. She’s the one who is toughest on me, the one who second guesses my decisions, the one who shames me for mistakes I made in the past.
My Inner Monologue is Not a Good Friend.
That voice can be a real bully. She’s mean and passive aggressive. She amplifies my mistakes to make them larger. She points out how the current mistakes I’ve made are similar to other, past mistakes I’ve made, and then she points out how all of those mistakes make patterns of destruction to those around me. That voice is my most exhausting friend.
I’m learning to be better to that voice. If I have a suspicion that I did something wrong and she is telling me about it, I get confirmation from other friends who will give me the truth in kindness. And I’ve learned to push back when she’s telling me lies — pointing out motivations or reinforcing my friend’s versions of what happened. And then, I stop listening to that voice because sometimes, the best way to handle a bully is to ignore her.
Finding Better Voices
Jon Acuff is one of my favorite writers and one of my favorite people to follow on social media platforms. I listened to the For the Love! podcast recently where Jen Hatmaker interviewed him about his book Finish.
In the interview, Acuff mentioned that he recently listened to Brian Koppelman interview marketing genius Seth Godin on Brian’s podcast The Moment. Godin had negative voices in his head after a financial setback early in his career. Koppelman asked what he did to rewrite the negative voices in his head, and Godin said, “I didn’t. I just replaced them with Zig Ziglar’s voice. I had 40 hours of Zig Ziglar tapes, and I listened to them 100 times over and over because I had to rewire it.”
Whenever I am having a hard season in motherhood or writing or being the best version of myself, I try to have conversations with people who inspire me. I try to cultivate relationships with people who will help me grow and learn the best I can. I know I’m in charge of my own life narrative, but really, writing a story with others around me is closer to the truth and way more fun.
If you don’t have a good voice speaking to you right now, maybe you can find one. Jon Acuff liked Seth Godin’s idea so much that he started listening to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I try to find podcasts and books that will help and encourage me, not shame me. And, if you genuinely need a friend, feel free to email me. My friends say I’m a good listener.