We All Hear Voices (Which Ones Are You Listening To?)

The world is full of voices and they all have an opinion about us. Life is about deciding which voices to let in, and learning how to keep the rest of the voices out…

self-esteem

Photo Credit: Brainsonic via Compfight cc

“People before points.”

It’s something I say to my kids—a reminder that people are more important than victories. Sometimes the kids remember. Sometimes they don’t. To be honest, sometimes I remember and sometimes I don’t.

The sun was slipping behind the trees and our breath was becoming visible in the twilight, when my oldest son forgot. A game of football with the neighborhood kids and one young lady dropped one too many passes and my son said one too many critical things and her eyes spilled tears and she sprinted for home.

Points before people. Whoops.

I encouraged my son to follow her and offer an apology. I admired his courage as he followed her home and knocked on her door. Her father answered. I watched my son’s lips move and I watched a look of anger pass over the father’s face before he closed the door. I don’t really blame the father—if some punk kid makes my daughter cry over a football game, I’m likely to circle the wagons, too.

Yet my son returned, tears now streaking his face, and he said, “Daddy, I apologized and he didn’t say anything. He just looked at me like I was a monster.” And then, choking on the question, “Am I a monster, Daddy?”

The world is full of voices and they all have a different opinion about us. Which ones will we listen to?

A World Full of Voices

Being a kid stinks.

You’re new in the world, life is confusing, and it seems like the big people hold the instruction manual about how to put life—and your self—together. As a vulnerable little one, it’s terrifying to feel like you’re on your own, so children will listen to any big voice that gives them definition and direction, even the cruelest ones. And then sometime around the fourth grade, peers join the chorus, too—they start commenting on anything and everything about everyone.

In elementary school, opinions multiply like rodents.

So we build walls to hide ourselves. But the truth is, they’re usually like cheap motel walls and the voices continue to seep through and every opinion continues to matter.

Maybe growing up is as simple as discerning which voices to allow in, and learning how to keep the rest of the voices out.

All Opinions are Not Created Equally

Recently I was browsing Amazon for a new iPod speaker dock. I found a dock with 662 ratings, out of which 537 ratings were four or five stars. Yet 44 people had given it a one-star rating.

I had already decided to purchase the speaker but, out of curiosity, I began to read some of the one-star reviews. While most people loved the product, these 44 people hated it. One reviewer complained angrily that there was a 1/32” inch gap between two of the parts. He admitted it was difficult to see the gap and it didn’t impact the functioning of the speaker but, as an engineer, it offended his sensibilities.

As I read his diatribe, it occurred to me: some of the most opinionated reviews revealed far more about the reviewer than they did about the product being reviewed. And I wondered: could that also be true about the people who review us?

Imagine:

You’re walking down the street and you say, “Hello” to the first passerby and they return the greeting. Then you say, “Hello” to the next person who walks by and they growl at you and put their head down. The third passerby responds with a joyous “Good morning!” And the fourth responds by crossing to the other side of the street.

What does that series of interactions tell us about who we are? Absolutely nothing. At best, it tells us something about the people responding to us.

Who Do We Listen To?

Anyone and everyone can “review” us. We can’t stop it from happening. But we can decide how to respond when it does happen.

Most of us are like that speaker dock on Amazon. We have a 1/32” inch gap in our character and we’ll never project the music of life perfectly. But if we constantly listen to the voices in the world and in our heads, reminding us of our imperfections, we’ll sit on the shelf unopened and all sorts of beautiful potential will get wasted. We need to play the music we were created to play, regardless of the one-star reviews.

And we can take charge of appointing our own critics.

We can choose a few people whose voices we can actually trust, even when they push us and challenge us. People whose feedback says more about us than it does about them, because they’re aware enough of their own mess and agendas to put them aside when they give us opinions about who we are. People who aren’t seeking to change us with their feedback but, instead, are simply trying to connect with us in the midst of it.

What would happen if each of us appointed our own panel of authentic and caring reviewers, and then pushed the mute button on the cacophony of other voices reviewing us?

As the din of voices settled down, we’d begin to notice another voice growing louder within us. A voice of grace, calling us beloved, reminding us we are not a product to be reviewed, but a soul to be renewed.

Question: Think of someone you trust to give you feedback. Why do you trust them? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Disclaimer: My writings represent a combination of my own personal opinions and my professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with me via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. I do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Diana

    Ah! I am honoured to give the first comment (although perhaps until I finish writing it, others will have been faster 🙂 )
    Each time when I read one of your posts, I feel like the first time when I read the Letter to your Daughter. It touches all my heart and speaks so much truth that I am amazed that your writing can have the exact same level if intensity in its impact on me with EACH and EVERY Wednesday post.
    Put aside the incredible content you bring forth each time, I also admire your way of writing (although I have no background in writing techniques). It’s like you always close the circle, coming back to the point, you always start with something ordinary but which in the end becomes a metaphor.

    Just to reply on the content as well, the sentence where you say who should be our chosen critics reasonated with me greatly and confirmed my recent understanding that I am not allergic to advice (as I was very often saying just to keep these unwanted voices away), but I refuse to hear those who are so broken and far away from their source of love that their advice can in no way be something good. At least good for me.
    I am looking forward for next Wednesday!
    Take care and continue writing so beautifully, Kelly!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Diana, I’m glad you gave the first comment and got it done before anyone else chimed in! : ) Thank you for your affirmation of my writing. And thank you for your thoughts here. I think you’re exactly right. We come to believe we can’t handle feedback, but really we are dying for some feedback, but we need to hear it from people we can trust who understand us and want the best for us. Feel free to weigh in first next week, too, Diana!

  • Onajourney

    “So we build walls to hide ourselves. But the truth is, they’re usually like cheap motel walls and the voices continue to seep through and every opinion continues to matter.” I love this word picture about how our strategies to self-protect just don’t work! We build walls but they really don’t save us any pain.

    • drkellyflanagan

      You got it. We build walls to keep ourselves safe. And they just keep us lonely. It’s a beautiful thing when we start to realize this and bring the walls down with the right people!

  • Sally-Anne Merrick

    People before points…love this!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Someone else said to me today, “Living ones first.” Same idea, and I love it, too!

  • Lisa Bartelt

    So true. I heard a lot of voices growing up and I listened far too long. Mercifully, I didn’t do anything outwardly destructive. Internally is another story. But I shudder to think of how the voices would affect me today if I were a preteen/teen. But in a way I’m glad I know what the voices sound like so I can help my kids listen to the good ones. And continue to try to get it right myself.

    As a side note, I just heard that TobyMac song, “Speak Life” on the radio yesterday and it reminded me to not be a negative voice to others.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks for this, Lisa. What you said about being a teen today really struck me. There are so MANY voices speaking into our young people. I think one of the most important things we can do as a parent is help them discern.

  • kara

    Learning to listen to my own loving voice is wonderful……. thanks for helping!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Kara, I’m grateful if I can have some small part in helping you do that!

  • Carrie

    I recently read The Mom Factor by Townsend and Cloud. I keep coming back to the quote, “Our mother’s love lays to rest the entire ‘am I good or bad?’ issue. We are not good or bad – we are loved.” I suppose it can lay it to rest when that is the voice we listen to, whether it be our mom, dad, or someone else, and we shut out the voices that are not helpful.
    Thank you once again, Kelly.

    • drkellyflanagan

      This book was under my radar, but it’s on it now. Thanks, Carrie!

  • Laura

    In my 51 years of life, the one voice that I can actually trust to push and challenge me “not as a product to be reviewed, but a soul to be renewed” would be my 80+ year old mother. Why her and not say my husband or dear friends? She’s lived longer and wiser through what I believe has presented many more challenging and varied social, economic and historical times than I while always choosing to keep her eyes and heart compassionately open without ever being a push over! She’s one tough act to follow.

    • drkellyflanagan

      She’s sounds amazing, Laura. You’re blessed to have her, and she is blessed to have a daughter who appreciates her in the way you do.

  • Liz

    Speaking as someone who has built an absolute fortress around herself, (and who now has to do the exhausting, hard hard hard work of removing it brick by brick) I never realized just how porous those walls were until just recently.

    I stopped speaking with my mother several years ago because she’s an utterly toxic woman who was responsible for most of the aforementioned fortress building. She continues to try to contact me, but with (to her I’m sure) heartfelt “I wish you’d let me back in your life” has come a criticism that I barely even noticed other than to chalk it up to her continuously critical personality.

    I’m a student, going to school for psychology. I graduate with my BA this May. More than once, more than twice, she has managed to fit into her letters somewhere, “You’re going to be a terrible therapist because all you’ll do is counsel people to walk away from their families.” (Even in the most “heartfelt” pleas for me to let her back in).

    This journey with school has been difficult for me. It took me a long time to determine what I wanted to do, and when I did, I chose it for all the wrong reasons. It took me a lot of soul searching to determine that getting a Ph.D. was not really what I wanted, and even more soul searching (and time) to determine what I DID want to do, and where I could do the most good. Months before graduating and I just determined exactly what kind of graduate degree I wanted to get.

    And through all of that, fighting the voices in my head (which have always been her voice anyway) saying “Who the hell do you think you are? You’re so messed up, how could you possibly help others? You’re never even going to make it through this process, you’ll quit long before that. You’ve failed at so much, you’ll be a failure at this. You will be…a. terrible. therapist.”

    And I just recently realized, that there’s been a part of me, those porous walls letting her voice through, that’s been allowing that judgement of me to reinforce the self-doubt that I already had…making it just that much harder to fight.

    Someone I trust to give me feedback? My cousin. She is my best friend, and the sister I never had. She is the antithesis of my mother. She is gentle constructive criticism, she is the kind rational voice that questions my decisions and makes me ask myself the hard questions. Where my mother is the place that I fear to show an ounce of vulnerability, my cousin is the kind light that I drift towards when I am confused, and need a mirror to reflect back to me where I really am in the world rather than where my mis-wired brain tells me I am. My intention this year is to craft a panel of people whose voices I can trust. Though, I’ve found that being that reflective voice is difficult for a lot of people. Constructive criticism isn’t something that a lot of people are comfortable with. Which is unfortunate.

    As always, thank you for the thought inducing post.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Liz, I don’t think I can do your comment justice in a pithy reply. Just know I’m in awe of your courage, reflected in the hard work you’ve done to work through the painful messages you took in at a young age. Keep being the vulnerable kind of strong and keep drifting toward the people like your cousin who bring the light.

      • Alexandra Tretyakova

        But what do we do about people like her Mum? I guess she’s making all those nasty things because she’s very unhappy, her words reveal her problems? maybe Liz is the only one who can help her? It’s so pleasant to be with pleasant people… but shall we leave the unpleasant ones to themselves?

        • Liz

          I ask myself that a lot Alexandra. I know that for a stronger person, it might be possible to set, and keep, emotional boundaries. Perhaps my mom could be taught, in time, to respect them. Or, maybe as I get older, I just won’t care anymore and her words and actions will roll right off me. Who knows. All I know now is that I can’t heal what she broke with her in my life. And…there are some people who are just so much more than unpleasant. They are a toxic destructive force who refuse to see the damage they’ve wrought in their lives.

          I have a younger brother who has a family. He has a much thicker skin than I do, and for years, for the sake of the kids, he just put up with her. She has been so incredibly toxic to his family that he’s been forced to cut her out too.

          So, she has two children, who have MANY people in their lives who love them, respect them, and are grateful for them, and yet she thinks we are the coldest hearted, most hate filled people on the planet because we just….won’t talk to her. Never once in all these years has she had the occasion to ask herself, what have I done wrong that they don’t want me to be a part of their lives?

          • Jeffrey C.

            I’ve been stuck with this. If someone can’t see their fault, despite attempts to make them aware of it – do we simply give up? Would being the best version of ourselves mean, to keep trying?

    • Nancy

      Liz, with great compassion I say Thank-you. This could have my name attached to it as well. I too am in my final year of college (bachelor level) and it has been most difficult at times to sort those negative voices from within and embrace the positive feedback that professors and friends have given. Though my mother has walked on her words and actions and those of others have been driven deep within the soul. It has taken 50 years to undo the damage that was done.

      Thank God for those that have come along side throughout my academic courses, providing a safe place to allow my walls to be taken down one block at a time. The graciousness of compassionate, caring and empathetic individuals who walked alongside as I struggled to understand the material, how it applied to my dysfunctional family, and allowed me to embraced the pain and loss in my life.

      Today, I feel like I am on a new journey, discovering who I really am, letting old images die, pursueing my passions, desires, and dreams. I have surrounded myself with only those who give me true honest feedback and push me lovingly forward to face my fears as they are most likely not based on truth anyway.

      My circle includes a couple of family members, a few professionals and a few very close friends whom I trust their input.

      Again, thank you and you have inspired me and challenged me to not believe those voices of the past that say you can’t based upon how they see me through their clouded vision. It’s comforting to know of others who struggle with the same issues and are pressing forward in furthering their education despite what others may think. My field of study is Social Work and I too have been contemplating what others think of me and IF I can do the work and be of help to others despite my own broken past.

      • Liz

        Nancy,
        Thank you so much for sharing that. As terrible as it is for me to ever come across people who have suffered the same way I have, it is comforting, like you said, to know that there are others out there, persevering and healing themselves. Even better to know that they’ll take what they’ve learned out into the world to heal and save others.

        I’m glad that you’ve been able to push through, and have had wonderful people surrounding you along the way to help you see through the negative distortions. I get so angry about how mis-wired my brain has become because of the things that I was taught about myself, and about the world, at such a young age. So easy to damage, so difficult to fix. Of course, WE are left to do the hard work of healing, often without those who did the damage anywhere in sight to give the least bit of help.

        Please keep going. Please become a social worker. Use the compassion and insight that you have to save others from our fate. The world needs people like you.

        • Nancy

          Liz you are absolutely right in that it is
          difficult to heal while being continually torn apart. Sometimes, it is best to
          limit the time one spends with toxic family members and set boundaries. For me
          it was never to visit my mother unless there was another person also present or
          to make it a very brief 1/2 hour visit, no more than 2 hours if a family
          affair.

          I also had to learn
          that in order to heal I had to not care what others thought of me or what they
          said about me that was negative which is so hard when you need acceptance and
          want your family members to love you unconditionally.

          After I started
          college I had to sort through the voices I was hearing and dared to begin to
          believe the positive things people said about me. Also very hard but after
          three years I am truly accepting “I am more than I thought I was”:
          (thanks Karen). I continually have to flip the tape in my head when I hear
          negativity that does not line up with who I really am. And when I experience
          something that reflects a painful memory I look at it realistically,
          acknowledge the pain and evaluate it as truth or non truth based on an old
          belief system.

          One of the most
          difficult things I had to do for me (fear of being rejected again) when my
          mother was dying was to tell her I loved her and forgave her and that God does
          forgive. It is between each individual to make things right with their higher
          power but for me I needed to release her from the resentment I had held against
          her and I needed the freedom that came from letting the pain and bitterness go.
          I believe she needed to hear that as well.

          It was after she
          passed that real healing began to take place because I wasn’t always concerned
          about what else she would be saying. Not that I didn’t have other family
          members say or do things that so reminded me of my mothers ways but over the
          years I’ve come to realize that who my mother was reflected her upbringing. As
          children we were never without food or shelter, I survived the horrible
          stuff and now I am learning about the developmental milestones, what was
          missing and how to retrain the brain.

          I’ve learned that
          when I should have been affirmed and guided in discovering who I really am I
          had a mother who only knew abuse and hard work in her primitive years.
          Therefore, that was all she could give. Every family has a scapegoat and I was
          our family scapegoat, my mother was her families scapegoat. It is sad that she
          could not accept help for her past but I can.

          I am thankful for
          the tenacity I posses to keep pushing and keep healing as I learn about abuse
          and the human psyche. I honestly never wanted to work with children because of
          my personal pain but as I understand what happened in my childhood and where
          the negativity came I have a better understanding of the importance of
          affirmation and those things I missed in my childhood. Hopefully, I will be
          able to help others because of what I have learned.

    • Amy Lynn Campbell

      Liz,
      I totally get your response and thank you so much for writing it. My mother is also toxic, has been since I was a little girl. I am glad that God made me a very analytical person because if he had not, my person would have been torn to shreds. I almost went into pyschology, but I decided against it because I was afraid of having patients like her. Let me clarify: Some people in this world just don’t know how to find joy and make it their personal goal in life to make everyone around them just as miserable.
      I think it is great that people with your heart are going into the pyschology realm. It takes real people, with real struggles who have overcome them to minister to hearts willing to receive that help and it’s encouraging to know that it is possible to overcome life’s many obsticals.

      • Liz

        Thank you! I didn’t expect to come back to comments on mine but I’m so glad that you all shared too. I’ve searched for years for the reasons why I turned out different than her and the rest of them (it’s honestly kind of a family legacy that’s been passed down). My analytical personality probably had a lot to do with it though, as you said. From a very early age, I wanted to know WHY.

        That’s not to say that I haven’t been shredded. My perceptions of my self are (obviously) pretty warped, and it’s been hard to learn to see the world through any lens other than the skewed one that she taught me to see with. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am nothing if not a survivor and I have been absolutely blessed with kind, wonderful people in my life who have supported me along the way and taught me what I and the world really looks like.

        Thank you so much for your kind words.

  • karen eisele

    Why is it that it is the negative voices that we remember the most? They seem to have a greater impact then those said in love and encouragement. Is it because they erode our foundation of self and leave little support for the positive to build upon? Many choices I’ve made in life are the result of voices telling me that I would never amount to much and I didn’t for a long time. But the Question always begged to be asked: Why not? Why can’t I be more then a failure? It was in answering that question that the voices of my past were exposed as frauds. Richard Rohr stated in one of his meditations the phrase “I am much more than I thought I was”. How true that is for many of us. We are much more and it is time to accept that and take action. Time to turn down the volume on those voices that influenced us in the wrong way or better yet change the station and listen to our authentic selves-the music will be much better.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Karen, I feel like you and I are often on the same page. For instance, I had a paragraph about how we gravitate toward negative voices, but I cut it for length reasons. And it’s clear we share similar thoughts in part because we’re reading some of the same people! I loved the meditation you cited. Rich and challenging.

    • CuriousPerson

      Attachment theory has a lot to say about this. You should research it, Karen. It’s fascinating stuff.

  • Kari Swenson

    I love the idea of look at the words said around you and comparing them to reviews. A 1 and 5 star combine to a middle ground 3. But if the 1 star is the 1/32″ review, and you can see it should be ignored, you can see that 5 star and it stands untainted. I love this approach. Even if you get a 1 star review that you can’t ignore, it can be offset by all the other higher important reviews from the important people in your life. This also gives you the chance to really see that even though sometimes all we end up remembering is that 1 star review. In the big picture, its hardly made an impact on the overall score.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Yeah, Kari, just looking at that Amazon view numerically, the average was like 4.75, so you knew right away something could be fishy about a one star review. It’s not a bad way to look at ourselves!

    • Nancy

      Kari you are absolutely right…sadly too often we look at the one negative comment or review and it over shadows all the good reviews and positive words spoken about us.

  • Jennifer Gan

    Thank you again, Kelly. You’re great.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Jen. You, too. Hope you’re well!

  • cheri

    Oh, how I wish that I had a father like you…and how I wish there were more men out there, giving us this perspective. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am a Little House on the Prairie woman in a Victoria Secret world. It almost gets the best of me at times. And then I read something like this…and I have a small light of hope at the end of this dark tunnel of my life here on earth…as a woman.

  • Marla Carlton

    I just found your blog. I came across when I least expected to. I am certainly happy I did. You are a true inspiration. I only wish that I had had a father like you. Unfortunately, my father never really spoke very much at all. I read your other post – your letter to your daughter – today as well. I can only hope to impart a fraction of what you have contributed in this blog, to my children. It’s a daily struggle with the influences of social media, gaming, television and their friends to instill family values. I find myself judging my children for what they should and shouldn’t do and what they should and shouldn’t be that I have forgotten the most important part.

    What you said: We can choose a few people whose voices we can actually trust, even when
    they push us and challenge us. People whose feedback says more about us than it does about them, because they’re aware enough of their own mess and agendas to put them
    aside when they give us opinions about who we are. People who aren’t
    seeking to change us with their feedback but, instead, are simply trying
    to connect with us in the midst of it.

    I want to be that person to my children. Thank you so much for writing and sharing your insights and expertise. Your blog has really made me stop and think.

  • agnessakulakov

    I am so glad i found your blog. This post resonates with the one i published on my blog a couple of days ago. It’s about how when i was a teenager my dad’s words affected my whole life and mentality and how important it is to take charge as you are saying and define yourself instead of letting others define you, even if it’s your own family! We need to stop believing limiting lies so we can be the best version of ourselves. Unfortunately many of them come from people we love the most. It’s true that too many dreams ended because someone listened to the wrong person. But… the hard part is that as a kid or a teen you are not mature enough to filter those voices you hear. That’s why as parents we need to make sure that our voice is stronger and the messages we send are more powerful than anything else our children hear. Thanks again. I am definitely sharing!

  • Cyndee

    Hi Dr. Flanagan, I found you through a friends facebook post and have read a few of your stories that have already been of such great help. I need to know why things happen the way they do, and you are awesome at laying that out so beautifully so that it helps me figure out how best to put things right that I’ve been carrying around for what seems like an eternity. I dont know why its been so hard to find someone who can do that but thank God I found you. There are really no words to thank you enough, (I know I read the disclaimer, don’t worry I’m not banking my life on you) but Its as simple as cause and effect, why are the simplest things sometimes the hardest things to find? Anyway, I just felt compelled to tell you that, God Bless

  • Jireh

    Wish bloggers were around my teens years. This could’ve saved me a whole lot of pain. Anyways, I’ve come to realized that I’m not alone when it came to heartache, pain, and similar upbringing. I’m thankful for bloggers and people’s post that I can relate to.
    My mom wasn’t the best influence either growing up and my biological father left us when I was 2. She would criticized my weight or say negative things to me. With all the chaos happening (new school, new town, no friends, a girl w/ an Asian accent), 1 person came into my life who showed interest in me and wanted what’s best for me. She is like my sister I never had, I value her opinion so much that she’s the only person I vent to and let my emotions out. She knows the real me. I know she won’t judge but she gives constructive criticism when needed. As far as my mom, I used to get angry when I think about how she raised us but I set that aside and let my analytical mind put it in perspective. My mom was 18 when she had me (16 with my brother). She was young and didn’t know how to raise children and she probably inherited those behavior from her mother. She didn’t know that her words were affecting me in a negative way. She didn’t walked away from us so I give her credit. She has apologized to my brother and she has admitted to her faulty ways. That helped me get over my anger knowing she realized her faults. Even then I still email, text, or call my friend if I need advice or vent out.

  • sarah

    everyday I strive to be the best mother I can, I usually fall short but reading articles like yours is really inspiring and helpful because they remind me of the importance of continuing to try… thank you!

  • Lucy

    I guess I’m a little late to the UnTangled story, and am so glad I found it! The idea of voices that speak to us has long intrigued me. For so many years all I heard was the voice of my mother saying I would never amount to anything. As much as I miss her, I think my mother’s death was in some ways a gift to me. I learned to stop listening to her voice and to follow the voices of support around me. I am not sure I would have been able to get out of her reach and grow into who I am if she were still here.

    As the years have passed I wondered why some of us can move beyond the negative voices, and others of us stay stuck in them. I decided to research it. Amongst other suggestions, the reason I found most often was that as children, there are many people who speak into our lives — many voices. The more positive voices there are, the more likely the child is going to be able to move beyond the negative voices. I started to remember the voices that spoke positively into my life, and realized that each one was like dropping a coin into the bank of my future. As an adult I have been able to rely on those ‘savings’ at times I had no coins of my own.

    Fortunately I have people around me today who offer encouragement, who know me and my strengths, and who believe in me. I still have days I want to give up because I’m not convinced I can do it. These voices I respect and value so highly remind me that I can do it, and that I have been doing it already.

    Some of the most rewarding work I’ve done over the past 8 years is work with at-risk teens. I have the privilege of dropping coins into the banks of their future, hoping to tip the scales positively. It seems like a lot of us who chose to help others started life hearing the negative voices. Perhaps it wasn’t only a bad thing.

  • ShellyLou

    Think of someone you trust to give you feedback. Why do you trust them?
    The person I trust above all others to give me feedback are my mother and my sister. I know I can trust them both to put a positive spin on it and simultaneously be completely honest. They are also the people that I know would never think less of me, but instead recognise my desire to improve and do my best.

  • Hanni

    I’m a new reader…and so glad I found your blog! This is an interesting topic – I have a seven year old daughter, and one of the things I’m trying to instill in her is an unshakeable sense of self. She is unconquerable, and if someone treats her the wrong way or is mean to her, it has everything to do with that person and really nothing to do with her. Not that it shouldn’t hurt her feelings (it will), but that it shouldn’t change/affect her knowledge of who she is as a person…and she is an amazing, strong little spirit!

    I think if we can learn to appreciate ourselves and our goodness(es), we can then learn to push aside those people who treat us badly. Or at least not let them affect our good feelings about ourselves, because people who spew negativity are, quite simply, wrong. They’re unhappy with themselves and trying to make themselves feel better by spreading their unhappiness. And I’m not going to let them affect the goodness and happiness in my world!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Hanni, welcome to UnTangled, and thank you for sharing!

  • CuriousPerson

    When we are little we learn about who we are from our attachment figures. If we don’t have parental figures (biological parents or otherwise) who teach us that we are valuable and that value is unchangeable, we spend our lives seeking out others who will provide that for us. However, due to the effects of improper attachment, those of us who didn’t get that message of unconditional worth often don’t know how to allow ourselves to trust others because our parental figures who were the ones who were supposed to teach us of our intrinsic value didn’t succeed (or try) which to a young child is at the very least emotional abandonment.

    We control what voice(s) we listen to, but until we learn that the only messages we hear are from the voice(s) of our attachment figures and even after we learn we have control, the voice(s) of our attachment figure(s) have a big impact because we are intrinsically relational beings. Hopefully the messages being sent are ones that affirm our intrinsic worth.

  • MG

    I am a recent discoverer of UnTangled and Dr. Flanagan so just reading this blog now, and how timely! I have been on a wonderful journey over the past few years of shedding baggage and understanding myself better. A recent event reinforced what great friendships and connections I have developed by being “just me” instead of some person attempting to live up to perceived expectations. But then, one “friend” told me she felt I needed to “find God” as she had because I was somehow missing something. It weighed on me as I wondered what she saw that was so deficient. I was beginning to shake off the comment and remind myself not to fall back into that pit of looking to others to define who and how I should be. Reading this blog helped me to put my friend’s “review” away as just that – a review; an opinion to hear but not necessarily to carry weight.

  • MG

    Thank you Dr. Flanagan for your writing and sharing! Written wisely, but realistically and compassionately – so very helpful 🙂

    • drkellyflanagan

      You’re welcome, MG; I’m glad you found us!