Does it surprise you to learn that I talk to myself about 60% of the time? Out loud? I have mastered the barely-a-whisper level of speaking where it basically just sounds like “w-s-w-s-w-s-w-s” to whoever is within earshot. My hope is that no one is within earshot, but sometimes the words slip out in public. Sometimes louder than that barely-a-whisper level, too.
Like when I was shopping by myself the other day, saw a shirt I liked, looked at the price tag, gave a hearty, “Nope!” and laughed to myself.
Then I tried to look serious and absorbed in the clothes because I realized that all of that had been audible to the other people in the store. Oh, dear.
It’s not a new thing. I have entire conversations with myself. Well, not really with myself. I’m having conversations with people – imagined conversations where I hear their responses in my mind and carry on my side of the conversation. I’m not under the delusion that they’re present, mind you. Occasionally these turn into monologues. Often, rants.
Over the course of the nearly five years that my sister and her (now) husband were dating, I whispered my Maid of Honor speech to my imagined audience so many times that I got out all the stupid jokes and cheesy memories and could really edit down to the good stuff. I whispered it while I washed my hair, while I did the dishes, while I drove around.
Do I sound crazy to you? I hope not. I didn’t take a poll before I wrote this to see if this was abnormal behavior. It probably is. Like how I told someone over lunch today that after I deposit checks I rip them up into at least twenty different pieces and throw them away among 2-3 trash receptacles in my house. Then I realized it sounded slightly nutty and paranoid.
When I’m not talking to myself or my imagined companions (I’d like to take a moment and distinguish between imaginary and imagined… the people are real. They just aren’t present) there’s still an internal monologue. I’m told that males don’t have this, that there’s a dark closet of no monologue that you can go to.
I would like directions to this magical place.
I can’t really whisper to myself at work. And just to be sure you understand, it’s not like that’s a real big disappointment to me. I don’t plan to rehearse conversations to myself. It just happens sometimes when I’m alone and need to process. I don’t process as well inside my head. It’s messy in there, like a filing cabinet tipped over into a vat of Jell-O.
Anyway, at work, in the quiet of my cubicle where I am usually working on solitary projects but not in solitude, the self-talk keeps going. I think it’s human to need affirmation, but I don’t give it to myself well. And since the tasks I’m doing require more time than skill or expertise or prowess or anything like that, there’s no one standing over my shoulder patting me and admiring my use of the mouse or how efficiently I utilize the shortcuts on my keyboard.
No one tells me that my posture is superb (probably because it usually isn’t) or that I filed away the magazines really well.
Because they don’t need to. But there’s a vacuum in my head. No feedback! it cries. We must be doing something wrong! We must be very, very bad! Does that sound Gollum-esque? It’s supposed to.
You probably have this same vacuum sometimes. I’m okay with it in the objective sense because the phrase “man’s empty praise” rings true to me much of the time. I’m from that generation that got awarded just for participation, and mere effort was lauded even more greatly. But the vacuum is still there. And I’m trying to learn to replace the Gollum-voice with positive self-talk that doesn’t overinflate.
There’s a balance. It doesn’t have to make me the queen of everything. But maybe it needs to say that I’m competent.
I hope you know that you’re competent. Maybe not at my job. But at something. I hope you know that you’re valuable. Maybe not in net worth, but intrinsically. I hope I know that, too.
I also hope you talk to yourself. I can’t be the only one.