Who’s Taking the Wheel of your Life?
There’s one big realisation that you must come to, and it’s something that you must experience – it doesn’t matter if you “read” it or if you “think” it. It’s the realisation that there is a voice in your head, and that voice is not you.
We are all going through a human experience which is 100% ours. But you hear thoughts, you don’t think them. Don’t worry, it’s a common mistake to think you think! But realising that you get to choose what you pay attention to is very powerful, because it means you are in control.
Is this confusing? Bear with me…
Have you ever asked yourself who are you? I mean, the real “you”? What are we made of?
A division in 3 main areas is common: body, mind and soul (or spirit). Let’s skip the deep philosophical debate about what is the soul/spirit for a moment and focus on what we know is part of us for sure, our body and our mind. Some people add our emotions, but in reality our emotions are also a construct of our brain, so let’s stick them together with our mind and split our mind in the analytical/rational mind and the emotional mind.
So clearly our mind is associated with our amazing brains and thoughts. We’ve also seen we can stick emotions there too, as they are also processed by our brain. Our brain is busy, so why did I say that we are not our thoughts?
Think about it (haha get the irony of this?). Many times we don’t pay attention to our thoughts, we live our life in “auto-pilot”. Some philosophies suggest that thoughts are not ours, they’re just “floating around” and we choose which ones we listen to. But we often listen to the wrong voice… Our thoughts and emotions lead to action, which we do with our body, but if you’re not following advice from a good source inside of you, you end up taking action that is not helpful…
So who’s talking to you in your head?…
Well, there are two entities inside your head, thinking and feeling all the time. One is loud, the other prefers to whisper. They are two opposing sets of beliefs, thoughts and emotions, which we are going to call “mindset” because they relate to how the different parts of your mind are set up together.
Who are they?
Have you ever told yourself that you should have done x instead of y? Or that you’re inexperienced and so it’s normal that the client thinks you’re not as good as your senior vet? Or that you’re too fat? Or that you’re too skinny? Or that you should make more money?
Say hello to your Impostor. Yes, the Impostor is damn loud and it’s there telling you nagging little things like this. It affects all areas of your life and sounds so very eloquent! The Impostor is not rational nor irrational – remember that mindset includes all areas of your mind, from the rational part to the emotional part.
This is important. There is actually a thing called impostor syndrome, which is probably not new to you… It happens when you can’t stop listening to your Impostor, even though you have evidence from the world that your Impostor is lying to you.
But your Impostor is almost always lying to you, even if there is nothing in the outside world suggesting that. Your Impostor sounds friendly and reasonable and tells you things like you need to eat healthy, you should sleep more, you should work hard (or harder). Your Impostor believes that you are not good enough. It keeps reminding you of past events that prove this concept to you and fills your present with the past. The underlying emotion is fear – fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of suffering. Your Impostor is just trying to save you from this, though it’s not very good at it. It tries very hard to keep you grounded and playing by the rules of society around you and has a strong root in ego, based on the premise that you are important.
P.S. – The belief that you should become a better person is also an Impostor lie!
What does the Impostor tell you?
Your Impostor is often going to say something such as:
- I should be more/better/different at…
- I shouldn’t have…
- I can’t do this…
- It’s my fault that…
What does the Impostor make you feel?
Impostor feelings have their source from fear, but that’s not the only way the Impostor manifests itself emotionally. Sadness, anxiety, frustration, guilt, insufficiency and depression are all emotions brought down by the Impostor to show you that you should change.
How does the Impostor make you behave?
The conjunction of thoughts and feelings will result in actions, which may actually be the absence of action (“better not do anything”) or completely reasonable, rational and “correct” actions. However, those are “the right choices you make for the wrong reason”. People that have a very loud Impostor and believe in it also have certain body postures that are easy to identify, such as a small curled posture with low shoulders and a low tone of voice. They may have a tense body and, of course, crying is one often associated with an Impostor mindset.
So when does the good news start??? Well, with your Visionary! And believe me, it’s hiding away in there! The reason why it’s so difficult to listen to the Visionary is that the Impostor likes to shout, but the Visionary likes to whisper. So it’s harder for you to pay attention to the Visionary, it’s hard to hear it clear and it’s also harder to believe in.
Do you know those people that seem to love what they do even if everything seems to be going wrong at work? That optimist that looks at you when you talk about all of the disgraces in the world and replies “well, on the bright side…”? Or that seems to be in flow with everything? That’s someone listening to their Visionary. And you’ve done it too! Why did you become a vet? Didn’t something inside you tell you that you want to do something that allows you to express your empathy for animals? Or some other reason that you maybe don’t even know where it came from, but you just know it’s right? See? You also have a Visionary!
The Visionary doesn’t think you’re not enough. Actually, the Visionary thinks that you are exactly where you are meant to be and what’s happening around you is exactly as it should. It’s not based on fear, it’s based on love, compassion and connection. It’s not “oh of course the dog died, I didn’t give it the drug I should have”. It’s “what a shame the dog died, he was so lovely, I’m sorry I couldn’t have done more for him but tomorrow is another day for me to try”. Unlike the Impostor, which keeps reminding you of your past (mistakes and bad experiences), the Visionary is your connection with the future and brings your future into the present. Your Visionary is the one telling you that you have what it takes to be a great vet and save animals, the one that says “of course this was the right degree for me, I love animals”. Your Visionary is the link to Intuition and a mission that goes beyond you, unlike the Impostor, who likes to focus on the ego.
What does the Visionary whisper?
Your Visionary doesn’t like to raise its voice, but what it says is beautiful:
- I am the best I can be right now.
- I make the best choices that I can right now.
- Mistakes are not failures, they are ways of growing.
- I know deep down that…
- This was the right option.
- I am accountable…
How does the Visionary make you feel?
The Visionary brings pleasant feelings your way, feelings we’re often really good at ignoring, such as:
How does the Visionary make you behave?
When you take action because you’re following your Visionary advice, you may not know exactly why you are doing what you are doing, which is funny… but it’s because you trust the process, and you will be doing it smiling and laughing. Decisions following the Visionary instructions feel naturally “right” and from the outside, you may look like you’re a very lucky person.
Hearing the Visionary enables us to have inspiration and vibrant speeches, an open body posture and energy flowing through. Is it easy? Nope – but it’s totally worth trying!
Going to the Extremes – Impostor Overwhelm and Visionary Bliss
In our lives, the Impostor and the Visionary are always there. But sometimes we pay so much attention to one that the other seems to be gone. And we only pay attention in one way – by believing in them.
When the thoughts and emotions running through your body are shouted out by your Impostor, they may take all areas of your life. As we’ve seen, the Impostor is trying its best to protect you, but you’re not doing yourself any favours by believing that everything is your fault and that you’re not worthy of anything good coming your way. Doesn’t this start to sound a lot like mental health diseases such as depression? That’s because these mental states are strongly associated with Impostor thoughts, beliefs and emotions. Impostor Overwhelm can be dangerous and it’s something we want to avoid. It’s possible to have Impostor Overwhelm in one area of our life only, but as you know, we are continuous beings, so this will overflow to other areas. When all areas of your life are shadows and darkness, you find yourself in a place that is hard to crawl out of – and if this is your case, you want someone to help find your way as soon as possible (please check out Vetlife and this list of counsellors).
On the other hand, the opposite is possible. When you’re able to silence your Impostor and say “thank you, but I would rather believe in something else”, you’re opening yourself to your Visionary. Visionary Bliss is a beautiful state of being, where things are enough as they are and they make sense. You don’t need anything to be different, you are in a perfect place and you are in the present (this is important – you do not live neither in the future nor in the past). Visionary Bliss is very hard to achieve and can be very fleeting. Are you happily married? Think of your wedding day. Are you a mother? Think of the first time you held your child in your arms. Those were times when you likely experienced Visionary Bliss, they were moments you wouldn’t mind repeating over and over again in your life. No worries about the past, no guessing about the future.
Who’s talking to you?
Right, so how do you really know if the voice talking to you is the Impostor or the Visionary? As we’ve seen, they’re both eloquent and rational!… But there are some tips that can help you to differentiate your Impostor and your Visionary.
Words like “should” and “must” are Impostor vocabulary. Words like “can” are usually Visionary talk. “I should do this course” is Impostor (i.e. “I don’t know enough, I should know more”). “I can do this course” is Visionary (i.e. “I have the option of doing something that I want, it looks interesting”).
However, the easiest way to tell one from another is to ask the question “Do I want to believe in that/feel that/do that?”. If the answer is “no”, then the author was most likely your Impostor.
Let’s look at an example. You see a patient at the clinic. The patient is quite sick and you admit it for treatment. You forget to check contact details, so the client leaves and you have no way to reach them because the only phone number is no longer active. The patient dies in the afternoon and you can’t call the owners. The day after, having heard nothing from you, they call at the end of the day. You have to tell them that their pet died. They get furious that they weren’t told and shout at you, saying that you should have done a better job and checked their details. You tell yourself that those people are rightfully upset because you didn’t do your job well and forgot something as simple as confirming the phone number was still updated.
At first sight, this looks like a useful insight. Something to make you improve, get better for next time. But if you look closely, you felt guilty, miserable and probably incompetent at this point, you take their words literally. Do you really want to feel that way? Do you really want to believe that it was your fault? Was it really a mistake? Wasn’t it in the client’s best interest to check the phone number when they signed the form? Is it your fault that the patient died? Is it your fault that they were upset? Of course not! (the only ones responsible for how one feels are themselves).
See how easy it is to get tricked by your Impostor?
The Impostor tries hard to help you, but it’s using fear to do so. The most dangerous part of the Impostor is that it believes it really matters! The illusion is a dangerous one and very hard to escape from – the Impostor is closely attached to your material ego, and ego, by definition, is the importance/meaning of self. However, when you go down into the philosophy of it, your ego must believe that it’s important, otherwise its fundamental beliefs are wrong. This is why when you feel sad, you want to feel sad even though you know you don’t really want to feel sad. It’s because you’re ego is telling you that it’s important to pay attention to it, when in reality you will feel much better if you understand that the Impostor is not as important as it makes you think!
I finish with a challenge for you: what was the last Impostor moment you had? Think about the last days-week and see if you can identify it. Once you do – can you make peace with the fact that maybe you were listening to a part of you that was trying to help but wasn’t very helpful?