I’ve been in discussions with the Soul Bullies this week. And by “in discussions with” I mean they keep shouting and I keep plugging my ears.
You know the Soul Bullies.
They’re the voices in your head that hiss: How dare you?
And: Who do you think you are?
What makes you so special?
Why should anyone listen to you?
I’m working on a project that I’m super excited about, and that seems to turn their volume up about eight notches. How dare you write this? How dare you think any of this matters?
I’ve tried outrunning them, I’ve tried appeasing them. Nothing works for long. And you can’t reason with them—they’re allergic to logic.
How dare you? Who do you think you are?
They accuse me of being an imposter in my own skin, and some days I believe them.
On those days, I try to keep small so they won’t notice me. I quiet the most interesting parts of myself. I don’t say the things I think they’re waiting for, which means I don’t say anything at all.
It takes a lot of work, frankly.
In her book, Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding, Leeana Tankersley writes that God whispers: “Don’t put your best energy toward contempt, self-consciousness. Don’t spend your time feeding the Soul Bullies. Put your best energy toward loving and holding and creating and dancing and laughing.”
(If you are battling the Soul Bullies, guys, this is a book that will set you free.)
What the Soul Bullies are saying is that I’m only worthy if I’m acceptable. I can only be loved if I don’t have opinions or edges or loud thoughts or excessive breathing. Which would mean I can only be loved if I don’t exist. (I told you they were allergic to logic.)
Leeana says we have to look that crap right in the eye and see if it holds—and when I do that, I know how to answer it. I know what my own Soul Bullies need to hear. When they start in with their, Who do you think you are? And their, How dare you?
The answer is, Who am I not to?
The answer is, If I am holding something in my hands that might help someone else, how dare I keep it to myself?
The answer is, Who am I not to show up, not to breathe deeply, not to create the things that are mine to create? Who will live my life if I don’t?
This is who I am, Soul Bullies. This is what I have to offer, and I will do that willingly, imperfectly, and as best as I can. That’s how I dare.
But when I look right at them, I see something else, too.
I see that these are my Soul Bullies. They live with me. They know me. They’re pushing me around, but I think they might really be trying, in their own cranky way, to protect me.
They’re trying to keep me quiet because they think that will keep me safe from mean comments and rude emojis and the occasional angry Tweet from someone I don’t even know, that I will spend an entire day arguing with in my head.
They’re keeping me safe from friends who might look at me sideways. They’re trying to protect me from awkward family dinners.
Their methods are terrible and they continue to be allergic to logic, but they are trying, in their way, to help.
I can respect that. I just can’t keep listening.
Or as Leeana says, “We can stand in the nakedness of our humanity and not be ashamed. We can tell the truth because we have come to believe that nothing about our externals determines our worth.”
(In case you’re thinking that sounds slightly impossible, she also says, “This is really hard, though, right?” Yes. Really hard. And really true.)
The truth is, you are allowed to be human. You are allowed to exist, you are allowed to have opinions, you are allowed to be creative. You are also allowed to make mistakes, and to make progress, and to make a difference.
You don’t have to listen to what the Soul Bullies say, you only have to listen to what you believe. It’s not quite the same thing.
I don’t know about you, but that might be the most brazen thing I do all day.