Do you have an inner editor?

Clapperboard during filming

Do you cut yourself off from speaking? Maybe you wonder for a moment too long whether what you’re about to say is the ‘right’ thing and then you don’t say it because the moment’s passed. Or maybe you do say it and it lands with a clunk. There comes a point when the psychological effort required from this self-editing process becomes untenable and then what…?

I was interviewed by Sara Sanderson for the When Women Speak podcast last week and I remembered another childhood phrase — ‘think before you speak’. It seems that what came out of my mouth wasn’t always considered acceptable — probably that thing where little kids very honestly observe what they see in the world, and which often goes against what we’ve labelled as polite or acceptable, when in fact they’re being beautifully truthful.

Anyway, it sems this was another phrase that stuck with me and made it seem like I had a job to do, to make sure that what came out of my mouth was thoughtful, considered, right, not going to upset people — oh yes, really that last one!

As with most of the conditioning we gather in life, it seems to work for as long as it works, and then the cracks start to show as the system heaves under the weight of the psychological effort.

The beginning of the cracks showed up for me on the outside — someone in my life who didn’t edit or filter and who had received the opposite conditioning of ‘say what you think’. This led to me cringing with embarrassment as she spoke brusquely to waitresses about whatever she was unhappy about. Really highlighting the ‘don’t upset people’ narrative and a perfectly opposing story to start to bring to the surface my own ‘think before you speak’.

So what do we do with this? How do we change it? Because it was evident that whenever I second-guessed what to say, or wondered whether I was having the ‘right’ impact it felt like things became clunky and awkward, or didn’t have the impact I’d intended. Almost like the words had been dunked in dirty water before making it into the world.

But we can’t really know which is which. We can send ourselves in spirals wondering did I say the wrong thing, did I upset them, was I clear, are they convinced, did me calling out that behaviour challenge the relationship too much?

There is no end to this intellectual analysis because how could we ever know? Even if someone seems upset by something you’ve said today, who knows if in a week, month or year’s time they could turn around and say ‘that was the best thing anyone could ever have said to me’.

And so the invitation is to stop using the outside world as a guide for how well you’re doing — you can never know, there are no answers there. Instead, the only guidance mechanism you need to increasingly wake up from the confusion of your inner editor, is here already, within you.

So instead, it’s a noticing game. Was there a reaction or a contraction in me? Was there an idea of limit here, an idea of the right words to say? These are signs that an idea of self was in on the game and that dirty-water-dunking was happening with the words. It’s this that feels off, out of alignment with who we really are.

Despite what we’ve been taught, the off-feeling isn’t actually telling you that you shouldn’t speak or that you are terrible at speaking, it’s beautifully pointing you to the fact you’re believing stories that are confusing matters.

The more you see this, and see the pattern of thought without judgement, see the untruth of the idea of limit, and recognise that you are the space in which it’s all appearing, then naturally the editor stops showing up, and you return to the innate freedom of lovingly honest and fresh words flowing forth, just as life intended.

With love, Helen

I coach and guide people who have worked hard all their lives to be the ‘best’ them so that they can drop the stories, reconnect and be the real them. They’re smart, passionate, curious people who care about enabling change. They’ve worked hard to get to here and yet it doesn’t seem to have made the difference they expected, and now they’re wondering what else is available. Thankfully there is something else! The work I do returns you to who you really are, and out of the confusion of the stories, so we get the real you — which is what you and the world really want! Find out more here.

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