Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Who do you think you are?

Fog bank
oils on canvas panel 9 x 12

I heard it yesterday. That voice. That snarky voice in my head that second guesses and gives me an earful when I do something that pushes me outside my comfort zone or when I do something a little bolder or self serving. I heard it clearly and disturbingly as I walked up the steps of the museum and art gallery, submissions in hand. And it nearly made me turn back. But I pushed the voice aside and continued on.

It's the voice that says "Who do you think you are?"

The voice comes singly or in a group. Christine Kane visualized her voices as a group of high school girls.

Their eyes are lined with thick black pencil. They wear concert t-shirts. Their hair is burnt from too many home perms. One of them steps forward and says, with her hands on her hips, “Who do you think you are?” And then she turns to the others and says, “Who does she think she is?” Then they all take an aggressive step forward.

My friend Joy told me that “Who do you think you are?” jumps in whenever she imagines hanging out on the sofa reading magazines.

A few years ago, I saw Oprah speak. She said that every time she wanted to achieve more, the first voice she heard was “Who do you think you are?”

Every woman I know has her own version of this voice waiting in the wings.

In other words: Stay down, play small, shut up, and don’t embarrass yourself. Don’t even bother because you won’t make it, you don’t deserve it, and everyone knows it, and they’ll all laugh at you when you fail.

So, next time that voice jumps up in your head, here’s what you do:

Answer it.

Really. Who do you think you are?

One time, I was telling a mentor about some fears coming up around a choice I was making.

I said, “…and all the voices in my head are saying, ‘Who do you think you are?’”

And he looked at me and said, “Well? Who do you think you are?

I smiled and continued with my story.

He cut in.

“No. Stop. I really want to know. Who do you think you are? Tell me right now.”

In a very tiny voice, I told him.

Then he made me say it again in a bigger, stronger voice. And again after that.

He said, “There. Now you have an answer for your voices.”

Now I do this exercise every time those voices arise.

Here’s a tip:

When you answer that question, use language that speaks the truth of your strengths and values

In other words, make it authentic.

It’s tempting to recite something that sounds “lofty” or “holy." I know you know what I mean. “I am a divine being, living in divine perfection with power and grace..and blah blah blah...abundance and light."

Okay, fine.

True as that may be, if that language doesn’t resonate with you, you’ll never feel any bolder, and those high school girls with the black eye pencil will put their cigarettes out on your shoe.

The Co-op of Lack

My theory is that “Who do you think you are?” is actually a Co-op.

It’s a collective body of voices saying, “Agree with us in the lack that we see! Agree with us that there are no other options! Agree with us that no one has any power over life conditions!”

It’s actually pretty convenient.

It’s convenient to have this world-view because it gives you permission to stay stuck. It never requires that you do anything about it because after all, you’re dealing with a whole world-view!

Think about it.

When you say, “I no longer want to work with this abusive client,” you’re also saying, “AND, I believe there are multitudes of others out there for me.”

When you say, “I’m gonna nap right now, and I will be more productive and happier because of it,” you’re also saying, “AND, I believe that there’s more than enough time for me to get my to-do’s done.”

Get it?

Essentially, you’re telling the Co-op that you’ve decided to create a whole new world-view!

Extra Credit Bonus Tip

Let’s be honest.

Most likely there are occasions when you’ve been the one saying, “Who does she think she is?” (Even if it’s only in your head.)

Don’t be ashamed. It simply means that you have more opportunities to shift those old lack mindsets. Usually those mindsets are saying: “I’m feeling small and poor, so she should be small and poor too.” We’ve all caught ourselves doing this.

Even if it’s uncomfortable, you can choose to bless or praise anyone who seems to be taking bigger strides in her life. Then remind yourself again who you think you are, and join her!

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her 'LiveCreative' weekly ezine with more than 4,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at


cathsheard said...

OMG I know those girls - I think they live in my street. And yep, they can and do get in my head. Thanks for the tips via your mentor - what a great idea, to have your asnwer ready when your head gets lippy with you. So who *do* I think I am? Hmmm...

Maree said...

Wonderful advice Jeanette! Thanks for that.

Jeanette said...

Oh yeah Cath, those nasty girls are everywhere! And creating the answer to their 'who do you think you are?' question does work.

As the voices tackled me the other day, I thought about what I do well and how I can be seen equally with any other artist and the voices disappeared.

Glad you enjoyed it Maree. :)

Chris Beck said...

Wonderful post, Jeanette!! Those nasty girls really do get around -- I see them lurking in my neighborhood every once in a while too!!

Cathy Gatland said...

It's awful to think that I agree with those mean girls, but yes, far too often (and conveniently) I do. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

A Brush with Color said...

Oh, this seat is crowded because those girls are right here so often, squeezing me out, but you're so right--great way of turning those negative, self-deflating thoughts around in your head. Thanks for this post! I love your blues in this work here.

Billie Crain said...

I'm a firm believer in voicing our worst fears and those old deflating tapes that tend to run quietly but deadly in our heads. Once spoken out loud they tend to lose their power over us. Creating new tapes is a neverending battle but one worth fighting.