from Say It Out Loud by Vasavi Kumar
When I was nine years old, my mother put me in classical Indian singing classes with a teacher who was well-known in the South Asian community. She had a strong voice and an even harsher tongue. Every time my mother would take me to class, I felt like I was going to throw up. And because I was so terrified of my teacher, I rarely felt motivated to practice my singing homework.
One day during our weekly music classes, which took place in the basement of my teacher's house, she was teaching me a new song, and I struggled to pick up the nuances of the melody. My teacher slammed the book down, raised her voice, and said something to me that I can't remember, but even to this day I recall how I felt. Her volume, tone, and anger scared the heck out of me. I looked down, with tears about to roll down my face, and quietly walked upstairs.
My mother, who usually wasn't afraid to stand up to anyone, didn't say anything to my music teacher, even though she had heard everything. But maybe if she had stood up for me, the voice of my music teacher wouldn't have been so loud. In that moment what I needed the most was someone to show me that I did not deserve to be treated in such an aggressive way.
As a teenager and even well into my twenties, I resisted sitting down and practicing music. As I got older, my resistance to practice bled into other areas of my life: I would half-ass things or try to find shortcuts. I associated practice with getting yelled at or doing something wrong. It wasn't until I started to voice my own resistance and say out loud, "I'm afraid of messing up and making a mistake" that I was able to free myself from resistance to practice and discipline.
No matter how hard we try to block out painful memories, the feeling of that memory resides in our body. In an instant, our nervous system can be triggered, and we can be brought back to a memory, most likely the initial event that conditioned our nervous system to live in a constant state of "something bad is about to happen."
Speaking harshly to yourself only makes you rebel against yourself. When's the last time telling yourself that you sucked at something actually motivated you for a consistent length of time? In some cases, maybe when you speak harshly, it motivates you, but try to not just have one approach with yourself. In moments when you notice your resistance, be willing to challenge it to see how much more compassion you can show toward yourself.
For example, when you hear thoughts like, "You suck at this …," instead of giving up, pause, take a deep breath in, exhale out, and say out loud, "That's not helpful. I'm doing the best that I can right now."
There will also be times where the voice of your resistance will convince you that you're crazy for pursuing an idea, and you may hear, "Who do you think you are, trying to do this?" In those moments, instead of tossing your hands up in the air and throwing yourself a pity party, you can say out loud, "I'm not going to entertain you right now." Nip it in the bud.
When you hear the voice of your resistance, rather than taking it to heart, picture this: your resistance is the creative child inside you that got silenced and shamed along the way by your inner cynic who is beyond condescending and is just terrified of failing.
That voice is not yours. It does not belong to you. You most likely picked it up from a teacher, friend, colleague, parent, sibling — the list can go on and on. But ultimately it is your responsibility to voice that resistance out loud and work through your inner dialogue out loud.
Resistance will tell you that you've failed before you even start. Giving a voice to it diminishes its power over you.
Your resistance will present itself in a variety of ways as an initial or continuous response to you sitting down and focusing on your most important objectives and goals, including the urge to delay the process of starting.
You see, what happened when I was a kid taking music classes had an impact on how I viewed practice and discipline. I often avoided doing the necessary work to prepare myself because I was so afraid of messing up. And maybe you're like this too. Maybe when it comes to being there for other people, you're right on top of it. You're excellent at helping others pursue their dreams, or you're a natural-born leader and can guide others to simple solutions. But when it comes to yourself, you hesitate, procrastinate, and resist doing the things that you know would move you closer to your dreams.
Maybe you get joy out of trying new ways to express your creativity but resist doing it. Our stories don't need to be the same for resistance to be the thread that binds us together. If you're human, you experience resistance.
Every part of you needs to be addressed, heard, and integrated for you to show up in your entirety as a creative, expressive soul. The solution to working through resistance is threefold: noticing it, responding to it out loud, and taking inspired action.
By voicing your resistance out loud, you meet yourself exactly where you are while reminding yourself of what your commitments are and who you're becoming through this process. It's where the magic happens.
Resist the urge to allow resistance to stop you in your tracks.
To notice resistance, respond to it, and take action in spite of it are three very different but interconnected experiences. I want to walk you through all three to prepare you for the Say It Out Loud exercise at the end of the chapter.
Prompt: Notice when you experience resistance, typically right before doing the hard thing (creative project, difficult conversation, unpleasant interaction, or expressing how you feel). Observe your thoughts, feelings, and body responses when you're in resistance.
Practice: Using the voice of gentle firmness, ask the questions below to open the door for dialogue with yourself. Go through each of these questions and answer out loud to express what comes up. Trust that all the answers are inside you. Pay attention to them and let them move through you and out of you.
Promise: Promise to create the space to say out loud what you're experiencing whenever you notice you are in resistance. Your resistance shows you where to practice gentle firmness with yourself. Be the encouraging voice of a coach who helps you get through the tough times when all you want to do is give up on yourself or when you just need a no-BS reality check.
When I set my mind to something, nothing and no one can stop me.
I can be both gentle and firm with myself when I want to give up.
I replace the voice of impossibility with the voice of encouragement.
©2023 by Vasavi Kumar. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from the book Say It Out Loud: Using the Power of Your Voice to Listen to Your Deepest Thoughts and Courageously Pursue Your Dreams ©2023 by Vasavi Kumar. Printed with permission from NewWorldLibrary.com.
Vasavi Kumar is a licensed therapist and the outspoken host of the Say It Out Loud with Vasavi podcast. …