The Voice of Self-Condemnation: Mental Arguments and The Encroaching Chokehold of Small Town Opinions


I often imagine what other people say about what I’m doing and it’s always the people who don’t really like me. I mentally argue with them until I’ve finally proven I’m not who I used to be.  I’ll spend hours inside my own head explaining my side of the story and why you need to know I’m not a bad guy and that I’m sorry for the person I was before.

Seriously.  Hours.  I can’t seem to do a single good thing without the strangling voice of condemnation cutting into my head.  It squeezes the value of any good I could do.  Even when I win the argument in my angry fantasies, I’m not at peace; I’m more mad than when I started.  It’s terribly exhausting.

When someone aims a harmless joke at me, I repeat that phrase in my head over and over, rotating it like a dirty jewel that has locked up my freedom.  It’s a joke, right?  There’s not truth in every joke, is there? 

It’s worse when it’s actual discouragement. 

Actual things people have said to me:

“You’re just ugly.”

“I’ve lost all respect for you.”

“You’re beyond repair.”

“All this God-stuff can’t change you.”

“I know who you really are.”

“Obviously you hate children.”

“You’re a lazy arrogant self-promoter.”

“You’re just a nobody pastor.  You’ll never make it.”

I imagine a room full of these people laughing at me, shaking their heads saying, “I always knew something was wrong with him.”  It keeps me up at night. I wake up to it in the mirror.  I get a glimpse of how Jesus was humiliated, rejected, abandoned, and cast aside. 

Sometimes I write a secret arrow aimed at the mean people and I hope they feel rebuked and convicted and the next time they see me they’re so, so sorry.  Most likely they’re hardly thinking of me, except when they do, which is less than the loop in my head.

Life can feel like a constant game of compensation and always apologizing for the past and there’s this paranoia that I’m always doing something wrong, that life will pay me back, that others will misinterpret me no matter what I do.

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