Which You Is In Charge?
There are three of me. Only one of us has to deal with consequences. That’s the one you all see. The other two guys are constantly bickering, constantly vying for my attention. My body and mind are the ship, these 2 are the mouthy co-pilots, the backseat drivers. Every decision is an internal debate.
You’re like this too. Basically it breaks down to Good vs. Evil. We could all be great at the piano or learn a language. Many of us would lament “Oh I’d love to speak French”. Why don’t you learn? Nothing is stopping you. Well that’s not true. You are stopping you. More specifically, Evil You.
For some reason, in most people, Evil You, or less dramatically, Negative You, will put up roadblocks. It’ll see down the road and lay out all the trouble and work something will take in an effort to stop you doing it.
“Sure we could learn French, but seriously think about it. Every day? Studying? You’re too old to study. Also you’re going to have to be bad at it for a long time, speak to people and make a fool of yourself. You really want to do that? Hey come on, have a cookie. Sit down. That show you like is on again…”
It’s the classic Angel & Demon on your shoulders. And, as with all illustrations of the metaphor, the Angel is nervous and fragile, and the Demon is the cackling embodiment of confidence.
Fitness, study, diet, well-being, all plagued by that voice in your head that tries to resist. Everything you know to be good for you takes some modicum of effort and discipline. Bettering yourself takes a strong mind and an ability to resist the Darth Vader in your head inviting you over to the Dark Side.
It can be done. For example all day Evil Me made excuses for me not writing this tonight. All day a voice in my head said things like
“It’s really cold. I think you’re colder than everyone else. You might be getting sick. When you get home don’t write. Just rest, then write tomorrow. Is that a cough? Yeah, you’re definitely sick”.
As I type these words the Good Me is very meekly congratulating with an insipid whisper “keep going”. Meanwhile Evil Me is Brian Blessed-ing
“THAT’S ENOUGH FOR NOW. ALL RIGHT, WE’VE DONE ENOUGH”.
Anyway, my point is, you can overcome this doubt and silence the asshole in your head. If you’re still not with me, this next conversation is one that will ring true to anyone who has ever taken an exam in school or college.
It’s the night before an exam. You were studying all day. In between the coffee breaks, underlining, filing, photocopying and checking what your classmates were studying, you actually got some good work done. It is now 10pm and you’re at you’re at home, hunched over well-worn A4 sheets of notes you managed to scrounge in some meaningless trade from some unpopular, and therefore studious, member of your class.
It is at this point the following inner monologue takes place…
You – Ok. 10pm. I did some good work today.
Good You – Yes you did. You should be proud of yourself. How are you feeling?
You – Actually feeling pretty good. This week is a hard slog. But I’ve been eating well, and getting a fair amount of sleep. I’m doing good.
Good You – Good for you. You know I think the best thing to do for this 10am exam, is to push through until midnight. Get two more good hours done, then a good sleep, up at 8, and at the exam at 9am for the last bit of cramming.
You – You think these last two hours will be worth it?
Good You – Absolutely. I believe in you.
You – What the Hell. Let’s go for it…
Evil You – Hey fellas, what’d I miss? I was drinking and I must have passed out. What’s been going on?
You – Hey there you are. We were talking and we came up with a plan.
Good You – Go back to bed you. He’s doing work for an exam tomorrow, ok?
Evil You – Whoa, wait a minute here. We make decisions together ok? You can’t go off deciding what’s best for all of us without everyone pleading their case. Now, what’s all this about an exam tomorrow? What time is it at?
You – It’s on at 10am.
Evil You – 10am? That we can work with. Now what did this asshole tell you to do?
You – Another couple of hours study, then a good sleep and get there for 9am.
Good You – It’s the best course of action.
Evil You – Is it now? Well what you aren’t factoring in is all the good work that he already did today. By my reckoning his brain is full for the day and to put more information in could be dangerous.
You – Really? Is this true?
Good You – Of course not. He’s talking shite, as usual.
Evil You – The Hell I am. And I’ll prove it. Tell me, can you name 2 of the Kardashian sisters?
You – The one with the arse…
Evil You – They’ve all got arses. I need names.
You – Kim and…… Khloe or Chloe or Kchloe or whatever.
Evil You – Correct. Now what is your parent’s home phone number.
You – I don’t know without my phone. Who knows phone numbers these days?
Evil You – There. See?
Good You – What the Hell does this prove?
Evil You – He knew his parent’s number long before he knew about those wretched sisters, but after being bombarded with information about them, it pushed some stuff he USED to know out of his brain. The brain can get too full. By my calculations his brain is at capacity, and needs to reset with sleep.
You – Well he does have a point. Why can’t I remember that number? God I think I even know the other Kardashian sister’s name!
Good You – He’s just trying to trick you. He always does this. We had a plan. You were happy with it.
Evil You – Plan shlam…
You – No, no, no. Let’s just hear him out.
Evil You – My plan is simple. First of all you pat yourself on the back for all the work you did today. You should be very proud. Next we go to bed and read a comic until you fall asleep.
You – Interesting. But what about the exam tomorrow. His way get’s me 2 more hours study in. And I think I need it.
Evil You – Simple. We get up and study from 6am for a couple of hours.
You – Brilliant. But wait a minute, I hate getting up in the morning. You yourself warn against it.
Evil You – Usually, but tomorrow’s an exam day. Special rules. I’ll have you out of bed lickety split.
You – Well I have worked really hard today, and I am tired and would like to read my comic in bed.
Evil You – You deserve to. Listen, I’m never prone to hyperbole, so I say this with deep sincerity; Today, with all the work you put in, you’ve been a Hero all day. I mean it, an actual Hero.
You – A Hero…? Yeah… I have been a Hero.
Good You – Oh for Christ sake. Can’t you see what he’s doing?! You were good today. Not heroic. He’s just doing it again!
You – Nah, nah, nah he’s right. A Hero. I was in the library for at least 2 hours today. People were in the bar, but not me.
Good You – You were in the bar…
You – For Lunch! I’ve got to eat.
Evil You – Damn right you do. Now, does the Hero want to get changed for bed and we’ll hit the books good and early in the morning?
You – Yes. Thank you. Pssh, study until midnight. What a stupid idea.
Good You – Alright. That’s it. I’m out of here.
Next Morning. The alarm wakes you at 6am. You automatically hit the snooze button. Slowly your brain begins to whirr. You dial up the day and your schedule and an anxiety soaked realisation of the task at hand slowly dawns on you. You consult the oracles.
You – Ugh…So sleepy. Jesus, it’s still dark out. Oh this is going to be rough.
Evil You – What’s wrong. Why are we up?
You – The plan. We’ve got to get up and study.
Evil You – What plan? What in God’s name are you talking about?
You – The plan. You know, you said go to bed and get up early and study. The PLAN!
Evil You – Oh, yeah. Totally. The plan. Yeah, sure we’ll get up. But what about getting just a few more minutes of sleep or whatever.
You – But you said…
Evil You – Look a lot of people were saying stuff.
You – Where’s the other guy?
Good You – Don’t bring me into this. I’m not here. I’ve had it with you two.
You – Oh come on!
Good You – No this is the only way you’ll learn. Or… you could actually get up and study now and then I’ll help.
You – ………. I will. I’m just going to let my eyes adjust.
Good You – You’re shutting your eyes!
You – I’m thinking! Look I’m talking to you. I’m awake….
Good You – Oh Forget it.
You – …just going to lie here for another minute and…
Evil You – That’s my boy.
Don’t let Evil You win.