We’ve all been there. That little voice in the back of your head that can’t let you catch a break. It’s convinced that everything you do isn’t good enough. It is, in fact, convinced that you haven’t ever done anything worthwhile, ever, and should probably just go back to bed and stay there forever because it’s not like there’s any point in you having gotten up in the first place.
‘Round some bits of the internet that you should all start spending more time in, we have a name for that voice: the Jerkbrain. Jerkbrain is, to put it mildly, a jerk. Some of us have a louder Jerkbrain than others. Some of us have Jerkbrains so damn loud that we have little packets of pills and regular appointments with anti-Jerkbrain coaches to deal with ’em. Some of us are luckier and have reclusive Jerkbrains that only show up every so often. Maybe somewhere there’s a lucky fecker who was born without a Jerkbrain or who’s managed to kick theirs to the kerb. If that’s you and you’re reading, by the way? Please teach me everything you know.
I’ve realised something about the Jerkbrain lately. It’s possibly the most important thing to know about it. It’s the thing that separates Jerkbrain from the far healthier voice of “oh crap I fucked up on xyz.. better fix that”. It’s this: Jerkbrain lies.
Jerkbrain lies. While good old fashioned responsibility sounds different depending on what you’ve been up to and how well you’ve been doing at the things you do, Jerkbrain is always the same. This afternoon I’ve been having a major case of the Jerkbrain, feeling like everything’s hopeless and that the things I do are doomed to failure. What was I doing, you may ask, while I was feeling this way? Putting my hair up for the goddamn awards ceremony I’ve been shortlisted for. I kid you not- I’m popping my hair in rollers and ironing my shirt to go hang out with all the other nominees and be fabulous, and at the same time my Jerkbrain is telling me that I never do anything worthwhile and should go back to bed forever. Oh and also that there is no way I’ll have time to make my hair nice this afternoon and should just give up and, yes, go back to bed forever because everyone else will have perfect hair and mine will be not good enough and they will all laugh at me.
Jerkbrain. Jerkbrain lies.
Knowing that Jerkbrain lies? It’s bloody brilliant. You see, if you didn’t know that Jerkbrain lies, you might be tempted to take it seriously. Might think that maybe it’s right and you should just go back to bed forever to stew in your own filth because you’ll never be worth anything more than that. If you know that Jerkbrain is a filthy liar, though, you can start learning to ignore the fecker. You can make your own internal voice that you get to control yourself. One that says “Psh, everyone else will be too worried about their own hair to mind what mine looks like. Also, telling me that I’m useless while I’m ironing my fancy pants award shirt? Dude? That’s just pathetic.”
That’s the thing about Jerkbrain. It seems big and scary when you listen to it, but if you can step aside and figure out what it’s really saying? It’s ridiculous. Kinda pathetic, even.
I wish I could end this with a nice pithy paragraph about having defeated Jerkbrain and sent him back to the dark, cold, damp cave where he came from. It’d be nice if it worked like that. I’m afraid, though, that for the moment at least I seem to be as stuck as everyone with my personal Jerkbrain. There’s something very comforting, though, about knowing that even when Jerkbrain is trying its very best to convince me that everything is terrible, I can comfort myself with the knowledge that that insidious little fecker knows a lot more about my own insecurities than it does about reality. It doesn’t shut it up, but it sure as hell does make it easier to suck it up and do things anyway.
How about yourselves? Have you worked out ways to shut up your own Jerkbrain? Or ways to make it easier to get past the jerkiness and do things anyway?
Related articles: Captain Awkward Edition
- #450: How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed. (captainawkward.com)
- Captain Awkward has officially blown my socks off. (prozacinmycornflakes.wordpress.com)
- #448: How do I accept compliments? (captainawkward.com)