Jerkbrain Lies

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

Jerkbrain Lies

18 thoughts on “Jerkbrain Lies

  1. 1

    My friend, who has a wonderful blog about depression here: uses the term Brain Gremlins rather than Jerkbrain. Same deal though. They live in your head and tell you things like “you’ll never be any good at anything and you’ve wasted your entire life and you should give up on everything now” when in fact the situation is that you’ve done badly at this one thing for whatever reason.

    1. 2.1

      Mindfulness meditation is actually something I’ve been planning on looking into and have (argh) not gotten around to. I may have to take your comment as a timely reminder to get off (on?) my ass and do something about that.

      It’s interesting though- I came to thinking about mindfulness as a thing I’d like to do through roller derby (training), of all things. Learning how to do new and different physical things requires such a different kind of concentration from the very cerebral type that I’m used to. I found that when I focus on movement and physicality I end up feeling incredibly present in a really awesome way. It’s like it kick-starts my brain out of depressive thought patterns and reminds me to focus on the here and now, damnit. Which, well, leads pretty darn directly to mindfulness. And bruises. Mindfulness and bruises.

      1. hahaha
        I like yoga for those very reasons, and I rarely get bruises from it… Hooping is another story. I have a tendency to push my body hard enough to damage the delicate bits, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Jerkbrain may actually be behind some of that as well. 😉
        May your path to wholeness be littered with the bruised and fallen bodies of the opposing team.

      2. 1. Seconding mindfulness meditation. It is awesome and helpful.

        2. Mindfulness as part of other activities is totally a valid and awesome way to do it. In fact, a lot of the exercises they teach you in the beginning are just being deliberately aware of you are doing as you are doing it. You can mindfully walk to work, mindfully eat breakfast, whatever! And if roller derby is a natural place for you to do that, that’s awesome. Honestly, I could probably stand to do a bit more mindfulness while learning new physical skills…. I’ve been the clumsy/uncoordinated one my whole life, and I’m still so baffled by learning new skills requiring physical coordination that it often reduces me to tears.

  2. 3

    I’ve found it best to directly confront my Jerkbrain (dependent on what it is saying, of course). My performance review came right when my Jerkbrain was hammering me with “you’re not good at anything!” and the praise of my superiors for my work kicked it right in the cerebrum, and their specific suggestions for improvement gave me something to work on in a positive way. I was also feeling extremely worried that my housemate resented me, as my bout of depression meant I was dropping the ball a bit on dishes and not leaving piles of my stuff around. So I finally screwed up all my courage and asked if she resented me. She said no and made me tea and we watched Alias together. For me, knowing the Jerkbrain lies unfortunately does nothing for the emotional impact of its lies, so I find direct feedback about reality (“I am perceiving that I suck at everything! Is it true?” “No! I am perceiving that you are winning at life, proceed!”) to be really helpful when I can get it.

    Still haven’t figured out what to do when it convinces me I shouldn’t bother getting up though. That’s a hard one. I can overcome it for things like work, because work=money=food+shelter, but for pesky things like grocery shopping or seeing my friends, I still struggle.

  3. 4

    Aoife (above) just told me that she’d read this earlier today and mentioned my blog in the comments. I’ve actually just finished writing up a post about my brain-gremlins this minute. Crazy coincidence! (Or awesome Aoife-coordination 😛 )
    Someday I’ll learn how to deal with jerkbrain/brain-gremlins. Someday…

  4. 5

    Thank you, thank you for this today. My jerkbrain has completely taken over my life and in fact has been trying to kill me. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest here. But knowing that others (especially someone as generally awesome as you) has a jerkbrain too, and manages to fight it more or less… I’ll remember that, and it’ll make me a bit stronger.

  5. 6

    I’ve just discovered yr blog and on the basis of this alone, suspect I need to continue reading. Thank you for reminding us that we’re not (always) unreasonable, irrational or worthless.

  6. 8

    yeah it’s an NLP trick I heard of years ago … make that inner critic look ridiculous, laughable … I am finding it hard to stop jerkbrain sounding like my ex BF today, but, perhaps I’ll wakeup tomorrow and that will have shifted. Just quit ciggies 15 days ago, so the DT’s are causing a lot of image based processing and dream stuff

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