November 13, 2013 was a life-changing day for me. It started out fairly typical, except my family and I were vacationing in Florida. I spent the morning as I normally do – journaling, meditating and exercising – and had just stretched out on a big, fluffy towel on a gorgeous Naples beach. The sun beat down on me and I felt amazing.
Beep, beep beep! Beep, beep, beep! My alarm shrieked. I squinted at it. The clock read 10:50 am. That was my signal to head up to our condo for the second session of the, “Creative Insight Journey”, a self-development course I was taking.
“See you soon, Jaim!” my husband Gideon called out with a big grin. “Bye!” I said, reflecting on how lucky I was to have such a wonderful mate. As I climbed the steps by twos up to our room, I reflected on our wedding day – one of the most transforming days of my life. I didn’t realize it then, but I was about to have another profoundly transforming day. It was on that day in November that I met Emma.
It sounds silly when I say it. Especially since Emma had been with me for over 30 years. Not to mention she’d profoundly impacted my life. But before that day, I didn’t even know Emma existed. Allow me to explain: Emma is my gremlin. My inner critic. The voice of judgment in my head.
As I mentioned, Emma had been around for years –she loved telling me everything she didn’t think I could do, or the things I should fear. She convinced me it wasn’t worth applying to certain colleges for a PhD – “You’ll never get in,” she whispered convincingly.
She warned against leaving a steady job and following my heart – “It won’t work out,” she stated flatly. It was as if she wanted me to stay small. Like she didn’t want me to enjoy my life or take a chance. She never gave up. And she was always there, cautioning me about making a mistake.
I was familiar with the concept of ego, but it wasn’t until class that day when I identified my gremlin through a particular activity – draw it, name it and write down three things it says – that my major breakthrough came: Emma is just a voice in my head. She is not who I am.
A feeling of security and a rush of relief washed over me like a massive tidal wave. I wasn’t crazy! And I wasn’t alone; every person in my class had their own Emma, each with its own look and name! But they all voiced similar opinions: you’re not capable, you’re not good enough and you’re not worthy.
During the rest of class, I learned that Emma formed in my early childhood years. I discovered her good qualities – she alerts me of danger and helps keep me safe – but, most of the time, she goes overboard and the danger is imagined or hyped up. I also learned that if I listen to Emma in every circumstance, I limit my life and myself.
The homework assignment that week was to post my picture of Emma in a prominent place in my house. That way, I’d recognize her voice more and not allow it to scare me or run my life.
A few days into this, I had an epiphany of sorts while in the shower. It was Emma who convinced me to fear stepping outside of my comfort zone. Instantly, I knew what to do: I found a host of popular publications and jumped at the opportunity to submit my work.
Now, a little over nine months since Emma and I first met, I’ve gotten really good at recognizing her. She doesn’t scare me anymore. And neither does submitting my work. In fact, I am writing for a host of publications now. And planning to attain that PhD.