I remember a kid named Joel Palmer who constantly talked to himself. He would mutter under his breath at his desk as he worked through mathematical equations. He would mouth words soundlessly as he was waiting in line to play four square talking through the last play that sent him to the back of the line or working through the next play that would advance him to the next square. But there was one thing he did that was, by far, my favorite thing to secretly witness.
As he made his way to the bathroom, I would sometimes follow him in and listen to him carry on a full-on conversations with himself as he went "#2". Everywhere else you would be forced to read his lips or bend in close to distinguish his muttered whispers, but he came to life in the bathroom, especially if he didn't think anyone was there to hear him. I would let him get settled in and then soundlessly open the door and tip toe in to voyeuristically listen in on his dramatic monologue. It was nothing short of fascinating!
He would talk through situations with friends, muse about an upcoming test, wrestle through doubts about himself, talk about what he wanted to do over the weekend, work through anger with how he was treated by someone, etc. He would go on and on and on. Going to the bathroom was 10% unloading human waste and 90% unloading social and emotional waste. Both are essential for healthy survival.
I used to think he was a freak, until I realized something. We all do this to some degree. In Joel Palmer's case, he simply lacked the social apparatus to shroud the private internal dialogue in public settings. His social deficiency led many to believe this behavior was an anomaly, when in reality, self-talk is quite normal.
It's not whether you talk to yourself, it's how you talk to yourself.
David often talked to himself...
"Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed with me? Put your hope in God!"
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His holy name."
The Psalms are largely poems of self-talk. A man writing out journal entries to keep himself sane and get him through another day of isolation. David was either clinically insane or onto something. I'm beginning to lean toward the later.
I said earlier that I believe a leader is someone who can talk themselves through self-doubt.
I can't believe how much of my time in between meetings and other chance encounters with other human beings that I'm mulling over and muttering through conversations, if only in my own head. The other day I caught myself talking out loud in the car by myself while waiting for the light to change. I consciously picked up on my conversation when I was asking God why I felt something. By the time I realized I was talking to myself, my soul and my mind had worked through a couple of important question marks. These question marks never go away if you don't learn how to talk to yourself.
You can go to counseling, but if you don't learn to counsel yourself while you're sitting in a cave, you're in deep doo doo. If the Psalms teach us anything, they show us that this is the place where God does the best counseling of our souls. He joins us in our own personal counseling session and speaks into our self-talk with Spirit-talk. He chimes in on the conversation along the way.
Self-doubt has got to be the greatest limiting factor to leadership. Hours spent spinning your wheels in the meantime. Days lost in indecision simply because you can't "make up your mind". Energy expended in secret due to "mind games" twisting your insides into pretzel-like formations on the wrestling mat of the underworld. Mock situations and relational role-playing gutting you like a fish creating a fantasy second-life that swallows up time like the vicarious world "online gaming". Learning how to talk yourself through these seasons is a matter of life and death in leadership.
And I'm not simply talking about "Self-help" techniques alone, it is positioning yourself in a conversation with yourself to really hear from the third party of the third person of the Trinity. As you bend the ear of your soul, the Holy Spirit adds a track in the recording. He adds harmony, changes keys, and sings a new song as you wrestle through your psalm of response to life.
I can't believe how many days I feel like I can't do what I'm doing.
I can't believe how little it takes to discourage me.
I can't believe how easy I can go from high to low.
I can't believe how little criticism from so few people it takes to disable me.
I can't believe how paralyzed I feel when I'm all alone.
I can't believe how easy it would be to give up on any given Monday morning.
I can't believe how much I don't believe in myself.
I can't believe how quickly I rush to negative conclusions about life.
I can't believe how mean I am to myself in secret.
And while I'm struggling through this internal feedback, I have to lead with passion, vision and mission. I don't know how to do that aside from figuring out how to "talk myself through" doubt and despondency. To interact with my soul honestly and healthily. To mutter and mumble and muse appropriately.
I'm not good at this right now, but I'm getting better the more I normalize "talking to myself" and embrace the internal conversation. I've learned that I don't mind talking to myself, I just hate listening to myself.