For the lovely Sleep is for the Weak’s writing workshop:
The voices started as soon as I left home for university. ‘God, why did you say that? He/she/they will think you are a total idiot now,’ ‘oh, look, your marks are slipping. Well, what do you expect, you were making a fool of yourself all night at that party, no time to revise.’ ‘Why are you applying for that job, no-one in their right mind would give it to you,’ ‘Christ, you look fat in that! Why the hell haven’t you got ANY self-discipline?’
All through my life, like an alternative soundtrack to whatever music I’ve tried to enjoy at the time, the voice I call Mrs Carp has been whispering her poison in my ear. ‘Why are you bothering to write this? You know it’s rubbish,’ she’s cooing now. ‘You’re revealing too much of yourself. You’ll have nowhere to hide. You’ll just be embarrassed that you’ve told people about me. They’ll think you’re nuts.’
You may well all think I’m nuts, and quite possibly I am. But I suspect a lot of women have their own Mrs Carp, saying evil things in a quiet voice, undermining and corroding their way through the day. When I’m feeling low, she can really bring me to my knees. On a good day, I shrug her off, put my fingers in my ears, and sing, ‘la la la la la.’
Why do we do this to ourselves? For, although Mrs Carp has her own sibilant voice, very different from my own, I am still aware that she is just a manifestation of all my own worst fears about myself. Do I think that, if she gives voice to my fears, I can then shout her down and rubbish all her cruel work? Or is that I, and most of us, secretly do fear that we are crap?
I can’t tell you all the answers – all I can say is that I anxiously monitor my own teenage daughter, to see if she ever has that inward look, which means she is listening to a voice of her own. I hope not, and I try my best to fend off the whisperers by chasing all her doubts away.
And, Mrs Carp, if you’re reading this (and I know you are, I can feel your hot breath on my cheek) can I just say two words to you?