When you begin to make bigger and bolder decisions in your life, what’s the first voice of doubt that comes up? Is it the “Who do you think you are?” voice?Let’s say you want to ask for more money for your services, say no to a situation that isn’t fulfilling anymore, make a CD, write a book, change careers, let go of a friendship, post a blog, spend the day doing nothing but relaxing….

Do you get that whole “Who do you think you are?” voice going in your head?

Sometimes my “whodoyouthinkyouare?” voice shows up as a group of high school girls. They all have that thick black eye-pencil under their eyes, and they never smile, and their hair is kind of burnt from too many strip-mall-salon perms, and invariably one of them steps forward and says, with her hands on her hips, “Who do you think you are?” And then she turns to the others and says, “Who does she think she is?” And then they all threaten to “kick my ass.” (Okay, this pretty much sums up my typical day at Fairfax High School.)

I told my friend Marty about the topic of this blog, and she said, “Oh, I know that voice.” Hers jumps in whenever she imagines being totally relaxed, just lying on the sofa reading design magazines. A few years ago, I got to see Oprah Winfrey speak in Raleigh, NC (Yes, she was amazing), and one of the things she said was that every time she wanted to go further in her career, the first voice she heard was “Who do you think you are?”

In other words, stay down, play small, shut up, and don’t embarrass yourself. Don’t even bother cuz you won’t make it, you don’t deserve it, and everyone knows it, and they’ll all laugh at you when you fail.

So, next time that voice jumps up in your head, here’s what you do…

Answer it.

Really. Who do you think you are?

Every time I’ve raised the bar in my own career and said no to a performance date that wasn’t paying me enough, or a promoter who was behaving in a way that didn’t honor my value as a performer, I’ve faced this voice. Every time I’ve put myself out there in any new or big way, I’ve faced this voice. Many years ago, I started staying in nicer hotels occasionally on the road as an act of self-care, and you wouldn’t believe how loud that voice was.

One time, I was telling a mentor of mine all my fears about a new choice I was making, and I said, “…and all the voices in my head are saying, ‘Who do you think you are?'” And he looked at me and said, “Well? Who do you think you are?” And I smiled and continued with my story, and he cut in. “No. Stop. I really want to know. Who do you think you are? Tell me right now.”

And with my heart pounding, and in a very tiny voice, I told him. Then he made me say it again in a bigger, stronger voice. And again after that. And then when I was done, he said, “There. Now you have an answer for your voices.”

It was a great exercise. And I’ve done it many times when the voices arise. When you answer that question, use language that challenges you and works for you and speaks the truth of your strengths and values. Also, make it authentic. You may be tempted to say some mamby pamby new age-y statement like, “I am a divine being, living in divine perfection with power and grace in an abundant world.” Okay, fine. True as that may be, if that language doesn’t resonate with you, you’ll never feel any bolder, and those high school girls with the dark eye pencil will, in fact, kick your ass.

Here’s the deal: You’re not meant to stay small, you’re not meant to be broke, you’re not meant to stay stuck doing something you hate to do. You’re meant to get bigger, push the envelope here and there, fall down, get up and cry, and then laugh about it later. You get to have great supportive loving people around you. You get to stay in hotels that don’t scare you. You get to nap and relax and be kind to yourself. So, who do you think you are that you get to have all that? Answer this now.

Stop agreeing to believe in lack.

My theory is that the “Who do you think you are?” voice is a collective body of voices that are actually saying, “Believe with us in the lack that we see! Believe with us that there are no other options! Believe with us that no one has any power over their life conditions!” It is convenient to have this world-view because it lets you stay stuck in the complaining mode and never requires that you do anything about it because there’s nothing you can do in all this lack and confinement.

When you say, “I don’t want to be friends with someone who is sucking the life out of me,” you’re also saying, “AND, I believe there are multitudes of others out there who will support me.” When you say, “I’m going to nap the day away and know that I will be rested and more productive and happier because of it,” you’re also saying, “AND, I believe that there is more than enough time for me to get my to-do’s done.” When you say, “I’m going to say no to this job even though it’s paying me but it’s not in alignment with my values,” you are also saying “AND I believe that there are many more jobs out there for me that ARE in alignment with my values.” When you say, “I’m going to let go of this abusive client,” you’re saying, “AND I know I’ll keep attracting clients who love me.”

When are you the one saying it?

Another way to work with this voice is to observe when it arises in you. When are you the high school girl with the black eye-liner? When are you saying, “Who does he think he is?”

Keep in mind, you’re not asking yourself this question so that you can feel ashamed and say, “See? I do it too! I should kick my own ass!” You’re observing it so that you can see your own beliefs in lack and stuck-ness, the source of your own self-righteousness: “Well, I’m feeling small and poor, so she should be small and poor too.”

Self-righteousness has been a fantastic teacher to me, revealing the areas of my life where I want everyone to journey with me into a place I call the Land of Patheticus. I believe that self-righteousness is one of the biggest blocks we can create for ourselves. For instance, when my acupuncturist raised his prices this year, my little indignation voices jumped in and said, “Well, this we don’t like.” He had gotten a new car, and I judged that a little bit. (Okay, it was a BMW — I judged it a LOT.) And my voices went, “Well, I’ve been with him since he got started here, the little ingrate. I should get better pricing than this! Who does he think he is?” And I had to sit with that for a while. And what I realized was that I was scared.

I was scared that he would move into a realm of success I couldn’t keep up with. I was scared that I would have to find someone who wasn’t as good and settle for an average acupuncturist, when this guy is fantastic. I decided that being a great healer doesn’t mean you can’t drive a BMW. And I made the conscious choice to stay with him mostly because I don’t want to make choices out of fear. I don’t want to stay small. So, why should I want others to stay small? I’m committed to my health, and I value him.

I recently sent a tithe (a donation) to someone whose writing and work has helped me tremendously. This is someone who is doing quite well financially — way better than me. I did it because initially when I thought of doing it, my “who does he think he is?” voice jumped up and said “NO WAY! I don’t care if this person’s work is helping you. He’s already rich!” Then I thought, “Well, this is interesting. What does this say about my own belief in how the world works? Am I only to give to the needy? This person has really helped me. For free. I want to give something back. That’s what tithing is.” So, I wrote the check and sent it with a thank you note.

As scary and humbling as it may be, I want to face these voices head on from every angle. It’s my only ticket out of the Land of Patheticus, where the national anthem is a song called, “Who Do You Think You Are?”

15 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Vero

    Wow! I came across your blog because I have given myself permission to dream again. I wanted information on “how to do a vision board” and came across your blog, then I started reading other posts. I am going to add you to “my favorite” list. thanks!

  • elaine

    Hi Christine,
    I just found your blog and am reading random posts. I went to Fairfax High too, and had the same kind of days. (LOL)

  • Joan A Hamilton

    Hi Christine,
    I’m so glad I found your blog, and isn’t it amazing how many people start off their comments to you that way! Means you are saying stuff people need to hear. I really appreciate your directness and your ability to articulate the essentials of a ‘problem’ and come up with a realistic plan of action to work on solving that problem. It’s easy to see how correcting one thing will lead to improvement in all other areas. A little personal empowerment can go a long way. Your powerful messages are really hitting home with people for a reason. I am heartened by the number of creative individuals who are not listening to that “who do you think you are” voice, and just letting themselves shine and sharing it. Thank you for sharing so much of your yourself in this blog.

  • Tracey Martin Logan

    In the back of my sketch book I carry a quote and whenever I hear that voice saying to me “who do you think you are?” I pull it out and read it, even though I have memorized by now.
    I pass it on whenever I can………..
    “Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God: your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Nelson Mandela, 1994 Inaugural Speech

  • Steve Nguyen – BeyondBehaviors.Com

    Christine: Beautifully and thoughtfully written. I am so glad I came upon your blog. As I was reading “Who Do You Think You Are?” I am reminded of jealousy and envy when I started my last job. When I stepped outside my “role” of monitoring students’ behaviors and started training teachers and school staff on Classroom Management and Crisis Intervention, that’s exactly what some of my coworkers asked me. It was so fightening at first because that voice within is so strong and it keeps reminding you that you might and can fail. But after ignoring it and telling myself that if I do fail…so what, I gathered up courage to collaborate with a few people to tackle a project that no one else had ever done.

    After 3.5 years in my job, I trained over 800 teachers and school staff and before I left I was fortunate enough to gain the support of a local congresswoman to provide the most comprehensive school crisis response presentation ever to the community.

    “You’re not meant to stay small…You’re meant to get bigger, push the envelope here and there, fall down, get up and cry, and then laugh about it later.” -Thank You.

  • aggie

    I know this is an older blog, but I had to comment. I came across your site only last night and I can not begin to tell you how much I needed to hear pretty much everything I have read so far!!! I am the Queen of “Who do you think you are”! Although, I know I get it from my mother the Queen of “You have no business”! I am an artist (painter) and have struggled with the fear of putting myself out there for as long as I can remember. I am so done with putting these limitations on myself! Now, I only have to answer the question and I am on my way!!

  • Amy’s Girl

    OMG! I thought those girls were only after me! Then I realized I am sometimes THAT GIRL. I have a friend I resent because she and her partner are doing better financially than we are and it makes me not want to spend time with them. I think I’ll invite them over for supper….

  • Christine Kane

    hi mary c-d, this is a perfect example of what i wrote about! i totally understand. and i’m glad this blog helped you in some small way!

  • Mary C-D

    I just finished a large writing job, one for which I will not get paid what I should because I have a hard time (even after 30 years as a successful, professional writer) asking for the proper and fair level of compensation. I hear a little bit of a “no” from a client, and that “Who do you think you are?” comes through so loud and clear, sometimes I’m surprised others in the room don’t hear it as well. Fact is, by the way I talk and carry myself, they probably do hear it on some level. Reading your blog was my treat (OK, I cheated a few times today and peeked at a few emails) to stay on task and get the work done. So how perfect to read this post and let it sink in, along with a nice cup of tea, and try tocome up with a way to change the situation.
    So, thank you for your insights, for sharing them, and for giving me (in the neciest possible way) a good kick in the ass to begin to make some changes in how I do business.

  • Caren

    Why, Christine! I don’t remember seeing this post before! The link caught my eye at the bottom of your latest. ‘Cause guess what? Guess what I’ve been hearing when I think about having a nice kitchen with appliances that work, and a house that isn’t broken everywhere? “Well – who do YOU think YOU ARE?! ” And I knew I wanted to sit and answer that, and haven’t made time to do that. I think I don’t want to look too closely… ’cause who *do* I think I am? There must be a part of me that thinks I AM small, and don’t deserve, and am wrong to ask. It’s scary to think of uncovering that. But that was my intent for the retreat, right? Clear the blockages. Clear the path. And that belief in smallness and undeserved-ness has been sitting, huge, blocking the path forever. Up ’til now. Thanks for your words!

  • christine

    Hi Tammy! Thanks for the note! Stop by any time…

  • Tammy

    Christine – I’ve read through this one post three times this morning and I’m already thinking that wasn’t enough. In sharing your thoughts, you spoke to me about so many things. Taking care of those voices is a big job 🙂 and it seems you are doing an amazing job! So glad I found you here. Tammy

  • Leesa

    I love this post, it speaks VOLUMES to me 🙂 Thanks!

  • christine

    Thanks Annie. I’m finding that so many people don’t know what blogs are…and most of them write me emails and say “I hate the word blog!” So, it’s good to know you’re out there!

  • Annie

    This is good stuff! I always enjoyed reading your notes from the road and would check back from time to time to see if anything new had been added so I was very excited to find your blog. Thanks.

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