Andre Agassi on those inner voices

Andre Agassi in Open: An Autobiography:

I’ve internalized my father. His impatience. His perfectionism. His rage. Until his voice doesn’t just feel like my own. It is my own. I no longer need my father to torture me. From this day on, I can do it all by myself.

We all have these different voices in our heads. Some of them are loving. Most of them are not.

You know, the voices that say “come on, get up”, “why haven’t you done something with your life yet?”, “don’t be a wimp”, “you gotta work harder”, “shut up”, “you’ll never amount to anything”, or whatever yours say.

Where do they come from? From our parents, our teachers, our peers, the media, and so on. If they’re said often enough, or they’re said when we’re emotionally charged, they go in and stay there. Sooner or later, they’ll become internalized, and we can use them to kick ourselves.

We do this all the time.

That doesn’t make it a good idea. They weren’t helpful then. It’s not helpful now.

It’s important to get to know those voices, though, so you know what you’re up against.

And it’s no use getting mad at them. They think they’re there to help and to protect you. Obviously, if they were shouted at you with such power, they must be warning you about some severe danger. So the part of you that took that in back then, is now just really adamant about protecting you now.

Meet it with understanding. Love event. Thank it for wanting to help you out. Ensure it that its been heard. And above all, don’t believe what it’s saying.

Later on in the book, Andre Agassi writes:

I talk about my father. I tell JP about the yelling. The pressure. The rage. The abandonment.

JP gets a funny look on his face.

“You do realize, don’t you, that God isn’t anything like your father? You know that, don’t you?”

I almost drive the Corvette onto the shoulder.

“God,” he says, “is the opposite of your father. God isn’t mad at you all the time. God isn’t yelling you in your ear, harping on your imperfections. That voice you hear all the time, that angry voice, that’s not God. That’s still your father.”

I turn to him. “Do me a favor? Say that again?” He does. Word for word. “Say it once more?” He does. I thank him.


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