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Silencing Your Inner Mean Girl

Amy Ahlers’ "Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves" — a book launch party and a Girls Inc. fundraiser.

Did you know that, according to the National Science Foundation, the average person has as many as 60,000 thoughts a day — most of which are negative and critical? Makes me wonder if I am indeed above average. My inner critic is a constant — a nonstop yammerer. So when my editor, Eve Pearlman, gave me the opportunity to read and review local author Amy Ahlers’ book, Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves, prior to her Oct. 13  at Park Street’s , I jumped on it. The book launch is a fundraiser for Alameda’s , so my “inner benefactor” agreed that it was the right thing to do.

For those who don’t know me (and my “inner critic”), here’s a little background. I was born blonde and with more than a trace of ditsy, so I often fit that stereotype. My older brothers tease me by saying that for me, blonde isn’t just a hair color – it’s a lifestyle.

It’s not about intelligence. I have a healthy IQ and did well all through school. Yet when I graduated from Cal with honors, my mother said in surprise, “Honeybun — you hide your brains so well!” (Yes, she actually said that, right to my face.)

Every time I do something airhead-y, my inner voice sniggers obnoxiously: “You’re a total bubblehead.” Or, “Maybe you graduated with honors, but it’s because you took Physics for Boneheads and flirted with that nerd to fix the infinite loop in your computer programming project.” “You didn’t deserve (fill in the blank); you just got lucky.” “Might as well just give up all your goals right now, Alice, because you’re never ever going to reach them.” It’s a catty, judgmental voice that makes me feel completely unworthy.

In her new book, Ahlers names that voice the “Inner Mean Girl.” My Inner Mean Girl compares my worst to everyone else’s best, and guess what? According to the voice, I’m the one left standing all by my lonesome on the basketball court when the captains pick the teams. (My only solace is that the author says even Oprah has an inner critic and struggles to feel worthy. Even Oprah…)

You can see why this seemed like the perfect book for me. Ahlers coaches us to ditch our inner critics and stop being so hard on ourselves. Her book includes 59 common esteem-busting lies, rebutted with truths, challenges, affirmations and inspiring quotes. Lie #14 is “I’m too _____[fat, thin, ugly, tall]” and the quote at the chapter’s end is, “To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.” 

I love inspiring quotes. I collect them like Blue Willow china, baskets and petrified sand dollars from Stinson Beach. You can never have too many baskets — or too many inspirational quotes.

So besides the welcome new additions to my quote collection, this is the kind of book you can pick up and put aside, flip open randomly, take in a short chapter, then revisit another time to reinforce its message.

Not all of the chapters apply to me, thank God. Being the youngest of four siblings, I know I am both lovable and adorable. Always have been. It’s a birthright thing. I am a hug waiting to happen.One of my closest friends says I could charm an iron lamppost. So I skipped Lie #3 – I am Unlovable - completely.

Even though I skimmed some of the chapters, several hit the mark.

There is an “authenticity” self-assessment test in section #50. My test results show that I am typically real and sincere! Go figure… Of course I am. Baby, I was born this way. How else could I parade my personal life across the Internet? I have tried my darnedest to be less authentic all my life, but it’s just too emotionally exhausting.

Ahlers gives step-by-step instruction on confronting that “Inner Mean Girl” and replacing her with a kinder, gentler coach. She encourages us to connect a physical gesture with your inner wisdom, for instance touching your chest. (I know the physical gesture I would like to give my inner mean girl. Hah! See my while driving in a town the size of Alameda…)

If you are one of those women who is completely secure and has no inner critic bashing your self-worth, there are other reasons to head to Books Inc. on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. for Ahlers’ book launch party. First of all, Amy Ahlers is an Alamedan! Although she lives in Oakland now, she grew up in Alameda’s Fernside District and attended Edison Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools. Her parents, Russ and Linda Grant, are lifelong Alameda residents, Harbor Bay Realtors and active volunteers in our community. They must be very proud parents right now.

One last reason to head to Books Inc. tomorrow night: Amy Ahlers received the 2011 Girls Inc. of the Island City’s Women Who Dare Award, and a portion of her sales from the event will go to Girls Inc. If you are fortunate and everything is “A-OK” with your self-esteem, you should pay the blessings forward and reap good karma with a donation to girls who are still “works in progress.” They are the future of our town.

Jon Spangler October 12, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Guys have the same kind of inner critic yammering away at them, too. With similarly "constructive" results, I assure you. It's very helpful to survive into middle age, when balance seems to quiet the critic a little. But that "inner mean guy" is still active, even at a lower volume... :-(
Frances Montell October 12, 2011 at 06:26 PM
This sounds like a great book! My daughter's soccer coach said something to the 8 - 10 year old girls on the team that really resonated with me (and I think lots of grown-ups): "Treat yourself like a friend." Would you tell a friend who made a mistake or missed a shot "You're pathetic! You can't play very well at all."? No. You would say something like: "Good try! We all make mistakes. You'll get it with practice." Why not say these supportive things to ourselves? Just because we'll always be with ourselves doesn't mean we can take ourselves and our feelings for granted. :) I really try to catch myself now when I say something mean to myself and try to remember to treat myself like a friend.
Mark Irons October 16, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Gee I must have 120,000 thoughts a day, half of them self critical with plenty left over for everybody else. The bigger challenge is my outer S.O.B., though I've sworn off negative hand gestures too and simply mutter under my breath.
Jon Spangler October 16, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Mark- Well said. I think you put your finger (!) on one of the possible differences between men and women re: this "inner mean person." We guys seem to be more likely to reflect/project our meanness in a more extroverted manner, at least physically: raised middle digits, fisticuffs, cussing, etc. It seems that - in general, at least - women have not been as likely to express their meanness as physically or outwardly as we have.... Am I correct in this assessment or am I off-base?
Alice Lewis October 17, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I guess that's why it makes headlines when a woman is accused of a violent crime. But I think we all know that girls can express meanness and leave no visible scars. It's all about internal injuries, and they take a long time to heal. Thanks for reading and commenting, all! My sense of self worth appreciates each and every one.

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