There was a popular horror flick when I was younger about a babysitter being terrorized by a lunatic. He continues to call her, asking in a raspy voice, "Have you checked the children?"
The babysitter calls the police to report this harassment and the police promise to investigate. The climax of the movie – the part where everyone in the theatre shrieks in terror – comes when a police officer calls the babysitter back and tells her that "the calls are coming from inside the house."
I'm reminded of this because of a comment on the Feeling Stuck thread in which a woman, still married and reportedly happy to be, confesses that she's struggling to feel desirable because her husband cheated with someone younger and, theoretically, sexier. This woman felt old and unlovable and "ordinary". How, she asked, could she get her former confident self back?
What does this have to do with a horror flick? Because here's the thing: it's coming from inside your head. The enemy is in the house.
And that is where we need to direct our energy to ensure that this enemy is annihilated, or at least tamed.
It's not easy. The enemy might have our voice but the words likely sound a lot like those that came from your mother. Or your stepfather. Or your college boyfriend. Even your husband. Maybe what you hear sounds a lot like what we see on social media, where women are attacked for everything from their weight to their hair to the language they use. For centuries, women have been policed -- our bodies, our ideas. So it's no surprise that we've internalized this. It's no surprise that the enemy is now within.
Cause being younger doesn't necessarily mean better unless we agree with our cultural worship of youth. Being younger generally means less life experience. It means less perspective. It means less nuance. And being "new" means she doesn't have the same history with your partner – showing up day in and day out for life's moments – that you do. So she has a tight ass. Big deal. Talk to me when she has a moral compass.
The only way to battle that internal enemy is to, first, notice it. Pay attention next time you hear criticism coming from inside your own head. Anything from "what an idiot I am" to "I'm disgusting". And then challenge it. Are you really an idiot? I doubt it. I imagine, like the rest of us, you have your moments. You say something dumb or you lose something important or you forget something. Oh well. Welcome to the club.
As for disgusting, no you're not. If you're not taking care of yourself, then it's time to start. But that's it. Tell yourself you're disgusting often enough and that's all you'll be able to see. You'll completely miss everything that's incredible about you. Your sense of humour. Your insight. Your kindness. None of that is disgusting.
But when all we hear is a steady stream of criticism, that becomes our reality. The enemy of the women who commented about having lost her confidence isn't this younger Other Woman. It's the voice in her head. The one that agrees that youth is somehow preferable.
Maybe this voice has something to teach her. Maybe she's bored with her own life. Maybe what she's after isn't youth (especially when it comes in a package that's lacking a heart and soul) but vitality. Maybe she needs to stir things up a bit – try a new hobby, take a trip, do something unexpected.
Or maybe she needs to stop beating herself up for having taken more trips around the sun than this morally challenged Other Woman. Maybe she needs to see the beauty in eyes that crinkle when she smiles, a body that has weathered a few more storms.
Next time you hear that voice, remind yourself that it's the enemy within. And that's an enemy that you can control.