Happy Radio

Imagine if you had a radio commentator analyzing every move you made, everything you did or didn’t do, in critical terms. “Jonathan is not having a very good day, no.  Look, he’s procrastinating again. Why can’t he do better, I just don’t understand it….” When you went out of the house, you would get more criticism from this radio narrator about yourself, your inadequacies and failings of various kinds, and it wouldn’t stop all day long. You would probably want to turn the radio off, right?

A lot of people have that, though, in their own heads, and don’t know how to turn it off.

I have this radio in my head, too. But what it tells me is, “You are beautiful, you look fantastic. Wow, that was such a brilliant thing you just said. You rock! This was such a smart thing to do! Amazing!”

As I shared before, I had a group of adoring grandparents and great-grandparents who would gather around me throughout my childhood and stare at me with an almost religious adoration, discussing me in hushed voices in these superlative terms. Their voices are now my inner voice. It’s the best thing I have going for me in my life. I haven’t made it happen in any way, and it’s not my achievement. But it’s a cool thing to have.

I’m pretty much the only woman I know who is so completely happy with the way I look and with my intellectual capacities. Come to think of it, I don’t know any men who’d have such a happy sense of self either. I have many other challenges but at least this is not one. And so this inner voice is what I want to give to Klara. Because it’s the best thing I can offer to her. This is why she thinks Beautiful is a descriptor that is linked specifically to her as a measure of all beauty in the world.

Because once you do have the unhappy radio in your head, switching it off is extraordinarily hard.


20 thoughts on “Happy Radio”

  1. Mine is that I have done something terrible, and that I am so terrible that I cannot even see the terribleness of what I have done. I will be tolerated nonetheless, but only if I am completely servile. The next misstep and I am on the street to starve. And I had better not think I can get a job and survive, because nobody else will put up with me at all, they will crush me underfoot without a second thought, so I had better stay put and be quiet.

    I am still trying to realize how strong that voice is, the better to combat it. I have other inner voices that are much more rational, but they are weaker.


    1. Oh yes, the other part of the speech of the “radio” is that the above situation was the most love I would ever get. (I needed to find someone I could marry who will feed me in exchange for my allowing abuse, my mother actually implied, unless I had enough nerve for suicide, because just being a homeless child and getting slowly crushed underfoot on the street would be the most painful option, although it was the most likely.)

      My God!!!


  2. I don’t have a strong negative or positive radio in my head. Yours sounds wonderful!!! I am intrigued to know if this is something anyone else has commented about, like being too full of yourself, etc. Or if the comment is more on how great to have such self confidence.


    1. I’m sure there must be people who think I’m insufferable. And I’m sure they are right. But I’m not equipped to let in any negative information about myself. I tend to think everybody adores me. And if they don’t – which is probably the case – I don’t know about it, so who cares?


  3. “Being too full of yourself” is one of the really mean things people who are actually dead say to try to drag people who still have a breath of life in them down into the grave. It is condescending and disgusting to say that to anyone, and I will not allow it.


    1. Exactly. This is a very clear example of a projection and it’s inherently aggressive when people do that.

      My husband is one of the people who have a very negative radio station in their heads. And so whenever I say something nice to him – which is all the time – he suffers almost physically. It’s sad to watch.


      1. One thing people will do is discount anything positive. Like I remember an ex-spouse of mine saying, oh well, yes, you got all A’s in college, but was a state school and a humanities major… Or the voice inside your head can do it too. Nothing is impressive to another academic, since we’re all supposed to be smart; yet it’s not supposed to be impressive to someone outside of academia either.


        1. One of the famous times I was called arrogant in graduate school was when I wanted to take class X and not class Y. Class Y was having trouble making and class X was not, and my advisor wanted me in class Y for that reason. Me: but that is the easier class. Class X is will be a challenge and will have people more advanced tahan I, probably smarter than I too, in it and I will learn more, so I want to be there. Advisor: how dare you imply you might be the smartest person in class Y. Me: it’s a probable fact, not a criticism of them. It is why I want to be in class X. Advisor: you are arrogant.


          1. When I told my undergraduate advisor I wanted to do a PhD, she actually laughed and said it would never happen. She said I was an immigrant and should have more realistic goals. I was like, fuck that noise. Not out loud, obviously, but to myself. Then I met her at a conference and she was all, “I hear you are doing a PhD at Yale. I always knew you’d be successful.”

            And then I had another advisor who was always saying “What do you mean you are not ready to publish? Of course, you are. You should apply for the best grad schools. They’ll be lucky to have you.”

            Curiously, the first one was a woman and the second a man. Both from Spain. But she’s nobility and he’s hardcore working class, so I’m guessing that had an impact.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. My favorite is, “what’s your new article about? Oh, really? But that’s obvious. I mean, everybody knows that.” And I’m thinking, hey if it’s do obvious, why didn’t you publish it, get a publication out of it.


  4. My radio channels are mixed. I have a happy station — which I now realize is my mother — which keeps telling me how great I am and how well I am doing. I also have a negative station — my father — which keeps saying how I am a failure. Fortunately I have largely managed to switch him off, but he does keep coming on at times when I am vulnerable.


    1. I also have a very negative channel that comes from a different source and it’s very destructive. I don’t even want to think what my life would have been if I never had the competing positive channel.


  5. This made me think that academia prefers the sad channel. Everyone so stressed, frustrated, tired. I had a meeting with my P&T committee this semester and the input I got is why am I not complaining more. That I seemed too happy. Which I am because I have a case to get tenure, and I didn’t have it 1 year 1/2 ago. I was a bit floored.


    1. You are supposed to be miserable in academia. It is a cultural norm. Just act happy and not very busy and people will react negatively.


      1. I don’t understand how people get things done. First they make themselves miserable, then they go off and get work done and have a great time. If I make myself miserable, then I am just miserable. But academics are COMPLETELY different, they are not structured in this way, they need to suffer / they gain energy from suffering. I really, really, really do not understand it. They also like to make others suffer, and I am very wary of anyone who thinks they are a good teacher because most such people are actually people who get off on authoritarian behavior. So I guess I am saying there is this whole S/M aspect to academia that I don’t like, especially since it’s not even role-playing, it is real.


    2. I always thought of that as an Eastern thing. We native Californians got in all sorts of trouble from our Yankee professors at Berkeley over this. If you looked as though you were sleeping enough, eating well enough, were happy enough generally, etc., they would tear into you about how lazy you were, no matter how much you had accomplished. One of my friends got a professional acting makeup job for her PhD oral, to look more tired and stressed out.

      Of course I am now one of the tired, stressed, frustrated ones, because of years of dealing with unhappy people, it is very draining.


  6. I have that voice, but it’s not a radio channel for me, but more like a person in my head. There’s no element of detachment to it at all, it addresses me as “you” rather than as a “he”, and I’ll quite often have full on conversations – arguments, really – with it. To a degree, the voice can be reasoned with, if some of the criticisms are obviously preposterous, and can be shouted down or shamed into quiet if it’s being too rude. Generally, though, it doesn’t feel like it’s playing fair – taking cheap shots takes precedence over measured judgement or even basic consistency.

    I don’t really feel threatened or oppressed by it, and do consider the voice an extension of myself, or at least some of my capacities. There’s no part of you that’s not part of you, after all, even the bits that initially came from other people, and even the bits that you don’t like.

    Running through variations of arguments with a simulated asshole in your head is painful and draining, I’ll certainly agree, but it’s better than stumbling into an argument with a real asshole unprepared. The voice is more like a white blood cell, retaining memory of a disease you used to have and demanding you have resources at hand if it ever comes around again, rather than the disease itself.


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