Your Saboteur and Your Sage: A Tale of Two Voices

April 21st, 2017 by Kelly Kienzle

Two voices walked into a bar and started an argument about who was stronger. The Saboteur Voice said, “I know I am stronger because I can see how you are weak, sloppy and just not very smart.” The Sage voice responded, “I know that I am stronger because I have the power to devalue and minimize anything you say.” Who do you think is stronger?

This exchange is a parable for the voices that exist in each of our heads. We each have a Saboteur voice who belittles us and shakes our confidence when we make a mistake. It is the voice we hear most easily when we are feeling tired or alone. It is the voice that derails us, assigns blame and keeps us from doing what we most want to do. It is the voice that tells us we are not enough.

And we each have this voice. Sometimes when I am talking about my work and describing my services, my Saboteur voice sounds like this: “You sound like an idiot. You’re just talking fluff and they are going to see right through it.” Oh yes, he’s lots of fun, that voice.

An Exercise

What does your Saboteur voice say when you are feeling stress?

Truly, take 5 seconds right now and write it down.

Look at what you’ve written and notice what emotion comes up for you.  Now, leave that there and we’ll come back to it in a moment.

Fortunately, we have another voice in us that is our Sage. The Sage is the voice who can step back from a stressful situation and assess it with rational thought and an open mind. Our Sage voice is the one who understands we are all mere humans who are simply doing his and her best. Our Sage voice can remind us of the bigger picture – – the other elements, players and factors in any situation.

My Sage voice sounds like this: “Yep, that’s just my Saboteur. She’s really worked up today. But she never has anything new to say. I think I’ll ignore her and just go back to focusing on this fascinating person I’m talking to instead.”

When you rally yourself during a stressful situation, what can you hear your Sage voice saying?

Again, write it down.  Please.

It Didn’t Always Used to Be This Way

As children, we all had only Sage voices in our heads. Saboteurs had not had time to be planted by judgments from other people. Saboteur voices are not intrinsically or organically part of us. While they cannot be removed completely, they can be significantly downsized.

We can downsize our Saboteur voice by bringing our Sage voice to the forefront again. We can cultivate the Sage to be our dominant voice.

The Practice

How? By simply noticing when our Saboteur voice steps in. You’ll know the voice, because it’s the voice that is negative and offers no helpful solution. It’s the one that you are probably really, really tired of hearing. If you feel miserable about your performance or someone else’s, then you know the Saboteur voice has been at work.

Instead, pull the Sage voice to center-stage. Ask yourself what is really most important to you? What has gone well? How have you performed exceptionally? Who has impressed you?

Look back at what you wrote about the Saboteur voice.  How is it wrong?

Now read what you wrote about the Sage voice.  How is it helpful?

Focus on what is positive and more positivity will follow. And then the Sage voice will always out-muscle the Saboteur voice.

Note: The Saboteur and the Sage come from Shirzad Chamine’s research on neurochemical changes and how they affect our behaviors.

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