I wrote last week about nine ways to alleviate pressure when you’re overwhelmed. The post is filled with strategies that I have tried and tested1 and they all work to alleviate pressure, but here’s what I’m finding in my own personal overwhelmed season right now: sometimes when we’re overwhelmed the problem is not just with our practical strategies, it’s also with the mean voices in our heads.

This PhD project is stretching me right now. I’m in the final throes of a long race and, honestly, I’m not very good at finishing things at the best of times. And these are not the best of times. They are not the worst of times either, but they are not the best.

I’ve been putting my foot on the accelerator for a while now and that’s been OK. I’m pushing hard, but because I’m also using strategies like getting away for breaks, doing life giving things, prioritising sleep, dialling back and cancelling other commitments, I’m still fine. I mean, I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally fragile. I’m don’t have a lot of leftover capacity, but I’m fine.

Well, I’m fine except that I’ve been having an internal battle with a mean voice. I put my foot on the accelerator, but then this Mean Voice in the backseat of the car starts yelling at me, “Doesn’t that accelerator go down further? It used to go down further! You can push harder than that. I’ve seen you push harder than that! You’re better than this! This isn’t good enough. It’s not going to cut it. If others can do it, you can do it. Why didn’t you push harder earlier? You can make this happen, just make it happen, COME ON!”


That is not the voice of truth, and look, here’s the thing. It doesn’t make me go faster. It makes me exhausted, getting yelled at, but I will not go faster, because I know that if I do go faster at the demand of the Backseat Driver, I will crash the car.

So I would like to make a public response to my Mean Backseat Driver:

You know what, Mean Guy? Thanks for trying to help but THIS DOES NOT HELP. You’re wearing me out. You’re making me cry and I need my eyes to drive this car. Yes, I’ve seen myself push harder than this before. I’ve also seen myself ignore the voice of God because I’m listening to my internal drive (no pun intended). I’ve seen myself make me ill. I’ve seen myself burnout things I care about (which includes me, by the way – I care about me!) with my sheer determination to hit some arbitrary goal. I’m not going to do it again. So here’s the deal, Mean Backseat Driver, quit backseat driving, quit yelling and start being kind. Settle in for the ride. Trust the driver. Or get out of the car.

Do you have a Mean Backseat Driver in your car? What would you like to say to him or her?2

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Featured image by Pixabay user Headcoachead

  1. OK I’ve tried and tested nearly all of them. Number 5 is the exception. I have accepted help when it is offered but I’m not sure I have done much asking for help outright – working on it…! 
  2. If you don’t know how to tell the Mean Backseat Driver to shush up, I’ve got two great recommendations for you:
    A. Go to counselling
    B. Go to Jesus (his voice is never, ever mean)