Your inner dialogue could be hindering rather than helping you
Ever thought of doing something amazing and then immediately thought “Nah!”?
Who or what talked you out of it, and why?
Most of the time, our inner voice goes unchecked. We go along with its complaints and criticisms agree with its opinions without question.
If you feel that something is holding you back from doing and being more than you are today, your inner voice could be the culprit.
Instead of allowing this one-way monologue to dictate the kind of life you’re leading, you can change it into a two-way dialogue that is constructive, helpful, and even life changing.
It all starts with developing the ability to observe and really hear what it is saying.
Learn to listen carefully
Joshua Freedman, expert in Emotional Intelligence and CEO of Six Seconds, shares that
“It’s easy to “hear” our big feelings, but they drown out the quiet whispers of our more subtle and hidden emotions… hearing more gives more insight…a more complete understanding”.
So, the next time your thoughts seem loud and clear:
- Step out of the situation for a “quiet moment”;
- Concentrate on your breathing (counting if that helps you to focus); and then
- Listen to what thoughts flow through your head;
- Discern whether they are negative and destructive blocking the way forward, or constructive criticism to help us move on.
Practice makes perception more precise so get into the habit of doing this on waking and before going to sleep, as well as in moments of crisis.
Once you’ve developed some listening skills, here are four ways you can start to work with your inner voice in a constructive way.
1. Say what you want, not what you don’t want
Make a conscious effort to change negative sentences to positive ones, even if the negative sentence has a positive meaning.
The mind doesn’t understand negative words such as “no” and “don’t”.
If I say “don’t think of a black cat”, what pops into your mind? The mind needs to create the thought (black cat) before it can get rid of it.
So, with statements such as “I will not eat junk food”, get into the habit of changing it to “I will eat healthy food”, meaning the same however with a more subtle yet powerful impact.
2. Change “should” to “could”
Tweak language which has an obligatory burdening effect, and especially that which brings with it a sense of failure or disappointment if not done.
Common examples include “I should go to the gym”.
By changing “should” to “could”, we are relieved of the burden of obligation and it becomes our choice. “I could go, or I could not go”, it’s my decision!
Obviously the consequences of our decisions are also ours too to deal with, however it lightens the pressure slightly and the tendency is then to actually go.
3. Find 4 positives in every situation
Our inner dialogues love to complain, and drag us down with it! To turn this around, you need to get into the habit of highlighting and amplifying the ‘wins’ in every situation.
So, find four positive takeaways from any given situation, even the most challenging ones.
- “That was kind of the person to take the time to tell me this.”
- “How interesting to talk to someone with a different point of view.”
- “What a great experience to have had.”
(…and even “Wow, glad that is over!”)
4. Recognise the Good Witch from the Bad Witch
Where is your inner voice coming from?
Tim Gallwey, author of The Inner Game books and founder of The Inner Game School, identifies the participants of our inner dialogues as two: Self 1 and Self 2.
Self 2 being our real self and Self 1 being the negative, boycotting and critical voice we develop, (no) thanks to our life experiences and influences around us.
This critical judgemental Self 1 can be thought to appear once we start school, and things seem to snowball from there onwards. Determine whether the negative voice is a grumble or even a self-critical punishment or, whether it is Self 2’s risk management voice stepping in to protect and remedy the situation.
Learn to let go
Are you now complaining about the existence of Self 1? This is actually Self 1 in full flow!
Just by becoming aware we expose the sabotaging voice and allow ourselves to let go of those thoughts and for the real you to enter the conversation.
If letting go is challenging at first, distract the moans by focusing on a productive task to quieten this inner dialogue. The critical voice is louder when our real true self is tired or under the weather, so it can be a tell-tale sign to slow down and take care of the most important person in our lives, ourselves!