Have you ever caught yourself having a conversation in your own head? Have you listened to those little inner versions of you that start debates or running commentaries in your mind?
Most of us will experience our internal dialogue or hear our inner voices at some point. For some, it is only an occasional occurrence but for many others it can be a frequent, even daily event. Often, these inner voices are just our mind’s way of debating an issue, helping us to think and rationalise our way through challenges or offering us encouragement and reassurance when we need it.
But what happens when your inner voice becomes your harshest critic or worse, your inner bully?! What happens when that inner voice starts to tear you down instead of building you up? Or when instead of reassuring you of your value, it starts to convince you that you are worthless?
When your inner voice becomes your inner hater, it can change your whole perspective on life, leaving you confused, anxious, angry and stuck in a rut of negativity. So if you find your inner voice veering off the road into negative territory, it’s time to put the brakes on and learn how to flip the script with:
The 5 Steps:
1. Don’t try to silence it.
Let me make this clear, I am not in any way telling you to believe what your negative inner voice is telling you! At the same time, trying make it stop by trying not to think about it, is about as effective as saying to someone “Don’t look now but..” The first thing they are going to do is… LOOK! If you try not to hear it, it will just get louder. So, how do we stop the negative inner voice?
The first step is to recognise that this voice didn’t come out of nowhere. It may be a result of being criticised, bullied or picked on or being unable to defend yourself. It may be a symptom of a deeper anxiety, worries or insecurities that you’ve held inside, a mental health issue or the result of trauma. Or it may be a combination of many things that you internalised over a long period of time that, eventually, became this negative voice. The point is that it came from somewhere. Trying to block it and suppress it is not only ineffective but it is also downright bad for you. Even if you can manage to suppress it, it’s still in there, ready to resurface when you’re feeling low or going through a tough time.
Suppressing or silencing this voice does not release it. So instead, when you catch your inner voice being negative or harsh, greet it like a friend who is in a terribly bad mood. It is a part of you, so treat it with kindness and compassion to help it to heal and release itself. Ask yourself what emotion am I feeling right now with this voice? Is this voice angry, sad, fearful or hopeless? Why am I feeling this way? Where is this emotion really coming from? Focus on recognising, healing and releasing the emotion, rather than trying to push it back down.
2. Be your own best friend!
I could tell you a million times that your negative inner voice is wrong, that you shouldn’t listen to what is says and that you need to release it. However, that’s easier said than done if some part of you still believes the things “negative you” is saying. So this step is all about learning how to be your own best friend.
“Wait… what? Lisa, I already have a best friend!”
Don’t worry! I’m not trying to put your best friend out of a job here. What I mean is whenever you catch yourself being negative or harsh with yourself, I want you to imagine this: Your best friend or loved one is coming to you with the exact same issue(s) you are dealing with, asking you for advice. Now, I want you to imagine that you hear them saying about themselves, the same things your negative inner voice is saying to you. Have you just realised how harsh your inner voice is?
Next, I want you to ask yourself this question: “If my best friend or loved one had been through what I’ve been through and found themselves facing this issue, what would I say to them?” I’m willing to bet that the answer is a lot kinder and more compassionate than anything your negative inner voice has said to you. Take a moment to think about the negative things you’ve been saying to yourself and be honest, is thinking this way serving you? Is it helping you to become the best version of yourself or is it holding you back?
Start making the things you would say to your best friend if they were in your situation, your new internal dialogue with yourself. In other words, start to become your own best friend! Whenever you fall back into negative dialogue, just repeat this step and start your new dialogue again. With practice you will learn to be kind and compassionate to yourself.
Every day pick three things that you are grateful for. It doesn’t matter how big or small. You might be grateful for your family or friends, for your morning coffee, for having air in your lungs, for the bus being on time, etc. Whatever the three things are, just spend a few moments just focusing on how grateful you are for them. Focusing on your gratitude for the things you have, rather than focusing on what you don’t have, will gradually make you feel more positive. And there is always something to be grateful for, no matter how small.
Every day pick three things that you love and appreciate about yourself. You might love your sense of humour, your ability to be kind, your work ethic or your intelligence. You might appreciate your calmness in a crisis, your achievements, your smile, your cooking skills, your talent for a particular sport or your creativity etc. Spend a few moments each day focusing on some of the things you love and appreciate about yourself. Try to vary it, by not focusing too much on one type of attribute, such as your physical appearance, and by each day incorporating at least one character trait that you love about yourself into your three choices.
5. Surround yourself with positive people!
If you are surrounded by toxic people who reinforce your negative inner voice it’s harder to break out of that way of thinking. So one of the most important things you can do to improve your negative inner voice is to surround yourself with people who are positive, who value you and who care about you. If you must have contact with toxic, negative or overly critical people, try to limit the amount of time you spend with them. Instead spend time people who believe in you, who support you and build you up. Surrounding yourself with people who empower you will help you to become the best version of yourself.
Above all else be kind to yourself and patient! Your negative inner voice didn’t appear overnight so it may take some time and compassion to release it!