“Beautify your inner dialogue. Beautify your inner world with love light and compassion. Life will be beautiful.” - Amit Ray
You know, that voice in your head that chimes in when you lose something? “I can’t believe you lost that. You’re a worthless POS that loses everything and never was responsible enough to be trusted with anything of value.”
Yeah, THAT charming voice. Let’s call it the Anti Self because that voice is not your voice. That voice is also not your friend. In fact, psychologists like to call this internalized dialogue, “the root of much of our self-destructive and maladaptive behavior.”
Everyone has this voice, but it’s important to keep it in check and in touch with reality. Interpreting events, capabilities and consequences is beneficial, but many of us have critical voices that go WAY beyond helpful all the way to hurtful -- triggering negative moods and sabotaging our actions.
Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big, explains how to distinguish the difference between your inner critic and your voice of critical or realistic thinking. In this Harvard Business Review Article, Make Peace with Your Inner Critic, she says: “The way that we can tell apart the inner critic voice in us from the voice of realistic thinking or positive critical thinking really has to do with the tone of the thoughts in our head. So the Inner critic will tend to be very repetitive and like a broken record, saying the same thing over again. It might be, ‘there’s no way this is going to work. There’s no way this is going to work. There’s no way this is going to work,’ let’s say, if you’re starting a new venture. The voice of realistic thinking, in contrast, will not be repetitive. It’s forward moving. So it might sound like, ‘I’m getting some clues that I am really not managing this team that well.’
The good news is, you can be in control. According to psychologist, Lisa Firestone Ph.D., you have the ability to tame your critical inner voice. She says that when we become conscious of what our inner critic is saying, we can take action against its directives when they encourage self sabotage.
How? Firestone says journaling the voice is a little trick to really seeing its cruelty and lack of validity. She encourages people to write the critic voices down in the second person. So, instead of saying, “I’m not fun. No one finds me interesting,” say “You’re not fun. No one finds you interesting.” This process helps you start to separate your critical inner voice from your real point of view, so you can see it as a negative counter-force to the authentic self.
Then she says, “Write down a more caring and honest response to each of your critical inner voice attacks. This time, use ‘I’ statements. ‘I am a worthy person with many fun-loving qualities. I have a lot to offer.’ As you do this exercise, be diligent in shutting out any rebuttals your inner critic tries to sneak in. Make a commitment to keep writing about yourself with the respect and regard you would have for a friend.”
But what if the inner critic is motivating? If you hate your body, won’t that make you get to the gym? Therapist Rachel Eddins disagrees. She believes this type of communication is anxiety-provoking and shaming, which is the opposite of motivating.
“It triggers us to avoid, reduce anxiety and stay safe. Avoidance (reducing anxiety) is not the same as motivation to change. Avoidance generally includes things such as procrastination, addictive behaviors (such as overeating, grazing when not hungry, drinking, smoking); behaviors such as constantly checking your smartphone, or watching excessive TV; or even avoiding the source of the criticism or shame such as the person, activity, place, or even yourself (i.e., staying busy to stay out of your own head).”
It’s time to take control of that jerky nag in your head. Recognize it in the moment, hear it for what it is, and then say, “Thank you for your input, but you’re not allowed to make the decision. I’ve got this covered.”