I am reminded recently of the power I have given to my internal dialogue throughout my life. I realize it is always present and impacts my life in various ways. At times it is a judge, a critic, and keeps me stuck and living small. It tells me who I am, what I can and cannot do, and what is impossible. It works hard to make me look good or avoid looking bad… but by whose standards and at what cost? It keeps me distant from others preventing connection. It reduces my joy and my ability to express myself freely. It creates a false reality in which I live small. Just because I think it, does not mean I need to believe it. This voice, this critic, is not true and I choose to no longer give it the power to disempower me.
Taming your Inner Negative Voices:
So how is this done, right? Easy to say yet this inner voice seems embedded somehow. For me, the journey seems never-ending and I am strongly committed to continue to master awareness and choice around my inner dialogue. Here are a few steps that help foster my journey towards a compassionate and accepting inner dialogue.
First, I became aware of my dialogue. To notice not only the words I say to myself, the tone and intention behind those words are important as well. For me this voice can be so ingrained that this first step continues to be critical towards creating choice and change within my dialogue.
Second, there are certain words that alert me to the critic’s presence. These include words like I should/shouldn’t, I can’t, and I have to… these are like red flags. They help me to catch the inner critic which, at times, can be pretty sneaky. These words are based on a false reality and simply are not true. When I notice myself using these words, it gives me pause to consider my thoughts and to take responsibility for my choices.
Third, I reframe judgmental or critical thoughts. Replacing negative words to more compassionate self-talk. This does not mean replacing it with pie in the sky positive thoughts, yet a more accepting and loving dialogue. For example, I don’t not tell myself I am fabulous after making a mistake. Instead, I work not to blow it out of proportion and rather than beating myself up about the mistake, I tell myself that it is hard and it is okay and explore what I can learn from the situation.
Fourth, using affirmations and practicing meditation continue to be helpers on my journey. Not only is the work in reframing the negative, it is also increasing the positive with affirmations and continuing to grow in self-awareness through meditation whether it is for five minutes or a thirty.
Over time I have learned to talk to myself as my own best friend rather than my own worst enemy. Not only do I talk to myself as my own best friend, I have become my own best friend and I know I have my own back. Sure, the critic still pops up from time to time. I am now equipped to catch it and make important shifts so that I can live the life I want to create.
By Carrie Sensenich, MSS, LCSW
Philadelphia, PA area Therapist