"Beautify your inner dialogue. Beautify your inner world with love, light, and compassion. Life will be beautiful." - Amit Ray.
We all have that little voice in our heads that loves to share opinions.
The voice that gets giddy before an exciting event, offering encouragement before jumping out of your comfort zone. The same voice that wonders and tells stories about why something may have or not have happened. It brings up our fears, passes judgments on yourself and others, and can be your biggest cheerleader boosting your confidence and reminding you of all your prior accomplishments and triumphs, or it can be your worst enabler.
What does your inner narrator sound like? Is it positive? Supportive? Motivating? Or, does it sound more like - I can't do that; no one cares; I hate how I look; I should have achieved _____; will people still like me...
Over time, the more you convince yourself that this voice is your truth, the more you believe it is. These self-judgments and thoughts are like small stones. At first, you won't be able to feel them, but the more you carry them, the heavier they will get. Until one day, you're walking around hunched over, barely able to walk any further.
That's a lot to carry around with you.
Pause for a moment and think back through your life. Go back to some of your dreams as a kid. Gather the goals and aspirations you had as a young adult. Do you have them all? Now, how many have you seen through or accomplished? There is no judgment on what you haven't, take an inventory momentarily. For the dreams, goals, and aspirations not achieved. An even
bigger question - what's preventing you from pursuing them now?
The beauty of life and the freedom of adulthood is that you can make what you want out of your life. The only limits you have are the ones that you place upon yourself. You have the power to shift and create a fresh perspective, to carve a new path for yourself if you don’t like the one you’re on.
There are many reasons why you can't or shouldn't pursue your goals and dreams. Fear steps in; what will people think? Scenarios pop up. The questioning if you're too old, too young, not ready, or not good enough comes in full force. And there you go - enough inner talk happens, and you talk yourself right out of it.
But what if you could learn to be resilient to these thoughts? Push back and prove yourself wrong. Would you?
Unsurprisingly, your self-talk matters. How we communicate with ourselves dramatically affects how we perceive and interact with the world. Because of this, knowing what our inner dialog sounds like is crucial. The biggest problem with negative self-talk is that it typically does not reflect reality. So in the worst of cases, it can wrongly convince people that they are not only not good enough but can never get better, paralyzing them into self-absorption and inaction.
Unfortunately, there isn’t just a switch that you can turn off to make your negative inner dialog turn off. But mindfulness can be a game changer in these moments—bringing awareness to these thoughts. From here, understanding some of the different forms of negative self-talk can be helpful in knowing how to handle each of them as they arise.
Here are some common forms of negative self-talk:
You blame yourself for everything wrong that’s happening without the “evidence” to back it up. Whenever a bad situation occurs, it must be because of the “me” mentality.
Feeling like you’re to blame when someone else does not have a good time when they are with you.
Feeling like you are being intentionally excluded from a group when you see members interacting together without you.
Feeling that others blame you for something you had little or no control over.
Assuming that you have been targeted by someone’s behavior when it has nothing to do with you.
With filtering, you magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones.
Every accomplishment, big or small, can outweigh the negative.
You had a great day, where most things went right, but then the deli got your order wrong, and you stew about that instead of focusing on all the good things about your day.
Telling yourself, “Nothing good ever happens to me. Life is unfair, and I can do nothing about it.”
With catastrophizing, you automatically anticipate the worst. Your mind goes right to the worst-case scenario.
You make a small mistake on a work report and automatically expect that you’ll be fired, won’t be able to pay your rent and end up on the street.
No matter the situation, you focus on the worst possible outcome, not the most likely or probable outcome.
“I can’t do anything right; I’ll be alone and miserable forever.”
With polarizing, you see things only as either good or bad. Your thinking is Black or White, with no middle ground or grey areas. It’s the feeling that you have to be perfect or you're a total failure.
If you’ve been getting up early all week, and one morning you feel the need to get a few more zzzs and hit snooze—suddenly, you feel as though this makes you lazy.
“I didn't beat my personal best this time; I suck!”
“I didn’t get that promotion; I’m going to be out of a job.”
Although these are some of the more common forms of negative-self talk, there are more. The biggest takeaway from these is having a better understanding of how negative self-talk shows up so that you can start improving to a more uplifting inner narrative.
As I said earlier, we all have that little voice in our heads that loves to share opinions. This voice of ours makes a significant impact on our lives, both positively and negatively. Tune into your inner narrator for a moment. What are they saying? Get acquainted with them because you’ll work together a lot for your self-talk to improve.
Here are five ways to start:
1. Identify your inner voice.
The first step is becoming aware of your negative thinking patterns and their impact on your mood and behavior. Stop the conversation when your inner voices begin spewing insults and discouragement and think about where these thoughts come from and how they affect your emotional health.
To help with this process, carving out time to reflect or journal can be compelling in recognizing your inner thoughts. Get a pen and paper and try starting with these questions:
What does this inner voice sound like?
What triggers it?
How does it make you feel?
Has anything helped these thoughts in the past?
2. Identify “whose” voice it is.
I bet your thinking, Lo - of course, it’s my voice there. Actually, it may not be. When we zoom in on the critical thoughts that pop up in our heads, the voice is sometimes our parents, siblings, friends, partners, and teachers. Any of the critical comments we’ve heard about ourselves can then become a weapon we use against ourselves.
Next time your negative talk comes in, think about whose voice it is. When have you heard this before, and what can you challenge from this angle?
3. What proof or facts does this voice present?
Half the time, our inner voice sounds like our worst nightmares trying to prevent us from going out into the unknown. That doesn't mean this voice has any fact or truth behind it. When these inner voices arise, challenge them. What proof or evidence are these thoughts drawn from? Are they assumptions? Then flip the script - try finding all the proof for the opposite argument.
4. Practice Positive Self-talk
There are many ways to practice positive self-talk. One way is to focus on gratitude. When negative self-talk begins, try shifting your attention to the positive in your life or what you’ve learned from the situation, no matter how small it is.
Consider what skills and strengths you can use as a resource to support you. Affirmations and mirror work can be game-changing when it comes to improving self-talk.
5. Step outside of yourself.
It may be helpful to change perspectives if you're experiencing a negative thought cycle. Try imagining what your best friend would say. or "What advice would I give a dear friend going through this?" Creating self-talk that is built on self-compassion and love is effective in breaking the cycle of negativity. Be kind and supportive by speaking to yourself as you would a loved one.
Improving your inner narrator is a journey that may take time to implement fully and may require outside assistance. Fortunately, the effects are broad-ranging and long-lasting. They can increase your level of fulfillment in your current situation and your chances of succeeding in improving your personal, professional, and even relationship situations.
So, what dreams and aspirations have you been putting off for the right time? A little friendly nudge - there's no perfect time, so why not try now? Take even a tiny step forward, and when fear greets you, remember you have the tools to confront it. Endless possibilities –
• That promotion you’ve been too scared to go after.
• That tough conversation you’ve been putting off with a friend.
• Leaving your current career to chase your dreams.
It can all be yours if you want them.
Now that you have this blueprint, how do you embrace it? What parts do you bring forward? Who are you deciding to be with this new information?
Remember, just because you've held specific viewpoints for a long time doesn't mean that's how you need to continue to see and act. Awareness is the central piece. Once you know what and how things affect you, you can determine if it supports the life you want or is merely what was ingrained in you. Are you living this life because it's a pattern, familiar or comfortable?
Own your power and distinguish what's best for you. As Shannon Adler once said, "The most important journey you will take in your life will usually be the one of self-transformation. Often, this is the scariest because it requires the greatest changes in your life."
You are unique, you are beautiful, and you are quirky in your way. Go right now and look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself the love and compassion you shine on to others.