What do you tell yourself when you make a mistake while working on something important? Do you berate yourself for messing up or remind yourself that you can learn from the experience? Whatever your response is, that reaction is your inner voice.
Most of us have an inner voice. It takes on a different form for each of us, depending on our life experiences, and it’s always able to shift its color. In other words, your inner voice doesn’t necessarily stay the same from the moment you’re born until the moment you die.
This flexibility can be both good and bad, but either way, your inner voice impacts you more than you might realize.
The importance of your inner voice
Because our inner voice has been with us since we were children, it’s easy to think of it as second nature at this point. But when was the last time you really paid attention to what you were telling yourself?
See, your inner voice is connected to your mental health. It can be a reflection of your self-esteem. If you feel insecure, your inner voice will most likely feed into that and criticize you in your daily life, which will only make your self-esteem worse. In that way, it’s a vicious cycle.
In fact, if you’re familiar with suicidal thoughts (which I hope you aren’t), that voice telling us to die and listing reasons why we should do it is also part of our inner voice. Thus, your inner voice can be pretty significant. If your voice tends to self-deprecate, this will affect you, even if it might not feel like it because you’re so used to being self-critical.
It’s difficult to be confident when you’re constantly putting yourself down. Even if you’re showered in compliments and support from outside elements like family and friends, none of it really matters if you’re doing the opposite to yourself all the time.
The same goes for the opposite situation. It’s easy to let other people’s words affect you, but if you have a solid relationship with your inner voice, it’s much easier to brush off the nay-sayers and keep your confidence.
How to change your inner voice
If you’ve found that your inner voice is usually negative, don’t worry. Like I said before, our inner voices can change if we want them to. The notion of “be kinder to yourself” may sound so simple that it can’t possibly be that important, but it is that important. And a lot harder than you might think.
With my several years of going to therapy, I’ve found a few ways to start shifting your inner voice’s dialogue.
- Pay attention and halt. When you catch your inner voice being harsh, stop for a moment. Think about what you’re saying to yourself and ask if it’s necessary to be so self-critical. The answer is almost always no.
- Reframe your perspective. Instead of getting angry at yourself for being emotional, tell yourself what you’re feeling is valid. Instead of beating yourself up over a mistake, remind yourself that it’s normal and that you’ve learned something for next time.
- Let yourself learn. Failure at a task doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re human and that you’re gaining experience by failing sometimes and succeeding other times. Whenever I fail at something, I like to think that it means I can learn from my failure and that I’ll automatically do better next time I try.
- Be your own good friend. Imagine you’re talking to a friend if you don’t know how to make your thoughts not so self-deprecating. We’re often harder on ourselves than we are on the people we care about. What would you tell a friend who’s going through what you’re currently going through? Apply that to yourself.
This article is definitely not a replacement for therapy, but it’s important to be aware of how your inner voice can affect your mental health and in turn, your life. No matter how long you’ve been living with a negative inner voice, it’s never too late to change that. Be your own best friend because you’re all you have at the end of the day.