Let me ask you a quick question. If your best friend talked to you in the way that you talk to yourself how would it make you feel? We all have a narrative running through our head. Connect with that inner voice for a second. What is it saying right now? How does it normally sound? What kind of things does it say?
If you have a kind, compassionate friend inside your head then this blog probably isn’t for you, BUT, you may find it helpful when understanding others. If your inner voice criticises you, tells you that you are no good, that you’ll fail, that you are weak and just generally tends to be negative, then read on.… this blog IS for you.
So if your best friend sounded like that voice, would it upset you? Would it unsettle you? Would you get angry? Would you tell them to fuck off? Would you cry?
Let me ask you another question; how does your best friend talk to you? Well, if they are your best friend then hopefully they talk to you in kind, compassionate, encouraging way. There’s maybe a bit of friendly teasing and joking. That’s certainly the British way. But on the whole your best mate is someone who has your back, champions you, but won’t be afraid to tell you the truth when needed. They will console you when you need it & they will call you on your bullshit when you need it. If your best friend talked to you in the same way that you talk to yourself, chances are they wouldn’t your best friend. In fact, they wouldn’t have stayed your friend for very long.
So what is it about that voice in our head that we allow it to talk to us in a negative way, and put so much currency in it being correct?
Now, I’m going to ask you another question… What did you hear when you were a child? Chances are, if you have a negative inner voice you will have heard something that sounds like your inner critic when you were little. Someone criticising you, shouting at you, making you scared. It may have been a parent, it may have been an aunt, an uncle, a teacher or anyone really, anyone who was a bit a older (we were always told to listen to and respect our elders). But someone will have likely put this negative spin on your belief systems at a very young age. If you hear something often enough from someone who has some level of authority in your life then you may well start to believe it. That is not to say that they meant it, or were trying to be cruel. Adults say things to children that can really effect their self-esteem without ever knowing it. Which is why we need to encourage and nurture children rather than shout and scare them into behaving a certain way.
Whatever the reason for your unhelpful negative inner voice what can you do about it?
1: Realise that if you were criticised as a child then the person criticising you should have handled it differently. Understand that the person criticising you may not have known how to say or do things differently. Quite often people treat people how they were treated as a child, it’s what they know. Try to have some empathy for that, even if it’s really hard.
2: Meditation can help us to understand that our thoughts aren’t necessarily true. They are an interpretation of the world and therefore we don’t have to place importance on them or engage with them. There are different types of meditation and you should find one that suits you, Mindfulness, mantra, self-hypnosis, are three types that you can easily try to see if they work for you.
3: Counter the negative voice with the opposite point of view. Offer up a different argument. For example ‘I’ll fail, there’s no point in trying’ to ‘I won’t know if I don’t try,’ This is an extremely useful technique, when you realise what your negative inner voice is saying, counter it with a different interpretation of the situation.
4: Positive affirmations can help. Over time you repeat a positive phrase to yourself, perhaps in a mirror if you feel comfortable with that. Telling yourself things like ‘I am good’, ‘I am worthwhile’ ‘I am strong’ can feel a bit awkward at first. Your inner critic may start saying all kinds of things, ‘This is a waste of time’ ‘I feel stupid’ but stick with it, over time the affirmations can sink into your mind and you will start to trust these positive affirmations rather than the old negative beliefs.
5: Show yourself the compassion that you have for others. People with a strong inner critic are often perfectionists. Realise that you are a work in progress and that you won’t get everything right and that’s ok. Self-compassion is key in quietening the inner critic.
6: Realise that you are an adult now and can take responsibility for your own actions. We need to be honest with ourselves about the things we want to change and the ways that we can better ourselves but this can be done with kinder more encouraging self-talk. Over time the negative voice will become quieter and you will put less importance on what it says, allowing you to tune into a more constructive inner voice. It’s so important to try to get negative self-talk in check and to realise that just because it’s always been that way it doesn’t need to always stay that way.
Stop being your own worst enemy and become your own best friend.
Come and join Megan for a 30 minute Mindolistic meditation session on Friday 21st April, 6.45pm. We highly recommend that you also practice Olga’s candlelit class beforehand.