“No-one likes me”, “I’ll never be able to do this”, “I am going to fail”, “I feel so ugly/fat/skinny”,
“I will always be alone”.
These are examples of what our inner voice may tell us on a regular basis. These voices attack our self-belief and self-confidence. They erode our ambition, motivation, they feed our insecurities and make us angry, sad, moody, and lonely.
The one person we listen most to is ourselves. We have thousands of conversations with ourselves on a daily basis and we take heed of what that voice says to us.
Our inner voice criticises our decisions, mocks our mistakes, they are our inner bullies. Once these voices start, it feels impossible to silence them. It is almost like they become automatic and keep us in the same negative cycle.
Where do these inner voices come from?
There is thought that they may originate from our childhood. Perhaps inherited behaviour from our parents or carers. Perhaps they were our own developed mechanisms to help us deal with how we grew up. The issue is when these voices continue into adulthood, and they can then influence how we live our lives, and how we manage relationships.
Our behaviours then evolve from our inner thoughts, which in turn reinforces our negative thoughts. Imagine Lola wants a new job, they have applied and have managed to secure an interview. On the way to the interview, their inner voice tells them that they were lucky to get an interview, in fact the only reason they got the interview is because there was no-one else who applied. The inner voice continues by saying they won’t be able to answer the questions, the interviewer(s) will think they are stupid and useless. These thoughts circle round Lola’s head like a tornado, leaving Lola feeling anxious, nervous, shaky, and wanting to run away.
So, what is the impact of these thoughts on Lola during the interview? You guessed it, they struggle with the questions, and fumble their way through to the end. They escape and get home and burst into tears, feeling useless, stupid and a failure. The inner voice pipes up again ‘see told you that you were useless, and that you wouldn’t get the job’. This process is called the self-fulfilling prophecy. What you think will happen, does happen.
Henry Ford (Ford motor cars) once said that if you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.
So, how do you stop your inner voice?
It isn’t easy and takes continual effort, perseverance and determination. Therapy can help as talking about these inner voices and unpicking where these unhelpful thoughts originate from, can help to reframe these negative thoughts. That is the long-term solution.
Whilst undertaking therapy, one short term resolutions could be to take a few minutes each day to reflect on what you have achieved that day, from the smaller things such as making a healthy breakfast to have a good start to your day, to the bigger things such as getting to work on time and saying hello to your colleagues with a smile. Perhaps writing down the positive achievements each day can really help your brain to learn new ways of thinking.
Imagine your negative thoughts as though you are travelling down a motorway – it is smooth, speedy, and direct, with very little to distract you. Yet there is a country road going in a slightly different direction, but to the same destination. This is covered in weeds and the surface is bumpy, and it feels a bit tight to squeeze down. These two roads are the pathways in your brain. The first is the motorway of negative thoughts which we drive down quickly and automatically. The overgrown country road is the positive thoughts route. By driving down the country road more often, it will become less bumpy and overgrown. It will start to feel smoother and we will be able to drive down that route quicker and with less thought. Meanwhile, the motorway tarmac will start to crack, and weeds will push through these cracks, and the drive will start to feel bumpier and slower.
Perhaps, we need to become more mindful of when we are thinking negative thoughts and look to reframe to more positive ones, and in time, our country road will become our automatic route to feeling more confident and accepting of ourselves.