Our lives are like a story constantly unfolding in front of us. And we are continuously narrating the events of this story to ourselves as they unfold.
Much like a narrator in a book explains what’s happening in the plot, we talk to ourselves in our head about what’s happening in our lives, what it means, what makes us anxious, how we should react, and so on.
The way we talk to ourselves about the events in our lives is similar to the way we learn physical behaviors, just like we can learn to tie our shoes or drive a car, which become physical habits. These can be considered “mental habits” which have profound practical implications on our lives; specifically, how we feel emotionally.
The best way to change how we feel on a regular basis is to change how we think and how we talk to ourselves. These inner voices are also commonly called positive and negative self-talk.
Take a look at our previous blog that went much more into depth on this topic: The Power of a Positive Mindset.
By learning to identify the ways we consistently misconstrue events in our lives (Cognitive Distortions), we can begin to think more realistically and helpfully, causing much more beneficial effects to reduce our anxieties and fears.
Excerpt from a previous blog by Janet Esposito:
“What we say to ourselves at any given moment is of critical importance in shaping the way we feel. Some of us have inner voices that actively criticize, discourage, and demoralize ourselves. This is where the saying comes from, “I am my own worst enemy.”
How unfortunate it is that we even have a well-known saying like this, as it indicates that many people can identify with this way of treating themselves. Some of us may not put ourselves down on a regular basis, though we may not have developed inner voices that actively support and encourage ourselves, especially when we are facing our most difficult or challenging moments.
A book called Embracing Fear by Thom Rutledge characterizes these inner voices as the BULLY voice and the ALLY voice.
The BULLY voice is the voice that:
- Says unkind things to you
- Fuels your insecurities
- Undermines your confidence
- Looks for all that might go wrong
- Makes you believe that you will end up failing in some way.
The ALLY voice is the voice that:
- Stands up for you, no matter what
- Says supportive and encouraging things to you
- Looks for the good in you and your situation and reminds you of this when you are scared or doubting yourself
- Gives you reason to believe in yourself, to trust yourself, and to have faith in yourself.
The ALLY is the voice of someone who cares about you and wants the best for you, whereas the BULLY is the voice of someone who is negative, judgmental and hypercritical.
Whether or not you have a BULLY living in your head, it is important to cultivate the ALLY voice, which is the voice that will be your biggest supporter and friend.
How wonderful it is to hear your ALLY’s voice anytime you feel anxious or unsure of yourself. Your ALLY is there to:
- Soothe, comfort, support, and encourage you
- Help you feel safe and secure
- Remind you of all the best that you are and all that you are truly capable of
- Treat you with kindness, compassion and love, to believe in you, and to remind you that he/she is there for you and you are not in this alone.
It is amazing how this shift can radically transform your inner experience, especially during your most challenging moments.”
In addition to paying attention to what you say to yourself, try and be attentive to the way you talk to yourself.
– Are you harsh, judgmental, and sarcastic with yourself?
– What would it look like if you were more gentle, empathetic, and straightforward in the way you talked to yourself?