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3 Steps to Change Your Inner Dialogue

May 18, 2016

You know that constantly running dialogue inside your brain that comments on every aspect of your being? Those voices set the stage for how we feel and how we act. A basic part of self care is speaking kindly to ourselves, like we would to a dear friend. Yet, more often than not, those voices are negative and mean in a way that we would never to speak out loud to another person. Sometimes, that "inner critic" is so subtle and feels so real, that we don't even question the validity. It just feels like reality. Whatever your voices are--"You are never going to get to where you want to be", or "You won't ever keep this going", those discouraging words can sabotage all of your best efforts to take care of yourself. The greatest changes I see in my clients (and myself) are when those voices transform from belittling to supportive. So, what can you do? Here are three steps:

1⃣ Recognize they are just voices in your head and not reality. Often, those voices came about early on in life as a thwarted way of trying to protect us from something we feared. Being able to separate our adult, wise self from our internal defenses is vital to free ourselves from the unconscious control our fears can have over our actions. Just questioning "Do I know this to be absolutely true" and "Is there any other scenario that is at all possible here" can crack open the door just enough to entertain other possible outcomes.

2⃣ Get off the hamster wheel. What I mean by that is, it's hard to talk yourself into another way of thinking. Instead of running through all the possible scenarios of what can happen, you may want to leave that track entirely and ask a different question. If I am stuck in a shame attack or self criticism, trying to convince myself to have different thoughts may not bring me relief. Instead, I can ask myself "What do you need right now?". For example, I may have had a conversation with someone and then beat myself up afterwards over something I said. I can run through my mind what I should have said, and what might happen. I can briefly talk myself out of it, only for the thoughts to come in again a few seconds later and repeat the cycle. Instead, I can get out of that cycle and say to myself "I see you are scared. What do you need to feel better right now?". It might be call a friend, talk with my husband or sit in my garden. To break out of our habitual mental patterns, those deeply etched neural grooves, we need to try something different.

3⃣ Develop new dialogue. Develop new things to say to yourself. Take your negatives and turn them into positives. If you are used to "I can't exercise", start to say "I have a strong, healthy body that can move well". If you are thinking "This is going to go no where", change that to "I am moving in the exact direction I am meant to and all will be well".  Say it out loud, write it down and put in on your bathroom mirror, or whatever else supports you in practicing a new script. This may seem hokey but try it and see how it shifts your thoughts. There are many fabulous books, articles, counselors, coaches, meditations and other resources out there to work on this in more detail.  

Whenever we talk to ourselves with harsh judgement, criticism or negativity, that is just a way for our fears to keep us small and stuck in the same place. Doing things differently can feel very uncomfortable and scary. But, what our brain tells us is not necessarily reality and stepping out of the confines of our mean inner voices can open us up to a life beyond our wildest dreams. And if you hear yourself saying "there is nothing you can do about this-you can't change", don't listen!

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