Is your self talk your friend? Or foe? Is it warm and loving, or judgmental and dismissive?
The most important voice you hear is your own. Your own voice will be with you for the rest of your life. Day in, day out.
If your self talk is not empowering you, now’s the time to change that by creating a loving inner voice.
Your inner voice was shaped by your caregivers growing up, with influences from other people throughout your life. Some people were blessed to be born into a family of warm, supportive people. Others of us had harsh or distant parents.
No matter what your self talk is like now, you have the ability to change it – to craft it – into a loving voice that supports you and helps you.
You can change the way you talk to yourself. It was shaped by your childhood experiences, but it’s still pliable.
The way you talk to yourself is a part of your relationship with yourself. Improving the way you talk to yourself is just like improving any other relationship skill. You can learn better ways, and practice them.
What is your inner voice like now?
Take an audit of your inner voice.
As you go about your life, it can help to become more aware of your inner voice. Developing a mindfulness meditation practice can help you to develop your awareness.
As you think back over the last couple of weeks, what has your inner voice been like?
- Is it kind, supportive and warm? Or cold, critical and judgmental?
- Do you ever call yourself names?
- What does your inner voice focus on? Is it minding your own business, or obsessing about other people and what they should be doing?
- Does your inner voice make you feel better or worse?
- Do you ask yourself what you’re feeling? Thinking? Wanting? Noticing?
- Do you pay attention to the information you get from yourself? eg. If you notice you feel tired, do you give yourself some rest?
- Do you use terms terms of endearment with yourself?
- What do you say to yourself when you fail at something? When you don’t live up to your expectations? When something goes wrong?
- What do you say to yourself when you succeed at something? When you are happy? When you need to get something done?
- What is your tone and attitude like? What would it be like if someone else spoke to you in that tone?
Did you experience childhood emotional neglect?
If you grew up with parents who were critical or distant, you missed out on having good role models. This means you probably learned to also have an inner voice that was distant, critical or dismissive. Even if your parents were loving in other ways, such as providing for all your material needs, they may have unwittingly neglected to give you what you needed to thrive emotionally.
If you can relate to this, explore the concept of Childhood Emotional Neglect to learn more about how this impacts you as an adult and how to avoid passing it on to future generations.
Exercises to help you change your self talk
Exercise 1: Look for role models
If you’re not used to talking to yourself in supportive ways, it can be asking a lot to even know HOW to do that. It doesn’t come naturally to you because it’s not a habit for you. It’s not what you were taught growing up. So how can you learn what a loving voice sounds like?
3 sources of role models
- Pay attention to people you meet in real life who speak to themselves or others in a loving way, and model them.
- Think of characters from movies, TV shows or novels who model self kindness and warm.
- Read books on self compassion, overcoming childhood emotional neglect and crafting a kind inner voice, to get concrete examples of ways to speak lovingly to yourself.
Exercise 2: Consciously design your inner voice
What would you like to hear from others? Have you tried saying these things to yourself? It can be empowering to realize that many of the things we think we need other people to do for us we can do for ourselves – including saying kind, loving, encouraging things.
How would you like your inner voice to be different? What ideas do you have of things to change?
Changing everything at once may be too much to ask for. What one thing would make the most difference that you could work on first? If you can’t think of one, I’d suggest learning more about self compassion, and go from there.
Exercise 3: Practice a loving inner voice in your journal
The more you practice your loving inner voice, the more automatic it becomes. One way to do “drills” is to actually write loving kind things to yourself. This helps you get used to saying nice things to yourself.
If saying supportive things to yourself in a warm tone is currently foreign to you, it might feel awkward to do it. You can get over the awkwardness by making it more familiar to your brain. The more you practice it, the more automatic it becomes. The key is repetition.
Writing examples of a loving inner voice helps you:
- get in the habit of looking for nice things to say;
- become more aware of what feels good to say and/or hear;
- become more familiar with speaking in the language of emotions;
- reinforce the paths in your brain that look for and comment on positives;
- get greater awareness of your strengths and weaknesses and empowers you to change these instead of thinking you have no influence over your inner voice.
THIS IS A SKILL. The more you practice it, the better you get.
Example of practicing a loving inner voice in your journal
What might it sound like to have a positive inner voice ruminating in your head? There’s no right way. Everyone’s will be different depending on your background, culture and preferences. Doing this exercise gets you experimenting with different styles, so you see you’re not stuck with the patterns that are currently in your head.
Play with it. Be creative. You can use sentences, phrases, words, or feelings.
Here’s one example:
Hey Self! How am I doing? Just checking in. Seeing how I am. I care about me. I matter to me. What am I feeling right now? I'm here for me. What do *I* want, Self? What do *I* need? Take a big breath - tummy, heart, throat - and breathe out. It's okay. I'm okay. Compassion. Care. Gratitude. I feel my heart beating. I've got this. I love me. What if it's possible? I'm enough already. What action can I take here? What's the next step? Good progress. Nicely done. I have so many more skills and internal resources than I used to have. Focus back on my life. What are my own feelings about this situation? What is that feeling telling me about my needs? What difficult feelings might be hidden behind that? I'm worth it. What is my responsibility here? What is not my responsibility? Letting go. Release. Move on. Non-attachment. Lighter. Easier. Peace. I accept where I am. What else in my life can I focus on? That could be fun. Let's give it a go. I've got my back. Stand up for myself. Protect myself. Look after myself. I'm lucky to have me on my side. This is me. I'm great. I have many good qualities. I love hanging with those who value me as I am. We all have preferences. We're all different. If we're not a good fit, that's okay. Can't force it. I'm choosing a good fit. Thanks and good luck. Selective. I get to choose. What is my preference? What is good for me? I get to choose people who like me and are good for me. Reciprocity. Am I feeling safe right now? What can *I* do to make myself feel safer in this situation? Welcomed. Wanted. Community. A web of connections supporting me. Boundaries. Standards. Nurturing people. Nurturing environments. Nurturing myself. Selective loyalty to those who are on my side. I am me. They are themselves. We are different people. That's not good for me, so I'll decline. That works for me, so I can do that. I'm feeling uncomfortable with that. What do I need to change? My body says something's wrong, so my mind is paying attention. Heart, body, mind cooperating. I'm enough. I'm good enough. We are all human. Speak up. Move on in peace. I am complete. Thank you. Relax. Smile. Nice one. It's a pleasure and an honor getting to know the real you. Thank you for opening up to me. Yes. I can do that. Possibility. Options. I'm able to do that. Light. Easy. Flow. Confidence. Sure. Absolutely. Go for it. Happy. Laugh. Giggle. Play. Connect with others. Smile. Hug. Feels great. I believe in me. Give it a try. Good on you. Nice improvement. You're getting somewhere. Fun. Interest. Engagement. I'm enjoying this! This feels good. Back to my body. What can I feel in my body right now? I feel like I'm ready for a rest. Sure! Let's rest, then. I want to look after me. I care about my well-being. I matter. Recover. Heal. Great catching up with me, Self. Look forward to next time. Reach out anytime. I'm always here for me. I'll make time. I'm important. I matter. Lots and lots of LOVE.
The bottom line is, you can reprogram your mind to have an inner voice that is more empowering for you. Find role models in person, print or media and change the words and tone you use when speaking to yourself.
Creating a loving inner voice is simply a matter of practicing a new skill. The more repetitions you do, the more automatic it becomes, so practice it by writing in a journal. (If you haven’t yet got a journal you love, find a journal that makes you feel good to look at and write in.)