Our inner conversations can often boost us and inspire us, but as we know, they can also be harmful. This inner voice, when filled with negative messages, can quickly become our own internal enemy and lead us towards very detrimental moods and behaviours. Our self-talk is closely linked to emotional regulation and it directly influences our inner state. Further, it can be very contradictory and confusing, which makes it all the more complicated. For example, our inner voice might say to us “Hey, chips and dip will make you feel better” when we’re feeling blue, and then the same voice will berate us minutes after we eat it for having no self-control and breaking our healthy eating plan. Our moods, emotions and behaviours are definitely complex; there’s a lot going on in our heads, all day, every day.
The importance of self-regulation
Our inner voice is an important internal regulator. Although we mostly want it to help motivate us and lift us up, we also need it for times when stepping back, calming down, or assessing a situation is required. For instance, if we’re angry at our boss and want to tell them exactly how we feel right at that moment, we need our inner voice to step in and regulate us so that we avoid a disaster. Without it, we would have a lifetime full of unsuccessful relationships and negative experiences. Although we never want to beat ourselves up, it’s ok to recognize when things can be improved, and talk ourselves through what we can do better next time; much like having our own inner coach.
Influencing our inner state
Our negative self-talk not only influences our behaviour, but limits our potential. Every time we call ourselves stupid, ugly, fat, unimportant, or any other put-down, we rob ourselves of our confidence, and become less likely to participate in positive activities and pursue our life goals. If we keep telling ourselves we’re useless, then our goals become useless too; we’ve let our self-talk become a very powerful influencer. Alternately, some people tend to drown out that inner voice altogether, leaving very little room for mindfulness or introspection. Although it’s not necessarily a terrible thing, it’s not productive or positive either. For example, spending excessive time on social media or the Internet, being workaholics, or filling our days rushing around with no time for self-reflection can keep us stagnant and uninspired.
Taking the lead
Can we change our negative thoughts and build the life we really want? The answer is yes, but it’s important to first make it a priority to diminish our negative inner voice. By doing so we can truly help regulate our emotions, which in turn helps create better opportunities and life experiences. This can also improve upon our emotional intelligence and enhance motivation. A big part of it is all about being in control of what we fill our minds with. Although we know this isn’t always easy, there are some great ways to start. One way is to simply spend some time carefully listening to our self-talk – what’s really going on with our inner dialogue? Then we can get a feel for if it’s negative, neutral, or positive. Once it’s on our radar, we’ll be able to assess and control it a bit more. Additionally, limiting our intake of media is helpful, as the creators of those media sources can end up having control of our emotions and inner state rather than us. Advertisers in particular are very good at making us feel a certain way towards a product or idea, how we should look, and what kinds of thing we should own.
By practising positive self-talk as well as meditation and mindfulness, we naturally give less power to the harmful self-talk and take control of our negative emotions and responses to emotional situations. Changing our inner state is the key to changing our outer state, although we often think of it the other way around (changing our physical surroundings, financial capacity, etc.). We think that if only things were different, then we would be happier and find inner peace, but this is not the case. It’s up to us to be consciously changing our inner conversations for the better so that our self-talk builds us up, helps us achieve our goals and frees us from our imagined limitations so that we can continue to reach new heights!
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross