So, in my last post, I introduced you to two of my inner voices…..Winston and Winnie.
Now, in this post, I’d like to give you some tips to help you identify your own inner voice(s) if you haven’t done so already, some ways in which you can work in harmony with, not battle against, them and some little traps that they may set up for you to look out for.
What is inner voice?
As you already know, I consider that I have several different inner voices which make up my, relatively, conscious thoughts.
The first is totally neutral – it makes factual observations on situations or feelings. I am hungry. The sky is blue today. In itself, it has limited influence on my emotions or my mood (although I know a few people who would say that the factual realisation that they’re hungry could prompt the somewhat emotional reaction of hanger).
The second is skeptical, negative and risk averse – aka Winston. If left to it’s own devices, it will offer quite polarised opinions on and interpretations of situations and can have a significant impact on my emotions, my mood and my confidence. It will tell me I’m not good enough, that I’m not worthy of good things, it will blame me if things go wrong and can spend hours pursuing an imaginary scenario to it’s worst case end.
The third is one that I’ve discovered and nurtured far more recently and is, ultimately, the antidote to voice #2 – Winnie. It’s like my own personal cheerleader, it believes in me and my strengths, it see’s the best in me and encourages me to stay positive and confident about the things I’m trying to pursue.
#4 is a quiet voice which isn’t very articulate and, sometimes, is nothing more than a feeling that can’t even be put into words. Otherwise known as gut instinct. That sense you get that something is a certain way but you don’t really know why, that you want to explore it further or want to avoid it if at all possible.
There could be a fifth one which mediates between voices #2, #3 and #4, a bit like the chairman of the board of my mind, making sure that everyone gets their opportunity to speak.
Finally, I’m pretty sure everyone has a voice which represents their ego. It will be quiet in some people, loud in others and works in mysterious ways to protect our sense of self worth from long term harm. In fact, without getting too Freudian, I wonder if ego is actually the collection of all of our inner voices? Discuss.
You may have only just started thinking about the concept of inner voice and it may take time to tune in. Just start by observing your thoughts, even if only for a few minutes, and see if you can notice what is neutral, what might be some kind of interpretation of events, what might be more a supportive voice and what might be a gut reaction. Perhaps your inner voice doesn’t take these forms, you may discover that there are other strong themes/personalities which you’re able to tune in to – I’d love to hear about these, although perhaps I don’t personally need any more to add to my own collection!
So, I guess I consider inner voice to be my conscious thoughts which, with attention, I can become aware of.
We apparently have around 60,000 thoughts per day. How will you use yours?
What to do with it once you’ve found it?
A few things that I believe about my internal monologue:
- On one hand, I believe there’s something to learn from all of my thoughts
- But, in contradiction, I also know that my inner voice doesn’t always tell the truth – it unreasonably extrapolates and catastrophises situations
- I know that, if I’m not careful, then my negative inner voice can drown out everything else and end up totally running the show with quite horrendous consequences for my well-being and general experience of life.
Based on my own experiences, I feel there are 3 key ways in which I can make best use of my inner voices:
Take the time to learn a bit about your inner voices. Work out how you can recognise them. Consider the circumstances in which each of them tend to thrive – you might do well to minimise the scenarios which promote your equivalent of my Winston (too much alcohol is an almost guaranteed trigger for me) and maximise the chances that Winnie can make an appearance (getting outdoors and being active work best for me).
Be curious and try to find out what, behind the exaggerations, they’re really trying to tell you. Some combination of your negative voice and your gut instinct may be very valuable in warning you about something which you’d do well to pay attention to, be wary of, adjust or find alternative to, or perhaps just plain avoid.
A very topical, and perhaps now overused, term which has pretty broad meaning. To me, the key words in the definition above are ‘present’ and ‘not judging’.
It’s a way of not becoming consumed by or lost in your thoughts, not allowing them to ‘cascade’. Not trying to stop them or block them out, but just having awareness, not judging or getting sucked in and then moving on to the next thought.
Any kind of meditation can be seen as a way of practising mindfulness, but there are many simple exercises which you can start incorporating into your daily life which will begin to improve your ability to be a bit more mindful and present. I really like the 6 simple exercises suggested in this article.
But it’s important to note that there’s no perfection or idealism in practicing mindfulness – it will always remain something to practice, not to master.
Thoughts will always wander. That’s just what thoughts do.
If you’re really battling with your Winston then sometimes awareness and mindfulness just don’t cut the mustard – you need something which forces your mind to focus on something else.
Ideally, you have a couple of interests in which you can find Flow (have a read here if you need a reminder about Flow) and it’s definitely useful to have a couple of ‘go-to’ activities which you know will give your mind some respite and help ‘take the edge off’ Winston’s nasty tongue.
The important thing here is that the distractions you choose are predominantly healthy – going to the pub and getting obliterated in an attempt to shut up the inner voice will usually only give it way more fuel for the following day.
A distraction often only provides temporary relief (unless you’ve got into some really good Flow) but it may be enough to then allow the voices to speak louder and for you to find a bit more positivity and balance.
For me, it is the blend between all of these techniques which enables me to get most benefit from the value held within my inner voice, whilst also keeping it in check so that it can inform, but not run life on my behalf.
The major point is that denial or avoidance of inner voices would be both missing a trick and also, very likely, be storing up problems for the future.
Auditions are being held to be your best self. Apply within.
Things to look out for
Our ego, in particular, loves to compare us to others – our skills, our looks, our circumstances. And this can have a very powerful effect on how we feel, even if our situation may still be well above average in comparison to the wider population.
In our social media enhanced world, it can be so easy to compare how we feel about our own lives to what is being displayed on Facebook/Instagram about someone else’s life. We forget that they are, of course, choosing to display the very best bits, the real highlights and most flattering aspects of their lives. Whereas, in stark contrast, we might be digging deep into our darkest well to find evidence to be weighed up alongside their ‘yoga on the beach bikini shot’.
I love this statement….
Be wary of comparing your inside to someone else’s outside, of lining up your very worst self with the very best of someone else.
Also, be aware of who you are comparing yourself to.
In terms of skills or accomplishments, notice if you’re feeling envy towards someone else’s position and then consider where that person is at in their own journey:
- If they are 5 years ahead of you in their career, for example then of course they may have more achievements to show for it. But they could be the perfect person to act as a role model or mentor for you and you’d probably to do well to focus, not on the comparison, but on what you could learn from their experience. Perhaps ask them what things were like at your stage and you may find you’re not doing as badly as you thought.
- If they are a peer of yours then there may be little value in comparison as there aren’t enough differentials to learn from, to challenge you or to make you feel grateful for your achievements and strengths.
- Look high for inspiration and look low for real gratitude.
- The only person to compare yourself to is you, yesterday. But, even then….
Comparison is the thief of all joy.
Thinking vs action
As I’ve already mentioned, our inner voice can be very strong at times and very difficult not to believe and act in accordance with.
When considering a significant decision or a big change in our lives, we might need to consider lots of varied options and be able to weigh up many pro’s and con’s.
The temptation is to try to keep ‘thinking’ our way through the problem until it’s fully resolved. But, unfortunately, our lives are rarely simple enough for that to ever be possible – you will be trying to completely solve that problem forever and hence will never get to the point of taking any action.
Move away from trying to think your way into right action and, instead, move towards acting your way into right thinking.
Our inner voice is both invaluable and impossible to avoid so, in my opinion, we might as well find our very best way of using it to our advantage.
Here are my key thoughts on the subject:
- Recognise it and learn a bit about how it works
- Raise your awareness and observe
- Practise some mindfulness
- Find some healthy distractions
I hope you enjoyed reading this and would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.