I want to ask you now to think about that little voice in your head, the one that keeps up the constant narration throughout your day. Have you noticed it before?
“Where did I put my keys? Damn, this is the third time I’ve lost them this week, what’s the matter with me! If I can’t keep up with keys, how could I keep up with my new job? I hope there’s nothing surprising today, I’m not sure I could handle it….”
As you go about your regular life, you have probably become somewhat sensitized to that voice, so much so that you may not even realize that it’s there.
What is your inner voice telling you right now, as you read this?
“I don’t know what she’s talking about, I don’t have an inner voice. Yes I do, that’s what I’m hearing in my head right now. But I don’t think I have it all the time. Maybe I do? I don’t know…”
Your inner voice likes to argue with itself. It doesn’t mind taking both sides in an argument. The voice just wants to keep talking.
Think about when you’re trying to sleep, and the voice just chatters away. Non-stop, all the time. Sometimes you’re trying to focus on something you enjoy doing, but can’t quite get past the inner dialogue. Occasionally, you might even try to do something just to shut the voice up, like having a drink or distracting yourself with a movie.
It can be easy to think that the inner voice is telling you the truth. It feels like it’s you talking, because it’s in your head, and so it’s easy to think that it has to be right. But if you really think about it, that inner voice is wrong fairly often. That’s the voice that has misunderstood people in the past, it’s the voice that told you you’d fail when you succeeded, and it’s the voice that has made you feel badly about yourself in ways you’ve never deserved.
That’s because the voice isn’t actually you.
It’s basically one big mashed-up mess, an amalgamation of all the voices throughout your life that have impacted you. It’s the people who were and are around you, it’s all the movies and tv and ads you’ve ever seen, it’s the media coverage of current events, it’s every teacher you’ve ever had – add them all up, and that’s the voice you’re hearing in your head. That voice is not you.
“I want to go to the party, but I know everyone is going to ignore me. They’re not even going to notice if I’m not there. But she invited me so she must want me there. But maybe she just invited me to be nice. Some people do that. I don’t think she would do that. I think I’ll just go and see. Or, I could order pizza and stay home.”
So your first task is to start to notice the voice as if it is separate from you. Imagine a little fluffy monster in your head that’s just chattering away. Don’t argue with it, don’t try to change it, I just want you to notice it, and recognize two things:
1) the voice will do anything to keep talking
2) the voice is not always right
Here’s your homework: just notice.
Spend a day or two just listening to the voice and making note of what kinds of things the voice is saying. Good, bad, self-deprecating, neutral, nagging, doubting, encouraging – whatever the voice is saying, just notice it. Once you feel like you have a good sense of your inner voice, check back here for part 2.