Your Inner Voice: Friend or Foe?

We all have one: it’s that little guiding voice which questions your motives, analyses your actions, and judges the results. It can be a useful friend when it stops you from saying something tactless, making a rash decision, or helps you to learn from your mistakes. But it can also be an overbearing critic and, if left to get out of control, it can prevent you from taking risks or punish you when you haven’t really done anything wrong. And when your inner voice becomes too loud and domineering, it can impact upon your self-esteem.

There are ways in which you can reign in an inner voice that is starting to negatively affect your happiness and achievement. But before we talk about putting it back in its place, let’s try to remember why it is such a useful life companion.

Your inner voice just wants to protect you. It remembers all the times you suffered embarrassment or hurt, and it will do anything to stop you from feeling like that again. Like that time when you had to deliver a presentation in school and ended up forgetting all your notes, or when you spent the night building up the guts to buy a good-looking guy at a bar a drink only for him to say ‘No, you’re alright, I already have one’. Your inner voice has noted all these things down and spent a lot of time designing ways to stop them from happening again. And it can be a great teacher when it allows you to learn and develop. If, say, after that terrible school presentation, you inner voice always reminded you to research and prepare better before speaking in public, or if it taught you how to better recognise the signs that someone is attracted to you (or simply reminded you to check that they had an empty glass first!)

However, if the lessons you took from those experiences were ‘I’m bad at giving presentations’ or ‘I will never chat up a man again!’ then these may be signs that your inner voice is wrapping you up in cotton wool and stifling your natural confidence and potential.

You should forgive your inner voice but, most importantly, you should challenge it. By pushing the boundaries of your experience you will show yourself that, yes, embarrassments and mistakes may happen, but the world won’t end because of them!

The truth is, we learn more when things go wrong than when they succeed. The human story of innovation is born of the realisation that things can always be improved. Which in turn means that nothing can ever be 100% perfect because we’re all human! As long as we’re all trying our best, and improving the things that we have the power to change, then we’re doing okay.

So, offer to do that presentation at work. If the power point breaks down, or your notes are out of order, make a joke of it and carry on with the knowledge and expertise you already carry in your head. And make conversation with the good-looking guy at the bar. Chat about the weather, share a joke and then wish him a good night and rejoin your friends. Gradually your inner voice will realise that life isn’t always so scary, and can begin to give you positive encouragement by reminding you of the times when you did well and succeeded. In this way, and over time, your inner voice will cease to be a mollycoddling harridan, and start to be your best friend.

Poppy Brewer

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These suggestions have a track record of working for people in this situation. We recommend that you try these tips and see which ones are suitable for you. You may find that other approaches work for you too. Depending on your circumstances, a consultation with your GP may be advised.


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