The words we use have an impact. They have power. So what we say to ourselves, in terms of that inner voice we all have, can inadvertently create affirmations that negatively impact our mental health.
I can be overly critical of myself and use unkind and aggressive thoughts about my actions, abilities or mistakes. This inner voice has quietened a lot over the years, but it does tend to pop up every now and again when I’m feeling low or dealing with some stress. Having these thoughts or reactions as an internal dialogue with yourself will impact your self-esteem and confidence, so how should we deal with our own critical voice?
Recognizing where you need to make improvements or being critical of something in your life isn’t in itself a bad thing – we can all make progress or learn things from failures, mistakes or hard times – but a critical inner voice is when your internal dialogue develops a pattern, with the sole aim of creating negativity, that becomes unhealthy. It often takes on a self-sabotaging vibe.
What I found worked for me was at first identifying that I did indeed have an intensely pessimistic inner voice that was damaging to my self-confidence. I began to note down when it would occur – which was when I was feeling emotionally low as a result of prolonged stress. Once I realized it was there and when it happened, I focused my attention on consciously counteracting it by saying the opposite and mentally listing, if needed, actions I could take. An example of this is thinking I shouldn’t pursue something because I would be “useless” at it. I turned my inner voice around by recognizing that I obviously had some fear about going after that particular thing – which is normal – but that I wasn’t useless and had x, y, z to bring to the table.
Getting into the habit of immediately responding positively or with self-compassion to my critical inner voice has been revolutionary. It’s provoked a level of mental freedom that helps me get out of my own damn way. It’s also enabled me to feel less awkward about having positive affirmations around me or spoken to myself every day.
Don’t let a negative inner voice be what speaks to you the loudest.
Do you have a critical inner voice? What do you do to counter negative thoughts?
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts contact Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help (available 24hrs)
Find a way to access mental health support in the USA via NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
Find international (outside of the U.S.) suicide crisis helplines/sites here