How to Have a Better Inner Dialogue

We’ve all heard it — that inner voice that speaks up whenever we’re planning on doing something new, or we’ve screwed something up, or maybe it’s just Tuesday morning, and this kind of conversation is happening all the time.  

Sometimes, your critical inner voice tells you what you should have done but didn’t. Other times, it reminds you of something you did that you could have avoided.

Mine often tells me a version of “Who do you think you are? You can’t do that.” Or, the ever-present, “No one cares what you’re doing, and they’re not going to show up for you.”

Whew, that one is a beast for me, and sadly I know exactly where it comes from.

Whenever you have a running dialogue with yourself about how you’re falling short in your behavior, your self-criticism is racing right along with you.

How can you quiet that voice before it destroys your self-esteem and confidence?

Here are six tips you can try and see how they work for you.

1.Get critical about the criticism. Point by point, analyze and get clear on what your inner voice is saying. Write it down so you can reflect on what you feel you’re doing wrong. One by one, go through the points and ask yourself, “Is this really valid?” If so, circle it. If not, cross it off your list.

I find it helpful to write them down; first, to get them out of my head, and second, writing them down gives me space to question my thoughts. My inner wisdom will pipe up as I’m writing and say something like, “Well, that’s not really true. Remember how many people have signed on to work with you?”  

2. Figure out when the criticisms began. For example, if you say to yourself, “You’ll never be successful at anything,” take time to resolve why you feel that way deep down inside.

You’ll likely discover a time when an authority figure was overly critical of you. Unfortunately, uninformed adults can devastate the self-esteem of little kids around them when they use negative, accusatory, or demeaning words directed at them.

My inner messaging cemented because even though I was very active in school, neither of my parents came to watch my gymnastic meets, theater performances, and cheerleading. I was overperforming to get the attention that never came. And so…the actions of two people solidified the belief that people won’t show up for me.

3. Let it go. I know, I know, easier said than done. But you do want to release any negative remarks from your repertoire that stem from those early experiences. Why? Because they simply hold no validity for you now.

They came from a mixed-up, unhappy, or otherwise unskilled adult who was unaware of the impact of their words. Don’t let your inner voice keep repeating these false criticisms. They’re untrue. Take an active stance to replace them with something closer to your truth.

For me, that sounds like…While it’s true that two people had a difficult time showing up for me, lots of other people have been there over my lifetime. People have supported, appreciated, and loved me beyond measure. And those two people who couldn’t show up for me were struggling with their own inner gremlins.

4. Acknowledge your power in creating your narrative. If you continue to repeat the negative statements, it can be crippling and even block your path on your journey to the life you deserve.

Realize that no one can function well when hearing constant internal messaging that they’re worthless, unlovable, or incapable. Running yourself down emotionally isn’t the answer to anything.

These thoughts seem powerful because they’ve been running rampant in the background often since childhood with no checks. But they are NOT your truth, and you can begin a new dialogue in your head.

If you find it challenging to create new thought patterns on your own, seek out the help of a therapist or coach to help you with specific tools.

But here’s the deal, it takes time, intention, and attention. You are the author of your stories, and you can rewrite them.

5. Counter your critical voice with your supportive, self-compassionate one.  Instead of thinking, “I won’t be good at swimming,” think, “This is a good opportunity for me to work on learning something new. I’ll embark on this adventure with an open mind.”

Embrace a more encouraging part of you that speaks positively. Designate your supportive, caring voice as the one in charge. You can learn to be your strongest supporter.

One way to practice this is to create an if/then plan. So, if you catch yourself thinking in a limited, critical way, then you’ll replace that thought with a new one.

Planning this work is helpful; otherwise, we go back to our default behaviors of listening to and believing these critical thoughts with no replacements readily available.

6. Stay focused. Rather than allow your critical inner voice to get the best of you, continue with your plan full speed ahead. You can challenge the validity of any criticism simply by continuing with your efforts to be conscious of your dialogue and check for conversations that are helping or hindering you.

Quieting your critical inner voice is one of the wisest things you’ll ever do. If you experiment with this process, you may find that it helps change the quality of your inner dialogue.

And if you ever want more personal help, feel free to reach out, and let’s talk about how working with a coach may help you.

Starting in January, my group coaching program, The Rewrite, will help you rewrite those limiting stories of your past, present, and future. So, if you like the idea of working with me but want a more affordable approach, this might be the thing for you!