If, like me, you reside in the 30+ age bracket, you can probably relate to the feeling of satisfaction you get when asked to show proof of age. The last time it happened to me I produced my drivers license with feigned irritation and a look that said “Ugh, this happens to me alllll the time and it’s so hard having such youthful looks” …. whilst simultaneously trying to hide my excitement at being asked for ID for the first time in 5 years and proudly attributing it to my new skin-care regime.
But the good (or bad!) news is that today I will not be checking up on your eligibility to purchase alcohol or enter strip clubs. No. Today I want to draw your attention to a different kind of ID – Internal Dialogue. Internal dialogue is an interesting one because we all have it. Another way of referring to it is the “voices in your head”… although internal dialogue does have a much nicer ring to it. It speaks more to the scientific nature of our thought processes – without conjuring images of asylums or straight jackets…
So how aware are you of your own internal dialogue?
I’ll give you some examples and see if you can recognise yourself in any of these:
- “I can’t eat that”, “it’s bad for me”, “don’t be so greedy”
- “Oh Jackie is lucky, things come so easily to her, but I could never do/have that”
- “I can’t afford it, I have to watch every penny”
- “Oh maybe I should have offered to do that… now I feel bad”
- “I’ll just go to the back of the class so that no-one sees me stuff it up!”
When you begin to tune into your inner dialogue, it can be quite a frightening thing for some people! To discover that actually some of these “voices in your head” can be rather mean or judgmental…
The irony that I have seen time and time again in my coaching clients is that they would never allow others to speak to them in the way they speak to themselves on a daily basis. The perfect cliché example is the woman who gets dressed in her jeans, walks past the mirror before leaving the house and the thought “my butt looks big in this” pops into her mind. Maybe she dismisses it and triumphantly walks out of the house feeling fabulous, singing “aint nothing gonna break my stride”… but more likely she hears it, believes it and then *BOOM* just like that her self-esteem has been gently eroded. Now picture scenario 2: the same woman gets dressed in her jeans, walks past her boyfriend and he says to her “those jeans make your butt look big”… SLAAAAAP and *insert expletives here*. A lot of women would NOT accept that type of comment from their partner.
So why is it then that these harsh, critical, judgemental, even perfectionist thoughts are tolerated and accepted in a way that cruelty from others would never be?
There is a very simple answer to this. Mostly these internal dialogues and voices have been with you your entire life. As a result, you become SO used to them occupying your mind and energy that you actually feel they are a part of you and are therefore unable to recognise their very existence (let alone separateness from you).
These negative inner voices can form as a result of a lifetime of observing and absorbing the negative judgments or comments from anyone in our environment. This includes parents, siblings, friends, peers, societal expectations, and even the media! It really just depends on how sensitive and astute you are as to how many you have taken on and what beliefs and decisions you have formed as a result.
Understanding your internal dialogue begins with self-awareness. Take some time to tune in as you go about your daily life. If you notice any critical or judgmental thoughts pop in then write them down and ask yourself the following questions:
- Who did you first hear say that? (even if the judgment wasn’t directed at you)
- How did it make you feel?
- Does some part of you believe it to be true?
For example maybe you witnessed your Mum criticising her body in front of the mirror so your Ego has added that to it’s internal dialogue… Or maybe you saw your teacher at school chastising a fellow student for being lazy. The point is that often when we overhear or receive these criticisms early on, our Ego can file them away as “things that we don’t want to be” and therefore attempt to shape our behaviour so as to keep us safe from ever being judged to be “that thing that we don’t want to be”. And how does it do this? You guessed it! Through the voices in our head – working hard to keep us in line 😉
The good news is that if you have suddenly just realised you have this inner critic or sometimes harsh inner dialogue, then GOOD ON YOU! We all have an inner critic that operates at some level – the only difference is that 95% of the general population don’t know that they have it and therefore it has a much greater ability and power to undermine them.
Using the exercise above starts the process of helping you to become more aware of your internal dialogue and being able to identify where these voices first came from (and why). Remember that most of these voices are just expressions of the Ego’s fears. And what’s the job of the Ego again? To keep you safe. The Ego (despite being a massive scaredy-cat) is actually quite smart and takes it role of keeping us safe VERY SERIOUSLY. But once you can begin to understand the voices in your head and how they have been created to serve you, you are then able to create new dialogues using this higher consciousness and awareness. I will cover the steps for reprogramming your Inner Dialogue in more detail in a future post.
Let me know how you get on with your new ID awareness!