Did you know that we all talk to ourselves each day, and that this is perfectly healthy? We each have an inner voice that produces self-directed speech (also known as “self-talk”) many times each day. When was the last time you spoke to yourself, and what was the last thing you said? This may be tough to answer, because much of the chatter within us happens very quickly, and at a level of cognition that is not entirely within our awareness.
Our self-talk is powerful and plays an important part in shaping the way we feel and how we act. Indeed, many of us go through life carrying a tiny critic inside our minds – a voice that is always ready to attack and belittle when we make a mistake or fail to measure up to expectations. This tendency makes us more vulnerable to a variety of mental health challenges.
If you know that your inner voice tends to be rather loud and critical, no need to fret. The good news is that it is very possible to rework it to become more reasonable, balanced, and even supportive. Make no mistake – this can be hard work! But, changing the way you speak to yourself can have a huge impact on different aspects of your life – for example, you may experience less frequent negative emotions, such as shame, or you may become more willing to take on challenges and risk making mistakes. Finally, you might find yourself pulled less toward problematic behaviours intended to distract or provide temporary comfort (e.g., excessive shopping, eating “comfort foods” in excess, just to name a few).
So, how do we get on the same page with the inner self? A first step you may want to try is just to notice it – catch the “inner critic” in action. You may even wish to follow this with a mental note, “well, there goes my mental critic again!”. This may seem silly or minute, but noticing our inner voice and labeling it allows us to decide whether this a voice we want to listen to, or not. Also, you might ask yourself, “what would I say to someone I care about if they (and not I) were in this situation?” Both of these strategies may, with practice, help soften your inner voice from an overly critical one ready to find fault, to one that is ready to face the world and overcome the challenges that may come your way.
By Dr. Tania Bielak, C. Psych
For informational purposes only