“Being successful is, after all, to a critical degree a matter of confidence: a faith that there is no reason why success should not be ours”
No matter where we find ourselves in life, we all have a voice inside our head. It’s our way of interpreting the world, as well as ourselves. It’s the voice we use when dissecting our behaviour or appraising our work. You might find yourself speaking to yourself in this way but never really understanding why.
Perhaps you’ve never even wondered. Perhaps, also, you have never considered this; does everyone speak to themselves in this way? It’s no secret that those with a more positive view of themselves (and a more positive internal voice) are more successful in achieving their goals.
We are often the first barrier to our own success.
Success comes in many shapes in sizes and won’t look the same for everybody. Success is down to confidence; a faith that there is no reason we should not be able to attain the things we want in life. It’s less “I can’t have this” and more “what if I had this?”.
Many of life’s greatest achievements in history have occurred not just because of technical prowess, but down to the determination of the individual and the will to succeed. Their inner voices never chained them to failure.
So, where does our inner voice come from? Well, it’s not something we are just born with.
Origins of Our Inner Voice
Our inner voice (or parts of it) was once an external one, internalised over time. It could be the teacher that is impossible to please, the parent or sibling that always berated you for every minor failure, an encouraging friend or supportive ex-partner. It can be both positive and negative.
We assimilate these voices because we hear them frequently over a long period. We associate these voices with truths about our identity. What they must be saying is true; otherwise, why else would they be saying it?
With this in mind, self-mastery (unlocking our true potential) starts with allowing ourselves the opportunity to succeed. Nobody will ever be able to critique us if our own internal monologue is preventing us from even starting. We must learn to accept these voices, however they manifest and however they came to be. They will differ between all of us, as a product of our own individual life experiences.
If you have a negative inner voice, it’s time to dive deep, find out where it has come from, and make some changes.
1. Audit Your Inner Voice
The first step towards any meaningful change is to take stock of what we have, where we are, and where we want to be. Part of developing a more positive inner voice is to acknowledge the voice we currently have and why it’s there. Remember, you have the agency and ability to redefine how you talk to yourself. You can do it right now.
You choose your words carefully among friends. Why are you not choosing kinder words for yourself? Where did you ever develop the notion that you are not worthy?
We always have the final say in who gets to sit and eat at our table. If something isn’t serving you, you must work to remove and replace it with something that does. Nobody else will do this for you.
Is the voice that speaks to you negative? If so, you have the power to remove it. Think back to your past; who has spoken to you in the way you speak to yourself previously? Remember that this voice is a product of something in your life. It is not born out of nothing.
Once you’ve identified and audited, it’s time to…
2. Improve The Way You Speak To Yourself
Our current, negative inner voice results from voices we’ve heard over the course of our lives. Replacing them is simple enough; we do so by surrounding ourselves with more positive ones.
Find inspirational, unwavering influences and absorb yourself in their words. It could be a poet whose writing builds you up, or even a friend who is always there for you in times of need. It could be someone you don’t even know very well; what’s important is that their words bring you courage and confidence, if only a small amount.
Critically, though, you need to hear these voices speak regarding tough problems. This way, when you come to these tricky problems again, you’ll have internalised their words, their way of thinking. The more we say things to ourselves, the more they become our own thoughts. Muscle memory works with how we think, too.
If you’re reading this and your immediate response is “no one close to me chooses (and remember, it is a choice) to speak to me positively,” well…
It might be time to re-evaluate who it is that eats at your table.
Exercise (1–2 minutes)
Some quick homework for you.
Next time you catch your inner voice in the act, ask yourself:
- Is this positive or negative self-talk? Why?
- Who, historically in your life, may have spoken to you in this way?
- If it was a negative thought, what would you say to your friend if they expressed this to you about themselves?
Quote attributions A Job To Love, The School of Life, p103