Have you noticed that when you are alone and surrounded by the stillness of quiet, when even the wind has stopped rustling the trees and the birds have paused their song, you still hear one voice say, “Wow, it is so quiet!”
Your inner narrator does not have an “off” switch. In addition to giving play-by-play commentary on your life, this internal voice has lots of opinions and makes dozens of assumptions about your future, and your past. All day long, you hear its chattering about what you’re doing and how you should be doing it and why you are doing it wrong and the reason you will never get it right. Because your inner dialogue is so constant, most of the time you drown it out. If we were able to tape-record what you are saying to yourself each day, you would probably be shocked to hear just how unfriendly your inner voice is.
This “unfriendly” attitude your narrator has comes with a very specific purpose, it wants to protect you. It does not want to see you wear your 80s pants out in public, it wishes you would think before you speak and it reminds you to plan better in the future so you don’t feel so stressed and rushed, but most importantly, it does not ever want to see you get hurt.
Unfortunately, your narrator’s means of protection are to incite fear that keeps you from pursuing your potential. Growth involves the risk of stepping outside of your comfort zone, and that can be very scary. Rather than act as a supportive friend and nudge you forward, your inner dialogue can bring up fears that keep you stuck.
Fortunately, you have the ability to change this pattern of self-talk and befriend yourself. Doing so will shift your inner critic into an empathetic and honest friend who can support you in your endeavors. Here are the five steps to become friends with yourself:
Become aware of what you are saying to yourself.
Passively observe how your inner narrator communicates. What does he/she believe about you? About life? How does your narrator’s commentary impact your actions? Your confidence? You will begin to see patterns and connections emerge between what you have been internally saying and the results you are seeing in your life.
Question your narrator’s assumptions and beliefs.
Most of what you tell yourself is only an assumption. For example, if you let a deadline slip at work, you might assume that “I am not good at my job.” Rather than seeing the missed deadline as a one-time anomaly, you see it as an indicator of your overall performance. Questioning your assumptions and beliefs will shine a light on the rules by which you have been living your life.
Stand up for yourself.
It is okay to “talk back” to your self-talk. Look at the facts of your situation and explain with honesty why your initial critique may be incorrect. Just as a great friend would do if you were being bullied, step in calmly and clarify the truth.
Act toward yourself with compassion.
If you are having a rough day, rather than berate yourself for it not going better, act with compassion. Take a walk, have a cup of tea, play with a beloved pet, call a friend or watch a funny movie. Understand that part of being human is having bad days and sometimes making mistakes. It does not mean that you are “not good enough” or that you “need to be fixed” it just means that you’re sharing in one of those intimately human moments.
Repeat the mantra, “I choose to be friends with myself.”
Whenever you notice that your inner narrator has become an inner critic and is on an especially harsh rant, silently repeat: “I choose to be friends with myself” over and over again. It is a gentle reminder of how you are intending to internally relate with yourself moving forward.
The brain is an organ, just like all of the other organs in your body, it has a job to do, and that job is thinking thoughts. Getting wrapped up in what your narrator tells you can lead to a jaded view of yourself and life. As you hear your sweet silent voice pipe up to remind you that you are about to embarrass yourself, smile, thank your narrator for the concern and repeat “I choose to be friends with myself.”