We all have our inner voices that are our daily companions. We all carry on an internal dialogue that constantly evaluates and analyzes our and other’s actions. And it is that inner voice that is an indicator of how we see ourselves and treat ourselves.
How My Inner Voice Affected My Life
For the longest time, my inner voice was an ugly bully that followed me everywhere. As a teen and young adult, I remember that I was living in the constant state of general anxiety. Even though I had people around me who loved me, I continued to feel unsafe and overwhelmed. And it was my inner bully that created these feelings in my life.
The bully would tell me things like “You are not good enough! You are not pretty enough! You shouldn’t be feeling this way or that way! Even though people tell you that they care about you, they don’t mean it. They are going to hurt you and leave you cause you are not good enough!”
Sounds horrible, right? I have to admit that I wasn’t even aware I had such an ugly companion for an inner voice. These thoughts would float into my mind automatically and leave me feeling miserable and exhausted.
Because of the inner bully, I couldn’t trust myself, and I felt anxious about making decisions. And I also couldn’t trust others, especially a person I was involved in a romantic relationship. I constantly doubted his interest in me, felt jealous and sought constant reassurance to ease my anxiety.
While his supportive words would help for a bit, they were never enough to quite my inner critic. Looking back, I can now see that there were three entities in my intimate relationship: my boyfriend, the bully and me.
It was a rotten triangle that caused much heartache. I became over-reliant on my boyfriend for his reassurance in many aspects of my life. And it felt my happiness utterly hanged on what he would say. This created an unhealthy relationship dynamic between us and placed an enormous burden on his shoulders.
It is effortless to see the big picture from where I sit now, some 15 years older and with much life experience. But back then, I couldn’t tell you why I felt so insecure and miserable. As a result, I experienced this pattern and its full adverse effect in other relationships.
How Having a Healthy Relationship With Myself Has Changed My Life
Things began to change for me as I started to recognize the inner-bully voice, question it and foster a supportive voice instead. It was not an overnight success, but it worked!
As I began to talk to myself in an understanding and motivating way, I saw powerful changes. I was able to make decisions without panic. I could pay myself a compliment and see my strengths. I could be fully present with others and enjoy their company.
To summarize, I became a good friend to myself! It is from this place of friendship with myself that I was able to foster a secure relationship in my life with a significant other. In this new pattern, I didn’t feel overly dependent or too vulnerable; instead, I felt secure and safe.
As I underwent this makeover of my relationship with myself and helped others to do the same, I identified a few crucial steps necessary for success.
1. Become aware of your inner critic
It is time to find out what your inner voice sounds like and what it says to you on a daily basis. Without this awareness, we won’t be able to change your foe inner voice into a friend.
Does it inspire you or bring you down? Does it scare you or makes you feel confident? Does it tell you that you are worthy or does it tell you are looser?
To help you build this awareness, I recommend checking out this Thinking Traps handout. These are common unrealistic ways of thinking that we all get caught up that leave us feeling inadequate. Find out which ones are a trap for you.
2. Challenge your inner critic and never let it beat you up
As you become more familiar about the nagging and bullying that your inner critic does, you can start to question it.
Just like a majority of people, I never questioned my inner critic and felt like it was right the entire time. But as I began to query, I realized that there was no evidence for any of the bully statements. The only evidence that supported it was my own belief. I chose to believe it blindly.
Luckily, I began to deconstruct this belief with some clever questions that my inner critic had no valid response.
Here are a few examples of questions that I used on my inner bully:
a. What is the evidence that supports this thought? And what is the evidence that doesn’t support it?
b. Is this a thought or a fact?
c. Is my belief in this thought based on my feeling?
d. What would I say to a friend if he or she had this thought?
3. Recognize a feeling for what it is just a feeling
Mixing up a thought and a feeling is a great source of confusion for many of us. A feeling is usually something that we can describe with one word like anxious, uncomfortable, happy or sad. In contrast, a thought is usually our evaluation of an experience and is one or a few sentences long.
Your inner critic uses this confusion against you. As soon as you feel uncomfortable or anxious, the bully comes out and starts telling you that something is wrong with you. Where is, in reality, there isn’t anything wrong. It is ok to experience unpleasant feelings at times, and that doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong or that you are a bad person.
So one of your greatest defenses against your inner critic is to catch and highlight this for yourself.
You can raise your awareness by saying something like this “X has happened and now I feel anxious or sad. It is ok to experience this feeling, and it will pass. Just because I feel this way, doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me or my actions”.
I invite you to create your personalized mantra based on this sentence that you can use to uncouple your feeling from your negative interpretation of it.
4. You need to build the relationship, it won’t happen instantly
It takes some time to put these critical elements to practice. You have probably been hearing your inner bully for over 10 or 20 years. The inner critic has had a lot of practice. So it will take some excersice for you to foster a supportive and empathetic inner voice.
As you follow these steps to complete a makeover for your relationship with yourself, you can also begin to enjoy numerous benefits in your intimate relationships.
You will foster these relationships now not our of need or anxiety, but out of desire and confidence.
Instead of being destructed by analyzing how you or others feel about you, you will begin to enjoy your moments with your significant other.
And instead of being plagued by doubt and jealousy, you will able to experience trust and safety in your relationship.
Please remember, that in the real authentic intimacy there is no room for bullies and harsh critics. It is time to become a true friend to yourself, so you can also be a friend to your partner.