Our Inner Voice and It’s Impacts to Mental Health
We all have an inner voice, one that speaks to us throughout the day and helps to guide many of our decisions and behaviors. Sometimes this voice is kind and at times it is critical. This voice offers sound advice one moment and then tells us we are unworthy the next. For many people, the challenge is learning to decipher the negative self-talk that goes on in their head and to correct it with truth. This can be especially difficult to do, however, when one lacks awareness and has become accustomed to a self-critical and limiting narrative. Fortunately, it is possible to correct this chatterbox and to develop an inner voice that maintains a healthy, well-balanced perspective.
When it comes to self-talk or our inner narrative, it is helpful to think of the tone. When we read literature, for example, the narrator of the story has a certain tone, which may come from a variety of vantage points. Whether told in first- or third-person, the narrator’s voice is one of authority and frames the events and perspectives of the story. Your inner voice has the same role in that it is constantly narrating the events, interactions, and decisions of your daily life. This voice is developed in early childhood and may take many tones throughout the lifespan. For those who grew up in loving, nurturing homes, for instance, the tone of this voice may be patient or flexible. For those who have endured abuse or trauma, on the other hand, this voice may be one of self-doubt and perfectionism.
There are some helpful questions to ask yourself when first learning to distinguish the tone and vantage point of your inner voice. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Is the voice (or self-talk) recurring?
- Is this my voice talking or the voice of someone I know?
- Is this voice building me up or putting me down?
- Is the voice coming from a place of fear or possibility?
- Would I talk to someone I love or care about in this tone?
- Is my narrative balanced or one-sided?
- Is my self-talk based upon experience or “what-if” scenarios?
Sometimes it is helpful to journal the self-talk you engage in to begin identifying themes and tones. Unfortunately, many people are so accustomed to the negative narrative they tell themselves that they have never questioned it and do not realize it may not be accurate. Journaling these thoughts serves as a type of mirror to help build your awareness and to address thoughts that need changing. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can also be helpful so long as this person is someone who can remain relatively objective and provide loving and honest feedback. Finally, working with a therapist can also be instrumental in teaching you to identify thoughts that need adjustment, learn skills of reframing and rewriting your narrative, and develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with daily stressors, anxiety, and depression.
Amending your self-talk isn’t just about saying nice things to yourself, although that is certainly part of it. And, it isn’t saying things that are unrealistic, a Pollyana syndrome of sorts. Rather, it is more about choosing the way in which you frame thoughts, behaviors, interactions with others, and life events. It also often includes speaking truths to yourself that you might not yet believe, such as “I am beautiful, capable, a good mom/dad, worthy, loveable, intelligent, empowered,” etc. We can choose to engage in self-talk that fuels the voice of shame in our head or we can recognize that voice, call it out, reframe it, and rewrite the narrative it speaks.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Narrative Therapy are two modalities that help to address the process described in this article. If you would like to learn more about these options and connect with a therapist who is trained in one of these approaches, please contact us. We look forward to serving you!
Written by Sarah Groff, LCHMC
Sarah has been part of the Miracles Counseling Centers team for over 5 years and treats adolescents through adults on issues of marriage and divorce, blending families, depression, anxiety, and adjustment to issues specific to teens and young adults. She is presently pursuing her PhD in Developmental Psychology at Liberty University.