Why is it that we talk to ourselves so much differently than we want to be talked to? The voices in our heads seem so hard to control because they are relentlessly judging us with a combination of criticism and skepticism. There’s no secret why we often seek reassurance when dealing with some level of nervousness or uncertainty. When we hear someone tell us “it will be okay” or “you got this” we begin to feel in control of ourselves and the situation we are in; those few words replenish our security and confidence.
To give an example, I immediately think of my first college basketball game this year. I don’t think I can recall any game in my whole basketball career in which I felt so anxious and nervous. I was certainly excited too but the excitement was all blocked out by the uneasiness of how I was feeling. It may have been because it was the start of a new chapter of my basketball career or maybe it was just classic overthinking. Nonetheless, I just remember being more nervous than excited, which is not a fun feeling.
Without him realizing how I was feeling, one of my teammates came up to me before the game and said “Remember Brendan. There’s no pressure. Go be you. Have some fun.” Hearing that succinct, yet powerful message resonated with me heavily. It put an instant smile on my face and sparked an indescribable joy that reminded me why I play. The angst and nerves suddenly vanished and the thrill of being able to compete took over. He would do that before every game all year.
I tell that story not just to showcase what a great teammate I had, but rather to highlight the lesson I learned from his gesture. I began to realize that if hearing such a short, yet necessary message from my teammate could have such a profound impact on me, then why don’t I talk to myself in the same way? Instead of trying to mute and ignore the voices in my head, why whenever they arise, don’t I just combat them by speaking to myself with assurance, conviction and confidence?
Hearing something when we need it can be so comforting and reassuring. Think about all the times you’ve overthought something and all you’ve wanted to hear is you don’t need to worry. I remember in a past relationship I was in, I started getting all concerned when I wouldn’t hear from her for several hours. I would get anxious and pessimistic. In those moments all we really want to hear is that everything is fine and we have no reason to feel anxious or doubtful. Trust me, I’ve been there and I wish I had this strategy then to better handle it.
Sometimes the people close to us are there to tell us the message we hope to hear. BUT, if we know what we want to hear or what we need to hear, why don’t we speak to ourselves that way? Why can’t we reassure ourselves? WE CAN!! And it’s an incredibly powerful practice.
Following my epiphany, I started experimenting with self-assuring talk. I would tap my left leg to acknowledge myself and say what I needed to hear.
You’re prepared for this, nothing you haven’t seen.
You’ve already paid the price. Now go get what’s yours!!
Calming, Encouraging and Igniting.
I recognize what it is I need in each moment and I deliver the necessary message.
Tapping my left leg and speaking words of reassurance has been super effective. However, each person can implement different ways of communication that are ideal for them. Maybe you need to hear the uncomfortable truth and can take on the tone of a tough-love coach with yourself. Maybe your voice involves being more gentle and calming, easing yourself through times of struggle and anxiousness. Maybe it is a hybrid of many tones which vary from instance to instance. Whatever it is, we all must search internally for the voice that guides us through moments when what we need is a succinct, reassuring message in our ear.
Whether we realize it or not, we have so much control over ourselves. If we harness the voices in our head and reform them into voices of support, empowerment and honesty, then we can feel a certain level of trust and reliance in our OWN ability to overcome challenges and embrace being outside our comfort zone.
So often we are our own harshest critics. That’s not always a negative tendency — being your own bullshit detector is paramount. But being your own harshest critic can also lead us to magnify our flaws or weaknesses, rather than embracing the small victories, opportunities and challenges.
Anxiety is driven by uncertainty which is an intrinsic element of life’s ups and downs. One certainty we have is the decision to use our inner-voice to guide us through these moments.
Rather than always being your worst critic, be your biggest supporter. Be your biggest believer.
Oftentimes, all you have with you is you and the voices in your head.
This can be harnessed by knowing what you need to hear and being your own affirmation.
Control your voice and direct it towards empowering yourself.
MTD Blog Writer