Beautify Our Inner Dialogue

Written by Meaghan Heighway, LMHC-P

“Beautify your inner dialogue.” (Amit Ray)

Everybody talks to themselves, sometimes. (The funny part is when we
talk to ourselves out loud, in public, before we recall we’re not alone!) Talking to ourselves is a normal part of living – it’s how we process what’s going on around us. But the odd part is that sometimes when we are dialoguing with ourselves, we are harsh, critical or demeaning. We tend to say things to ourselves, particularly after we’ve made a mistake, that we would never dream to say to someone we care about. What makes it easy to be critical towards ourselves, when we know the same words would crush our best friend? There are probably many reasons why we slip into the habit of talking down to ourselves, but the good news is that we don’t need to keep talking that way.

How then, do we beautify our inner dialogue? The first way is to realize when we are not speaking in an uplifting and compassionate manner to ourselves. Try this experiment: As you go about your day, listen to yourself. What do you say? What are you doing when you say this? How are you saying it? Often, what we say is part of an inner script that reflects what we might innately believe about ourselves – and what we believe may or may not be true. Slowly begin to notice what you say and when you’re saying it – how can you fix something if you’re not even aware of the problem?

For example, let’s say you overslept and are now late for a meeting. What are you telling yourself as you rush to get out the door? I can’t believe I overslept, my boss will be so mad at me, I’m so lazy, this is going to ruin my whole day… Everybody has been late for a meeting at some point or another, and this is part of a common experience that makes us human. Even though this was a mistake (which everyone has made), how we respond to ourselves in light of that common mistake can make all the difference in the world. Here are three alternate thought suggestions for infusing your inner dialogue with beauty and compassion, in light of the example of oversleeping:

  • Everybody makes mistakes. When we say to ourselves, I can’t believe I overslept, it could bring a question to our minds: why can’t we believe we made a mistake? Are we holding ourselves to an impossible standard, one which demands that we’re perfect and mistake-free? How is this standard serving us? (It could be argued that striving for perfection ensures that we do good work, but while good work is wonderful, the price of perfection is too high for anyone to chronically pay. This leeching demand of perfection actually ends up sapping our energy, depleting our sense of compassion, and eroding our patience for mistakes.) The belief that we should never make mistakes does not help us – so a counter thought to this belief (once we’ve ‘caught’ ourselves speaking negatively) is to replace it with a new, more compassionate thought: Everybody makes mistakes.
  • Are you sure? As we’re rushing to head out to work, we may find ourselves bemoaning, My boss will be so mad at me. A contrary thought would be: Are you sure? Are you positive your boss will be mad at you? Perhaps even your boss is running late, this morning! A polite thing to do would be to contact someone that you know will be around, to let them know that you are running late but will be there as soon as you can. But after you’ve done that, how is the belief my boss will be so mad at me serving you? All it’s really doing is adding anxiety about a possible future outcome, to your hectic morning routine. You have no guarantee (no for sure proof) that your feared outcome will occur. But, if it does, you can handle it, and hopefully your boss will think back to a time when they may have been late getting to the office. When you notice this anxiety provoking, future predicting thought swimming through your mind, acknowledge it – and replace it, with the more compassionate question, Are you sure?
  • Each new moment is fresh potential – my mistake does not have to define my day. We might be criticizing ourselves as we dash out the door, saying, I’m so lazy, this is going to ruin my whole day. But like the are you sure suggestion above, we can notice this harsh thought and instead consider: does making one mistake mean I’m lazy? No. Does one mistake have to ruin my entire day? No. Once we’re aware of our inner critic, we can then choose to empower ourselves with a more compassionate, loving response: Each new moment is fresh potential – my mistake does not have to define my day.

Try experimenting with compassion, this week – it could make all the difference in the world!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is intended to educate, inform and entertain. This does not represent psychotherapy, therapeutic assessment, or any other form of therapeutic intervention. This should not be used as a substitute for consultation and treatment with a licensed mental health professional. If you have questions related to the material contained in this site please contact CCM or a licensed mental health professional of your choice.

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