It is a fairly common joke that people make, asking about the voices in your head. While this joke is usually geared towards ideas of mental illness, the truth is that we all have voices in our heads. We have that little nagging voice telling us not to eat a second piece of cake, not to reach into a fire, or even to rephrase a statement than we just heard in our heads (which may have gotten us into trouble if we’d said it out loud!). Whether you call this your gut instinct, the angel on your shoulder or your conscience, this little voice sits among others that may be living in your head as well. The voices that may not be as nice or helpful. The ones that truly bring you down.
We have all been through “things” in life. We have all had struggles and arguments, unhappiness and tragic moments. We have had people in our lives who may have meant well, but had a “way” about them, and likely others that actually never meant well. They are part of our history and many times, our present. And whether their intentions were good or not, the people in our lives leave marks on us. Sometimes these marks are full of candy canes and rainbows, and other times they are a little greasier, a little grittier. Sometimes the marks are so deep that they leave scars – but the collective is what makes us who we are.
Now, take a moment to let yourself get inside of your head. Whose voice do you hear? Is it yours? Is it your mother or your father? A babysitter? A teacher? A bully? Many of us will have those nagging voices that hurt us every time we hear them. Maybe your voice is saying that you’re not good enough, that you’re not special. Maybe your voice is saying that you should have done something differently and now you’ll never get it right. Maybe your voice isn’t clear enough for words, but the feelings are ringing loud and clear. We all have them, and it is okay to admit it – whether that admission be only to yourself or someone else. Knowing that you have a negative voice inside is the first step to moving through it.
Let’s be clear: the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is garbage. It is not true. Often times, the words are what hurt the most. A bully may never lay a hand on you, but choose to cyber stalk you or spread rumors. Words are typically more painful because once they are out there and move into your consciousness, you add them to your internal dialogue. We decide, “They’re right” or “I’m only 95% sure that they’re wrong” and it’s something we mull over and torture ourselves over for the rest of our lives. Until we decide to do something about it. Until we’ve had enough.
For those of us who defend some of the negative voices, listen up. Just because the person said it without ill intention does not mean that it was okay to say. If someone tells you that you aren’t special in order to calm your confidence, that is not okay. If their message is not constructive, but plain hurtful, that is not okay. You did not deserve to be hurt and that is not your fault. Help to take their power away by acknowledging that to yourself. You didn’t deserve to be hurt and despite how much you may love this person, it is and was not okay.
So, what do we do? These voices invade our minds and only go away for short spurts of time. Or maybe they are as loud as your conscience and just as present. Either way, we can’t just let them live like that. We don’t deserve to live like that. The next step that we can take toward getting rid of these thoughts is to acknowledge that the person who first said them is no longer saying them. You are. It may be your grandmother’s voice that you hear, but you are the one in your head. You are the one in charge of the audio and you have the power to turn it off.
Do you say affirmations? If you do, this is the time to bring them out. When we have voices in our head that are combatting our confidence, we can fight back. If the voice is saying that you’ll never do anything right, repeat to yourself, “I am confident, I am kind, and I am capable” – or whatever words feel right to you. Create a mantra for yourself, or even for each voice that you have cutting you down. If you hear yourself saying that you’re a terrible friend try, “I am generous, I am a good listener, and I am available.” These affirmations are about you and your truth, so make sure to use words that truly describe who you are, and not who you are according to the voice. They should be about who you are according to the truth.
The voices in our head are real. Although they have a different definition from those within the mental health community, they are there and they are slowly consuming our confidence. Don’t let them be in charge. Take the power back from that bully, that family member, that teacher. Don’t let them win. You can have great things ahead of you, just make sure that these voices – every single one of them – know it.