When you get the urge to take your life in an exciting new direction, do you talk yourself out of doing anything? Suppose you notice an interesting stranger you’d like to meet. Do approach them in a friendly manner, or do you stare for a while then turn away? When you set goals or make big plans, do you gear up and get ready to act, or do you quickly change your mind? Do you take chances and calculated risks when a worthy prize presents itself, or do you wait around for the perfect opportunity to knock at the door, walk in, and hop in your lap?
If you’re like a lot of people, you probably drag your feet when faced with the prospect of doing something bold and daring, yet risky. Or maybe you make excuses and hesitate when it’s time to get busy accomplishing a worthwhile, but challenging goal. So why is that we so often engage in acts of self-sabotage when it comes to our best vision, and sink ourselves before we’ve even began?
If we’re honest, we’ll admit that the very thing that usually stops us in our tracks lives right inside our heads. That’s right; it’s the critical voice within our own psyches.
You’re intimately familiar with this critical voice. It most likely came into being a long time ago, and it’s probably getting louder all the time. This voice constantly draws self-defeating conclusions, paints bleak scenarios, and anticipates the worst from everything and everyone. And you usually listen to it, which serves to puts the brakes on your most ambitious plans.
So how do we tame this critical inner voice? In other words, how do we get out of our own way on the path to our goals? Listed below are three strategies for silencing the critical inner voice, and advancing in the direction of our desires:
Realize It May Not Be Your Voice
If you place your critical inner voice under intense scrutiny, you may eventually realize that it’s not even your voice! So whose voice is it that’s always shouting you down? Is it a well-meaning, but negative thinking parent? Could it be a sarcastic teacher from your long-forgotten past? Does it belong to a mean-spirited relative? Or does it sound like society in general, in the form of the messages it sends through the mass media? You know, the messages that insinuate this is what it means to be smart, popular, beautiful, intelligent, etc., and you’re not this?
As easy as it sounds, once we divine the origins of this inner voice, we can simply ask ourselves if we want to listen to it/them anymore. The choice is, and always has been ours. We have a mute button on our television remotes, so why can’t we have one in our minds? We gave this inner voice its authority, and we can revoke this authority in an instant. Once freed from the tyranny of this voice, we can start entertaining thoughts that are far more constructive and uplifting than what we used to listen to.
Have Compassion for the Inner Voice
So what purpose does your critical voice within serve anyway? Is it self-protection or self-preservation? Does it exist to guard you from real or imagined threats? Is its primary job to dissuade you from doing anything that has a risk of failure, especially a failure that could deliver a devastating blow to your self-esteem?
Once the purpose of your critical inner voice becomes clear, you can adopt a stance of compassion towards it. After all, it’s only attempting to shield you from things that it believes can hurt you. Then, you can thank it for its service. Finally, you can let it go, telling it that you’re going to be ok, and that you’re heading in the direction of your dreams from now on, no matter what.
One of the main problems with your critical inner voice is that it’s severely lacking in knowledge, but it holds itself to be some kind of authority. If you think about it, there are always a ton of unknown factors, variables, and possibilities for every situation. We can’t possibly understand, predict, or anticipate every outcome. Yet, the critical inner voice acts as if it is all-knowing, and whispers to us many negative things: “He/she wouldn’t find you attractive,” “You’re not smart enough to earn a college degree,” “They’ll never hire you for that job,” “You can’t start your own business,” or “They don’t give people like you a chance.”
So what can you do? A better option is to embrace the inherent uncertainty that’s an inescapable part of life. You’ve already identified how limited in information the critical inner voice is, and can see that it doesn’t have all the answers. So go on and take the chance, assume the risk, venture out, and place your cards on the table. Be uncertain to what’s going to happen, and do it anyway.
When you decide to start living this way, you’re in for a huge surprise. Yes, you will have some setbacks and disappointments, but you will also discover a range of possibilities that you never knew existed. All the things that you inner voice told you wasn’t practical, or realistic, or possible will be proven to be utterly false. Ask anyone who is successful, and they will tell that this is always the case.
So go ahead, embrace uncertainty. Great things will happen, and your critical inner voice will slowly lose credibility. When you start ignoring it completely, it’ll pack it bags and move out. Watch and see.
Learning the truth about your critical inner voice is a journey that few wish to make, but one that everyone needs to embark upon eventually. In fact, it can literally be the difference between being constantly unfulfilled, and living a successful life. Tame your critical inner voice once and for all, and watch your whole world change. You’ll see the old, limited reality you used to dwell in replaced by one far richer, exciting, and more fulfilling than you ever imagined.
Lisa H. Wright is a mother, blogger, runner and happiness seeker. Her blog, Getting to Zen inspires personal success through action. In addition to blogging, Lisa is a co-author of Overcoming Fear: Sticking it to What’s Holding You Back, a unique program designed to help you get out of your own way and create the life that you want. To read more of Lisa’s articles, visit her blog. Don’t forget to download her free goodies while you are there.
Photo credit: ‘Rain on Window’ by Big Stock