What on earth are we to do with the voice in our head that says bad things about us?
The way it undermines our confidence, ridicules us, and instills us with fear, even self loathing is insidious and inescapable. They are almost predictable and yet they trip you every single time when they say things like “why did you say that?,” “You look so fat!” “How could you have done that!” “You are so incredibly stupid!” “Who could ever love you?!” and even worse. You hear the voices, and even more than that, you feel the words as they settle deep into your marrow and take up residence in your body in the form of brain fog, anxiety, sleeplessness, stomach aches, headaches, and eventually chronic health conditions.
What the heck is that voice any way? Where is it coming from?
The best way to start to understand it is to think of it is as a recording inside our heads from when we were little. The voice may have been created by something said by a parent, sibling, a friend, a teacher, anyone we looked to for assurance, guidance – even love and acceptance. And it’s not just about what we heard, but also what we came to believe about ourselves from the way we were treated, for better or for worse. Those beliefs are now indelible etchings on the walls of our minds and hearts. They have imprinted us, and shaped how we interact in the world.
So why not just ignore them or shut them up?
Sure, why not give that a go? And so we overwork, overeat, overdrink, oversmoke, overspend, over-execise, and overbinge over and over and over again trying consciously or most often unconsciously to silence the voices and anesthetize the feelings until they are finally dead and gone.
But they never die, and they can never be silenced because these voices are our voices – the voices of the little us – the sacred children versions of us that live inside the present-tense adult version of us. Over time, this little child inside each of us has been wounded again and again when something sad, frightening, or horrible happened. Each of those children are frozen in time, trapped and suffering deep inside us. Each of those voices we hear in our heads that make us freeze in our tracks is actually one of those children – one of the little innocent beautiful versions of us – begging to be held and comforted, and loved.
Attempts to silence only increase the volume.
Throughout the course of our adult lives, these children have repeatedly been told to shut up . The more we try to muzzle and smother them, the louder their screams rise, surrounding us, haunting us and shattering our lives. Those voices and cruel comments are the barriers to us living our true authentic lives. Inside our heads we tell ourselves we are not capable, deserving or worthy. But those are merely the voices of our inner children who were told lies about themselves and are now begging to be freed.
How can we stop this vicious cycle once and for all?
First, we must pay attention. We need to stop – really stop everything in that moment, turn fully toward that voice and truly listen. Recognize the voice is coming from a child inside you and is telling you this about themselves. Once you are listening, consider the following actions:
- Mentally scan your body. What do you feel? Sometimes the words are harder to hear, but we feel a sensation in our bodies. Notice what, if anything, you may be physically feeling.
- Invite the child to come sit with you and ask him or her where they learned the things they are saying. Was it a person who told them, or a situation that made them think or feel this way?
- Tell them that you hear them, and are deeply sorry for the burden they have been carrying. Tell them those bad things they believe never were and are still not true, and that you will show them why.
- Promise them that you will spend more time with them to learn what they are feeling, and what they need from you.
At this phase in our lives, we are all our own parental figures. Through our wisdom, experience and compassion, we can parent our inner children and free them from being locked in the lies of the past. As adults, we are able to reassure these children, and give them the attention and safe haven they desperately seek and completely deserve.
When we stop trying to ignore or silence those voices and muster the courage to actually hear what they are telling us, we receive the greatest gift of a lifetime: we are finally able to fully hear ourselves.
And by deeply listening to ourselves with acceptance and love, we can right the wrongs of the past, and liberate ourselves to fully live into who we are truly meant to be.