Master Your Inner Dialogue and Thrive from the Inside Out
There’s no way I’m going to get the job.
People must think I’m ugly.
No one wants to talk to me because I’m socially awkward
We all have these self-derogatory inner dialogues with ourselves every now and then. They can poorly influence how we feel, how we behave, and how we interact with others.
Evidently, the conversations we have with ourselves play a massive role in shaping our happiness and wellbeing. With mindfulness and practice, we can transform these inner dialogues into ones that are less demeaning and more encouraging.
What Exactly is an Inner Dialogue?
Your inner dialogue is like a professional commentator that lives inside your head. And they’re made up of both your conscious and subconscious thoughts.
According to research, our inner dialogues are responsible for identity formation, self-organization, social dialogues, and general self-reflection (1). They can either work for us or against us depending on how well we master them.
How do negative inner dialogues impact us?
American psychotherapist Steve Andreas defines negative inner dialogues as “an internal voice that reminds us of past failures, tortures us with criticism, and describes unpleasant futures”. When left unmanaged, we experience worry and stress, which can further lead to depression and anxiety (2).
How about positive inner dialogues?
When we establish a more positive inner dialogue, we’re more likely to derive meaning from our life. Research shows that people with positive self-talk are more efficient at solving problems, thinking differently, and coping with hardships (3).
Five Ways to Master Your Inner Dialogue
Do you often call yourself mean names or judge yourself for trying something new? If we’d never speak to a friend in such belittling ways, we shouldn’t be speaking to ourselves like that either. Here are five ways to master your inner dialogues and empower them to be more self-serving.
1) Simmer in silence
Quieting our tumultuous mental environment is the foundation of mastering our inner dialogue.
We have more than 6,000 thoughts per day (4). Therefore, moments of silence act as a way to “reset” the mind before we fill them up with more positive mental scripts.
2) Separate yourself from your inner critic
Author and former Google executive Mo Gawdat suggests acknowledging that you are not your negative thoughts.
One effective way is to give your inner critic a name (Gawdat names his Becky). Doing so establishes the negative chatter as a third party. You can then begin negotiating with them and letting them know that you’re in charge. For example, with every negative idea, your inner critic gives, request a positive one to make up for it.
3) Play judge and jury
Oftentimes, our inner dialogue is skewed by our emotions or experiences. But we have the power to apply logic and reasoning all while finding evidence.
Whenever we give ourselves a negative assumption, create a list of the evidence that supports them. For example, your friend didn’t text you back and you’re worried that you’ve been a bad friend. Think about all the reasons that support that idea.
Then, create a list of reasons why your assumption might not be true. Doing so helps you check whether you’re jumping to conclusions and assigning the blame to yourself where it’s not appropriate, or overgeneralizing.
4) Train your inner cheerleader
Each time you catch your internal dialogue sinking into despair, tell yourself, “I got this,” “I can handle this,” or “I know I can make things better for myself.” Doing so nurtures what psychologist Albert Bandura coins as self-efficacy, which is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in a task (5).
If you want to succeed in feeling better about yourself, cultivate an inner cheerleader that supports you in doing the task, managing the situation, or even getting the date. Without an internal motivator, you will stay trapped in first gear.
5) Find presence and gratitude
Your inner dialogue often latches on to the past and clings to the future. Focusing on the present therefore both quietens your internal dialogue a little, and also helps you to concentrate on, and appreciate, what is happening now.
You can use the power of gratitude to switch the direction of your thoughts, and particularly to prevent yourself from wanting things to be different. This helps you to be more positive because you are looking for the good in your life.
You might never get rid of your negative inner dialogue completely, and that's okay. It's all about building awareness and nurturing a monologue that's more uplifting. Over time, you can master those mental scripts and pave the way for a more promising reality.
Read other Mental Wellness Resources:
- The Positives of Negative Emotions (And How to Embrace Them)
- Separating Professional and Personal Identity
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Brain meta-state transitions demarcate thoughts across task contexts exposing the mental noise of trait neuroticism | Nature Communications