Inner-dialogue. Inner-critic. Self-talk.
We all experience that little voice in our own heads. For me, often that voice is negative. Often, that voice stops me in my tracks, distracting me from the task at hand with thoughts of ‘not being good enough.’ That’s the big one for me.
Sometimes the voice shows up disguised as fear. Dread. Not something I’m hearing from within, but feeling instead. In trying to figure out how to live with my inner-critic and possibly make peace with it, I had to face it. That’s actually putting it mildly. My inner-critic and I had a straight up show down.
First I had to figure out where this feeling of not being good enough truly started, which meant I had to look at my past. I came across an article on Psychology Today.com that suggested writing down the negative messages I hear in my head. So I started to list them:
1. You’re going to forget the words.
2. You should practice more.
3. Your songs are shit.
4. No one wants to hear a 53 year old singing about love.
Okay, so this list went on a while ...
Then my brain landed on a memory ...
“You have a nice voice, but it doesn’t have that intangible quality.” These were the words spoken to me by a Music Executive at Warner Bros. Gospel Music Division.
This memory has been buried in my subconscious since the early 90s, and me thinks it’s the reason I keep hearing ‘you’re not good enough’ from my inner-critic.
I didn’t explore this at the time, but now I want to truly understand what was said to me back then, so I Googled it!
Unable to be touched, not having a physical quality. Something intangible can't be touched physically, but most of the time it is understandable or even felt in the heart.
So this man was saying my voice ‘can’t be felt in the heart.’ Ouch. That hurts.
This was said to me in my early 20s. I am now in my early 50s, so 30 years later this negative statement is still affecting me.
The article in Psychology Today goes on to say that ‘for every negative message there is a positive truth that can counteract it.’
Here’s my positive truth:
“My voice is full of emotion and touches people in their soul.”
I could feel the weights of doubt and fear lift even before I finished my positive truth, then I experienced an ‘aha’ moment: I got the power! (Sung to the top of my lungs). I’ve got the power to change my self-talk. To challenge my inner-critic.
Quoting from psychology today:
“Self-talk tells us what to do and how to feel about events and situations. A lot of self-talk feeds us valuable information that serves us well, that helps us succeed and even ensures our survival. For example, ‘Look both ways before crossing the street’ and ‘Stand up for yourself’ are constructive reminders.
But other self-talk undermines us and keeps us from fully experiencing parts of our personality. Your inner voice may be telling you things like this:
I know it won’t work.
It’s just no use.
I never have enough time.
I never know what to say.
Everything I touch turns to bleep.
Working on your self-talk is a good way to challenge the idea that there’s some inherent flaw in your personality. If you have deficits, you are not doomed to live with them forever; you can change your programming. When that changes, you may find you have hidden strengths where previously you had problems.”
I did a poll on my Facebook Group and 10 out of 11 participants said that their self-talk was mostly positive. Guess who the one was who said his or her self-talk was mostly negative? Me.
Managing my inner-critic is still a work in progress, but I am making progress. By recognizing the negative self-talk a bit sooner and then doing some reprogramming to a more constructive level of self-talk, I am finding it easier to live with my inner-critic.
Most of us speak our self-talk out loud with phrases like ‘I never win anything’ or ‘I always get picked last’ or whatever, so initially it might be easier to notice the impact that negative self-talk has on the people around us, before we can fully recognize our own struggle. Once we are able to identify our own negative self-talk, we can then start to actively resist the negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones.
When positive self-talk is rooted in fundamental truths, we feel its resonance. But first, we have to know and understand our own truth. My inner-critic’s go-to message is, ‘you’re not good enough.’ But, my full diary of gigs and the applause and appreciation I get at those gigs are saying otherwise. So, in truth, I am good enough.
Listen, we need our inner-critic, but we can’t let it go unchecked. We have the power to manage our self-talk and live in our truth!