How to Cultivate a Gentle Inner Voice

Quieting the noise and finding inner serenity

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As you read this, you are listening to your inner voice guide you through these sentences. Your inner voice is a near-constant companion. We spend a lot of life having a series of verbal monologues within ourselves and it is important to learn how to make this inner chatter work for you.

Here’s two ways we use our inner voice: 1. to motivate ourselves and 2. to evaluate our actions. Remember that time you got called in for an interview? Your inner voice worked with you to prepare for it. That is you using your inner voice to motivate yourself. Think of a time you had to reflect on a mistake you made. Your inner voice steered the direction of that process, no? That is you using your inner voice to evaluate your actions.

Our inner voice is how we speak to ourselves and how you use it shapes your sense of self. Confident people use their inner voice to remind themselves of their strengths. Genuinely happy people use it to remind themselves of the things they are grateful for. It dictates how we view ourselves and can extend to how we carry ourselves around people. Our inner voice can become a source of positivity from within.

Life is an endless journey of self-discovery. To get us through the peaks and valleys of this journey, we need a kind guide inside to illuminate our paths. To point us towards our inner wellspring of wisdom.

With all the external noise and internal conflict, how do we develop a gentle inner voice? It begins by giving yourself the gentle kindness and compassion you so easily give to others. Self-compassion is the key to adopting a tender inner voice. We are constantly exposed to a competitive culture that triggers self-criticism over failures. Most of us have adopted this as a means to motivate us to work through our setbacks. So we tell ourselves off on our failures. We convince ourselves that we could have worked harder or smarter. We scold ourselves thinking this is the only way to inspire improvement.

Constant self-critique may inspire change for some. However, for most of us excessive self-criticism is merely a slippery slope to depression and underperformance.

Negative self-talk is natural — it happens. The skill that we need to learn is how to turn our inner critic into an inner cheerleader. This will help us change a “You’re not good enough” to “You got this!” or “You’ll do better next time”.

Here are four pointers to kickstart your journey to an uplifting inner voice:

  1. Notice your negative self-talk. By doing this, you will be able to adopt a better approach to dealing with your setbacks.
  2. Detach yourself from negative self-talk once you’ve noticed it. Take a moment to adopt a positive perspective on your setbacks. This can be difficult at first but with enough practice it will prove to be an essential skill. A positive outlook on setbacks not only helps you cope with the emotional toll that comes along with failure, it also gives you the motivation to keep moving forward.
  3. Acknowledge the effort you invested to achieve the goals you’ve achieved already. Think about how challenging the task was and what you have accomplished so far. Give yourself credit where it’s due. We are often so focused on the end goal that we rarely notice how high we have set the bar. When we choose self-compassion, we are acknowledging how far we have come in contrast to how far we must go to get there.
  4. Visualize what your highest self would do in your shoes. An easy way to do this is to picture what the ideal version of you would say if faced with similar circumstances.

Understanding that your life is not dependent on the external helps shift your identity from identifying yourself based on what you do to who you truly are.

You are not your job. You are not your bank account. You are not your status symbols — your car, your house, or lack thereof. We often identify ourselves using external markers: things like our jobs, our social standing, or how others perceive us. Although this may be comforting when things are going well, none of these things reflect who you really are.

Our careers in particular have come to define us. “What do you do?” has become the first question most of us ask someone we’ve just met. People face existential crises and feel unworthy when they lose their jobs. This is primarily because they can no longer depend on an identity that says: “I’m a lawyer.”

A kind inner voice paves way for a form of self-love that is independent of achievement. You are not your accomplishments. You are not your externals.

Taking charge of your inner voice by reminding yourself that you are not the external things that the world defines you by is in fact taking charge of your life. Often, the first step towards taking charge of your life is focusing your inner voice on that which is uplifting and life-expanding.

Here’s an old adage illustrating this timeless truth:

“One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.

One is Evil.

It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good.

It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Fight the urge to give in to your inner self critic. Learn to speak to yourself with kindness and benevolence and empathy. Focus your inner voice on that which uplifts and expands your life in beautiful directions. This will help you navigate through life, so make a consistent effort to develop this habit. A gentle inner voice is the first step to feeling empowered, peaceful and living a fulfilling life.

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