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June 22, 2023

How to Become Aware of Your Inner Dialogue and Reframe Negative Thoughts

By Mel Gutierrez

If you truly want to be empowered, then you need to become aware of how you speak to yourself. Ever try pumping yourself up before facing a difficult task? Or do you hear that voice inside you telling you how cringe your behavior was?

The above examples are opposite extremes of the chorus of voices that lives in our heads. To clarify, these are not voices you expect other people to hear or hallucinations. I’m talking about the voices that most of us “hear,” narrating our experiences, the basic operations, and the quality. Like when you’re rushing out of the house and saying aloud or internally, “Keys, wallet, phone…” while another voice constantly reminds you how much later you’ll be as the seconds tick by.

It’s interesting to note that the frequency and verbosity of our inner monologue (sometimes dialogue) are idiosyncratic, with a small segment of the population reporting the complete lack of an inner narrator. Suppose you are someone who does have that internal narration. In that case, you have a daily opportunity to boost your confidence and allow yourself to go for what you most desire. This positive self-talk practice will help you break patterns that affect and distract you from your goals. 

Step One

The first step is to become more aware of your internal monologue. Close your eyes and recall a time when you were really proud of yourself. Let the scene play out, and let your body feel that moment’s pride, happiness, or satisfaction. What are you telling yourself about this memory? What is the quality of that voice? Is it celebratory? Is it telling you what a great job you did? Or is it judging what you could have done better? 

By the way, it’s completely normal to have a mix of feedback at all times, especially when seeing ourselves in a positive light. Please refrain from judging your own inner monologue. Yes, we are here to improve self-talk, but the first step is to become more aware of it. No need to judge it. Take note of the tone of the voice and how it makes you feel.

Take a deep breath after you open your eyes and ground yourself for a moment by feeling your physical body. You did great! Paying attention to our internal mechanisms is deep and often difficult work. Congratulate yourself for even being willing to try. See, we’re already making our self-talk more positive!

Step Two

Now that you’re becoming more aware of your internal voices, try to actively manipulate their qualities of them. This second step is taking active responsibility for how you speak to yourself. In this step, you practice paying attention to some voices more than others and changing the quality/tone/texture of the voices to which you choose to pay attention. 

There are several ways to do this. Try turning the “volume” up or down on the voices. If you’re having trouble affecting the “volume,” you can play with the quality. If you have a voice that you’re trying to pay less attention to, make it sound funny and less serious or intense. This is my personal favorite method of taking the sting out of some of my more critical voices. It’s hard to take them seriously when they sound like Roger Rabbit. 

Please remember that this is YOUR mind, and you are now training to influence it proactively. You are allowed to use any method that works. So if you discover a device that I’m not mentioning benefits you, go with it! You don’t need anyone’s permission.

Let’s pause here. Take 3 deep breaths now. Slow those breaths down and focus on feeling your bottom on your seat or your feet on the floor. Concentrating on feeling this stability is a great way to ground yourself after confronting complex or challenging thoughts/emotions. Don’t underestimate the work you’re doing. The steps may be relatively straightforward, but that does not make this process necessarily effortless. You are brave, and taking a little grounding break can recharge your batteries so that you’re fully ready to go again (possibly even enthusiastic) for the next time you practice. If you get tired or frustrated, take it as a signal not to quit but to slow down and recharge. You got this!

Step Three

With practice, you’ll be able to have more influence over your internal monologue, but now is the time to implement positive statements. Step 3 is about telling yourself what you want to hear. It sounds simple, but this step often brings up the most resistance. It can feel silly to talk to yourself this way, or you might believe you’re protecting yourself from future pain by not diving too deeply into the positive self-narration. Be brave! If you feel resistant to this step or any others, just know that you are not alone. This work takes courage and imagination (critical ingredients for making magic).

Let’s take a breath together right now…What are you reaching for? Do you need to be more confident at work or with a lover? Be as specific as possible in whatever positive state you’re trying to call in. “I might be nervous, but I have everything necessary to make tomorrow’s presentation stellar!” “I am beautiful, and my lover is so lucky to receive my attention!”

See how it’s possible to “turn up the volume” on the positive statements. Sometimes it’s easier to try this with statements that feel hyperbolic, or some days you’ll need statements that feel a little “safer.” Be playful with how you approach this practice, and notice what feels like a statement you can say to yourself repeatedly. When you get more comfortable, you can build on it or pretend someone you trust is speaking to you. There are many ways to make this work for YOU!

This simple 3-step process works best if you add two more elements: Look at yourself in the mirror and speak to yourself out loud. The impact of your positive statements will be much more significant if you can use the power of your voice and if you can hold your own eye contact. If there is any discomfort, do whatever is necessary to push past it. Take a break, give yourself a hug, call a friend, or book a session with a therapist/coach. It’s worth meeting whatever keeps you from comfortably speaking lovingly to yourself. 

Be proactive about your self-talk. You don’t have to wait to fill yourself with loving and supportive energy. It’s more powerful coming from within than having someone else tell you. 

To Recap

  • Become aware of the chorus of voices that make up the theater of your internal psychodramas. 
  • Practice managing and changing negative voices by playing with their tone and volume.
  • Be brave and tell yourself exactly what you are craving to hear. If necessary, pretend someone you admire, respect and trust is speaking to you.

For those familiar with this kind of practice, you can advance it. Pick specific themes for your self-talk practice and ritualize the experience. You can light a candle when you are about to start and pick a specific intention. Build a playlist around your intended experience and dance while hyping yourself. Definitely pull out a mirror! Journaling about your experience could help you get a much better sense of what’s happening within. Creating depth and a sense of sanctity around this aspect of your self-development arsenal will add to a sense of satisfaction and celebration.

Consistent practice affirms that more is possible and that you are committed to moving toward what you desire most. Remember that the stories you tell yourself are the most important. Positive self-talk is the internalization of stories that benefit you most, don’t wait for someone else to tell them to you. You are whole and worthy as you are. Now go look in the mirror and tell yourself that.

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