Voices in your head

In my mind I talk to myself constantly. I expect, from everything I’ve heard, most people do this. It usually gets a bad rap. We’re told we should meditate, exercise, do yoga, etcetera, to “quiet the voices in your head.” We hear also about “self-talk” and how much it matters what exactly you say to yourself – essentially that the voice in one’s head is far more powerful than any outside it. True enough, although it bears mentioning that those words are often a replication of someone else’s be it a parent (even a long dead one), a boss, or a spouse.

I’m not sure I understand or could make a real distinction between plain ol’ thinking and self-talk. I guess self-talk would be more declarative in nature, less ruminative, and perhaps most importantly, repetitive by design, like:

“I’m an idiot.”

“I’m a good girl.”

“I’m a bad boy.”

“I am brilliant.”

“Nobody likes me.”

“My whole life is a failure.”

“I am beautiful.”

“I’ll never get ahead.”

“My talents are underappreciated.”

“My children are gifted.”

“I contribute so much to society.”

“My family wouldn’t last a day without me.”

“Nobody else could do my job as well as I do.”

“I’m ugly.”

“I’m stupid.”

“All women want me.”

“All men want me.”

“Why do I say such stupid things?”

“If I was dead, no one would care.”

“I’m smarter than everybody else.”

“I deserve the best in life.”

“I’m a fat pig.”

I think about the things I say to myself. Yes, I think about my thinking! (Again, it’s very busy in here.) I have observed that the things I tell myself change over time. I’m certain I’m not doing the same self-talk I did ten years ago, and even that would be different from the “talk” ten years before it.

If I stop and consider, I’m not sure there’s been any constant… except, I feel I’ve always talked to myself about honesty and truthfulness: “Tell the truth.” “Be honest.” “Tell him.” “Tell her.” “Speak up.” “What is the truth?”

I try to remember things I used to say to myself but no longer do. Mostly, I cannot. I shed them along with whatever motivated their use in their day.

I can tell you one I’ve been saying to myself on a regular basis for awhile now:

“Don’t be an idiot.”

Now this one requires a bit-o-explanation. I need to point out that I’m not calling myself an idiot – I don’t – however, it’s more of a preemptive strike, to ensure I don’t ever need to reach the “I’m an idiot” stage. It’s a warning, a friendly I’m-looking-out-for-your-interests warning. Believe you me, I NEED to hear this at times. I contemplate doing and saying a wide variety of things, as I imagine, so do you. A lot of them, ok, some of them, are just not all that wise. They are not the best ideas. The tone I say this to myself in, is not snarky or mean, but matter-of-fact.

“Let’s go.”
“Cβ€˜mon Colette.”
“Let’s go, Colette.”
“Let’s get going.”
Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.

The above get A LOT of play in my mind as they are multipurpose motivators, handy for oh, so many occasions! Any time I need to get a move on, need to get something done, especially something I don’t really want to do, I say one or more of these to myself. It’s a push, a way to shift gears, a challenge to stop doing whatever I’m doing and move on to the next thing.

Recently I find myself saying this one:

“You’ve had your fun.”

I say this to myself to acknowledge I’ve enjoyed my time, wherever it was, whenever it was, and now it’s time for the less-fun things or merely something else. It can be a way of talking to the little kid in me, who is metaphorically (and sometimes not-so-metaphorically) whining, “But I don’t want to go to bed yet” or “I want more cake” or “Why does this day have to ever end?” or “I want to watch one more episode.” “You’ve had your fun” comes the answer. It’s not a mean voice, but one who knows what’s what.

I’d be remiss not to add:

“Lighten up on yourself.”

I’ve been saying this one to myself quite a bit, encouraging myself to put down the proverbial stick. At first blush, it might seem that this phrase is counter to some of my others, which are encouraging me to DO something. Is this one telling me to slack off? Oh no, rather it’s to get me to relax on things I don’t need to get quite so wound up about, to drop inconsequential things from the mental to-do list, to not always be knocking myself out (whether for someone else or only on my behalf). Sometimes “good enough” suffices, or “good enough for now” suffices. It is a forgiving notion, this lightening-up.

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43 thoughts on “Voices in your head

  1. SD Gates

    I have a tendency to berate myself in my head. When I think not such a nice thought about someone, I then scold myself for thinking that, make myself take it back with the threat of Karma coming to kick me in my butt. I think it is good to have those voices, they keep yourself in check!

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I think a lot of people say negative things to themselves. I’ve consciously worked to make mine less so, or at least phrase them differently. I totally agree with the karma-payback! It seems like almost every time I make a needless judgment, the universe kicks me immediately. It’s almost freakish.

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  2. Deb

    Entire conversations happen in my head, especially at night in the dark. I hate when I can’t turn them off though, which goes back to that post on the love of one’s bed and deep sleep…:)

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  3. John Callaghan

    I have very long and detailed conversations with myself all throughout the day. One thing I delight in doing is arguing vehemently for both sides of an issue. On occasion I will really to some terrible self talk but as I get older I am becoming more gently and kind to myself. Very interesting post.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks John. Your candor is always refreshing & appreciated. When you internally argue both sides of an issue, does one “win” or does it become circular? Sometimes I go ’round and ’round because I’m good at seeing many sides…. I have several things I say to myself to be kinder too; the repetition is useful. It’s as if when I head down a not-good avenue of thought, an “advocate voice” now knows to pipe up.

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      1. John Callaghan

        For a lot of issues I come to a stalemate but sometimes one side of an issue will come out ahead. I also have an “advocate” voice (I like that term) that will step in and tell me to “knock it off” and stop berating myself. It sounds like there’s a hell of a party going on in our heads.

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          I have no doubt on that last point.

          “Knock it off” is good too. I also have “Don’t be mean to yourself.” The negative self-talk is like totally pointless penance – in the end there is zip to show for it.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Ideally, most of us are our own best friend but it’s often not the case. People say horrible things to themselves without ever thinking about it. It’s true, I have worked to become my own advocate, internally & externally.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thank you! I’d make a distinction between general lightening up (the kind other people tell us to do because they don’t think we should care as much about the things we care about) and telling yourself to lighten up on all the musts, shoulds, etc that are self-imposed and counterproductive.

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  4. moylomenterprises

    The voices on my head are mean workaholics or super excited cheerleaders – – haven’t figured out which yet ^_^

    Push! Don’t stop. You’re almost there! Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t, by God you can! Nap now, you have a lot to do later! And on and on…

    I never try to silence them for they are my driving force, my source of inner strength, the medium through which I motivate myself.

    The voice of God is also there, and I am learning daily how to fine-tune my heart and ears to hear Him more clearly as I often confuse what He wants for me and what I want for myself. But I’m trying more to be still and recognize His presence.

    Great post, enjoyed reading ^_^

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks for commenting! I guess the only reason to try to silence them – or some of them – is if someone recognizes they are negative, unhelpful, or even the voice of someone else as I suggested (parents’ voices, for better & worse, have a way of becoming lodged).

      Yours sound very energetic and encouraging!

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      1. moylomenterprises

        Thanks! I developed positive self talk as early as my late teens since my mom had a habit of negative reprimand to scare us into submission instead of positive reenforment and uplifting words of wisdom. I was scarred with low self esteem for a very long time and after moving out at 19 and living with my aunt who had a very difficult approach to parenting I learned that there was a better way. Slowly I learned to believe in myself and developed a bull-headed approach to life – – if mom thinks I can’t then by golly I was determined to make it happen just to prove her wrong! This mentally propelled me into many successful endeavors even business ownership and has served as my source for inner strength and a sense of accomplishment. Of sites not every endeavor was successful but at least I tried instead of thinking I couldn’t without even attempting.

        I do understand wanting to silence negative voices, and I did that by replacing them with positive ones. I no longer hear those bad voices and I am eternally grateful!

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        1. moylomenterprises

          Typo corrections:
          – …instead of positive REINFORCEMENT (not > reenforment) …
          – …my aunt who had a very DIFFERENT (not > difficult) approach to parenting…
          – …OF COURSE (not > Of sites) not every endeavor was successful

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          1. moylomenterprises

            Yes, very true.
            I admit that mom raised us the best she knew how but that does negate the fact that her words caused a lot of hurt.
            In the end I do thank her often for giving me life and for fueling my independence for it has made me the person I am today.

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  5. Angie Mc

    My favorite current thoughts include sweet talk like, “You got this, kid!” It’s as if all the cheering I do for my sons on the baseball sidelines has rubbed off one me πŸ˜€

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      1. Angie Mc

        Colette, you can imagine how grateful I am for these words instead of others from my past which mostly added up to me not being good enough. Two things. I never see out to implant these sweeter words into my brain so they are a gift of sorts, not something I did (at least not intentionally). And I’m more than good enough. So are my friends ❀️😎

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          I think I get what you’re saying. These are not affirmations, but spring up of their own volition, spontaneously. (It’s not like reciting,”I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darnit people like me!”) It’s the same for me; I didn’t make them up or read them in a book. In fact, before writing the post, I had to stop & think was, “You’ve had your fun” something my mother ever said? No, it wasn’t. I came up with it spontaneously.

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  6. vanbytheriver

    You had me at ” it’s very busy in here”. Spent a lifetime getting rid of the self-talk that reinforced beliefs that were not my own. I hear the kinder, gentler voice now that comes with time and experience….often shows up as “Give yourself a break “.

    If you lean toward empathy, you will understand the need for the message “It’s not my problem”. That’s one still under construction for me.

    Another “thougts-full” post, Colette. It’s so much more than “good enough”.( I have to stop now before I run out of quotation marks.) ☺ Van

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thank you Van!! Like you, I have spent years teasing out the self-talk. I had to effectively give myself permission to change it and make it good/better (whereas when I was younger, I wanted other people to say good things to me).

      I recognize also “give yourself a break” and “it’s not my problem.” I also say “Don’t make this your problem.” And “No, Colette, don’t” (when tempted to get involved and “help”).

      Quotation marks are great! You have such a nice, supportive way about you.

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      1. vanbytheriver

        Thanks, Colette, that’s such a nice compliment. I enjoy our dialog; think we are like-minded in many ways. I just may have been beating myself up a bit longer than you, and would love to share some battle wisdom. ☺ Van

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  7. markbialczak

    Since I started working out of my house, by myself — OK, my colleague is now Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle — I only have myself with which to talk, Colette. Such a change after 30 years in the newsroom, where it was never quiet, the phone was ringing, there was a meeting to attend, I had to make a call or go out on assignment, somebody was seeking a second opinion. Now I find myself cheerleading myself a lot more about the quality of my work and getting more of it. “Yeah, that’s the right way to say it, Mark.” “OK, that’s the best schedule for the rest of the day.” “Now that would make an interesting community column, Mark.” And of course there’s always, “I said to myself, self.” Only when I’m trying to lighten my mood, though. I tend to talk out loud right away when my dear wife Karen gets home from work.

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  8. Andrew Davis

    Like Jiminy Cricket… allowing one’s conscience to be their guide. The thing I remember is that my thoughts are mine. For whatever reason, they stuck. Where I do have a choice, is whether to believe them. I accept them while at the same time know they are not always the smartest people in the room. Self-talk, like giving yourself positive affirmations, can be a great confidence builder. Then there’s the other talk, as from novels Fight Club or Birdy, where another whole personality emerges. As long as we have control of what we believe, what is the truth, we can keep it from becoming something more serious and possibly debilitating.
    Thanks for keeping us thinking, Colette!

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      There are probably distinctions to be made between conscience and thought, as there is between thought and self-talk. Thinking is so random and stream-of-conscious oriented; self talk tends to repeat and be all the things we believe, for better & worse. I’m not a big fan of affirmations that are too self-conscious in nature and sometimes forced, not for me anyway. The self-talk springs naturally. But it bears watching.

      And thanks for reading, Andrew!

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  9. Choosing

    Same here – lots of talking going on in the good old head. πŸ˜‰ I have tried meditating (although only half-heartedly, I have to admit), but it seems the only effect it has is to make it nice and quiet inside me so that the thoughts in my head do not have to scream so loud to be heard. πŸ™‚

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      There you go. I understand well. am resistant to formal meditating. I don’t need any more tasks or things-to-do. I’d much rather take a walk in nature for a calming/meditative experience. Thanks for commenting.

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