There’s a difference between talking to yourself and listening to yourself. It’s the difference between anxiety and confusion compared to perspective and traction.
You’re not crazy if you talk to yourself. It’s a practice many people find helpful – including me. It helps me see more clearly what’s really going on.
When listening to yourself you hear phrases like…
- “You’re probably going to fail”
- “You’ll never figure this out”
- “Just give up and try something else”
- “You’re not qualified”
Listening to yourself is a passive exercise. It’s letting the negative tapes from your past play and dictate your attitudes and actions with a detrimental affect.
Talking to yourself is an active exercise. It helps navigate the landmines of unproductive head noise, fosters a positive attitude and creates action you can live with.
Let me illustrate
This last while, I’ve been steadily increasing my work load. It’s been rewarding to be officially working but not exactly anxiety free. I set goals as I started back to work which have helped but lately I’ve been challenged as I’ve been listening to myself.
In listening to myself, I’ve been hearing “you’re not reaching your goals.” That would be fine if it stopped there but the voice goes on, “You don’t have what it takes to do your job do you?” “You’ve gotten soft because you’ve been off too long.” Bla bla bla…
This week I called a time out! Wait a minute. Something is off with this chatter going on inside my head. The voice makes sense on one level but on another felt like a bully.
No, I’m not reaching my goals – that’s true. But that doesn’t mean I’m not making a difference or not able to do my job.
As the voice got louder, I realized it was time to do some talking! I stepped back, went for a walk around the block (which is progress!) and spent some time talking to myself.
I realized I may have set the bar too high – in light of the upcoming surgery and subsequent three month work stoppage. I decided to calm down, recalibrate and change how I look at things. I told myself to keep my expectations high enough to provide a push but not attach personal worth or value to expectations outside my control.
As I continued to talk to myself, I talked myself down from the anxious ledge of over-inflated expectations and a perceived place of failure onto the firm ground of “you are making a difference – it’s a season of sowing not harvest right now.”
In light of my story, let me give you some transferable principles to help you do less listening and more talking.
Principles to Help You Listen to Yourself Less and Talk to Yourself More
- Don’t ignore what you’re listening to.
This may sound counter intuitive but to ignore or suppress the inner chatter will only increase its intensity and frequency. You don’t have to agree with what you’re hearing but it’s important to acknowledge it and the feelings it creates.
- Do listen and learn from what you’re hearing.
The challenge in listening to your head noise is to hear what’s being said but not allow the inner voice to bully you into worry and feelings of inadequacy. Being curious about what’s being said can point to discoveries and help you separate truth from fiction.
Your inside voice can help you set high standards but if it that voice pushes too hard, it crosses the line into unhealthy motivation.
- Do talk to yourself in order to stay in action.
The more you train and strengthen your ability to talk to yourself, the more of a leadership role your talking will have in your life. You move on into the kind of action you resonate with by talking to yourself, reframing your situation and speaking the truth into your situation.
A final thought
I had a light bulb moment this week. It came to me on my walk around the block. When it came to me, I had a conversation with myself that went something like this:
“You are having a bigger impact than you think. Having stretch goals hasn’t been a bad thing because it has gotten you out of your comfort zone and opened up doors. You need to see the season you’re in as a season of sowing not harvest. Your season of launching out and harvest will come. Be ready for this next surgery when it comes. Do what you can until then. Keep adding value to the people you can help right now. You are in action – doing important work. If you listen to this voice you’ll be a whole lot better off!”
What voice is louder in your life?
What can you do to do more talking and less listening?
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