I have a secret to share. One that has stayed hidden inside most of my life yet it has wielded power and control over the decisions I make everyday. My secret is about the voice I hear in my head that narrates just about everything I do. It influences my mood, my attitudes, my thoughts and my actions. It’s always there and it seems that when I’m feeling particularly stressed, anxious, upset or simply tired, my inner voice turns its volume to full blast.
I know I’m not the only one to experience stress, anxiety, tiredness, busy-ness and uncertainty at different times in my life. For students it might be at exam time, for parents it could be in the evenings or in the lead-up to Christmas, for athletes it could be during a particularly rigorous training regime, and for all of us it can happen in the normal course of our day.
When I feel most pressured or stressed, my inner voice amplifies its taunting and, yes, it’s very convincing! It says things to me like “You’re hopeless”, “You’ll never get it right”, “You’re too slow”, “You’ll never keep up – don’t even try”, and “Everyone knows you’re a fraud!”
Most people I’ve spoken to admit to hearing sneaky, confidence-destroying voices like the one I get in my head from time to time. It’s the voice of past experiences, insecurities, fears, lack of self-confidence and overwhelming self-doubt.
But I ask you, do you always believe everything that everybody tells you? Of course not! Then why do we get sucked into believing that sneaky, invisible inner voice? The reason can be found in repetition – one of the simplest and most effective forms of learning (and marketing). From my childhood I still hear the little ditties from TV advertising such as “Slip Slop Slap”, “Life, Be in it” and “You’re soaking in it!” In the same way when we hear our internal voice repeatedly giving us the same message, it tends to stick. Subconsciously we look for the evidence to back it up, and that further convinces us it’s telling the truth!
My challenge to each of you today is to create or adopt a new slogan, or a mantra, for yourself – one that’s constructive, inspiring, energising and motivating. By tapping into your own internal well of wisdom you may discover a mantra that is helpful for you right now. Or your mantra might quietly make its way into your consciousness through meditation, reflection or while you’re engaged in a flowing activity like painting, cycling, or swimming. Your mantra might surprise you quite unexpectedly whilst reading a book of fiction, poetry or a sacred book, or while you’re listening to a song (I just love the words in that song Helen Reddy sang “I am woman hear me roar…….. I am strong, I am invincible” – click the link at the end of the page to watch and listen to a live version!); or you might adopt the words you hear spoken by a friend or a stranger. You’ll know you’ve discovered a personal mantra when the words strike a chord in your heart that has meaning that only you can truly know.
It’s likely that you’ll uncover many different mantras over time, each one suited to a particular time or situation. Mantras can be very powerful tools to change your inner dialogue, especially if you consciously look for the evidence to back them up.
One of my personal favourite mantras also happens to be Nike’s slogan “Just do it”. I can choose to consciously listen to myself saying “Just do it” when I need that bit of extra focus and motivation to get on with a task regardless of how I’m feeling. Another of my favourites is “A little bit is better than nothing”. As a natural perfectionist, every day can be challenging when there’s simply not enough time to do everything that I want to do at the standard I want to do it. Half an hour at the pool between client sessions is better than nothing. A ride on the exercise bike in wet weather is better than no ride at all.
Be sure to empower your new inner voice by giving it plenty of airtime and nurturing it with kind words and attention. Turn it up full blast when you most need it. Stay patient, and give it space to do its job of inspiring and empowering not only yourself, but also others around you!