Which voice are you listening to?
The power of not listening to that voice...
A little while ago I was on a three-day yoga retreat in Somerset. Heaven in so many ways - handing myself over to someone else, being cooked for, the classes and the camaraderie of a group of women away from home.
What I hadn’t expected was how it completely quieted one of my inner voices - the one that holds me back and keeps me nicely in my comfort zone. So much so that I took the plunge and swam outdoors in a lake! Before the weekend I wasn’t even going to take my swimsuit, on the Saturday I decided against it, but on the Sunday, I felt lighter and open to giving it a try. I felt ready. After all, it was sunny and hot, in beautiful surroundings, with a bunch of like-minded women. And thank goodness I did. I loved it!
My lesson? It was only the voices in my head holding me back - the fear of judgment, the fear of getting it wrong, the fear of comparison. Once I noticed and understood it, I could choose to be led by something else - my values of adventure and love of learning, my belief in the power of collaboration (I partnered up with someone who felt just like me!).
We all have a voice (often voices!) like this that holds us back. They are completely natural and hardwired in us – a universal safety net designed to protect us and keep us safe.
They often form in childhood and do a great job for us at the time, and yet we outgrow the need for them without realising.
As adults they tend to be the voice of self-doubt, of judgement, of not good enough as I am – and we can take them at their word - but they are not the voice of truth!
How to manage the inner voice
The good news is we can learn to listen to them but not be directed by them. Here’s a very potted guide, distilled down from my coaching training and a lot of reading on the topic:
1. Spot it
If you take just one step, it’s this one. Start to simply notice how you talk to yourself if you make a mistake, or when you feel yourself reacting badly to something or someone, or when you’re about to take a big step or make a decision.
You can ask yourself what you are reacting to, explore the narrative running through your head, and notice the impact on you; your feelings, your actions, your body etc.
2. Get to know it
When we appreciate it’s our safety instinct, trying to protect us from something, we can get separate it out and get curious about it:
- What is it trying to keep you safe from?
- Is there a particular event that shaped its perspective?
You can even create a character for it if you like.
3. Manage it
Once you have a clear picture of it, and what it’s trying to do, you can have some fun playing with different options to quieten and redirect it – different things work for different people.
A few examples are to calm it (what does it need to hear to make it feel safe?), think about what advice you would give a friend in the same situation, or choose a value to be led by instead (this helped me get into that lake!)
What is the voice in your head holding you back from? What's your equivalent of the lake? Getting to know that inner voice might just have you doing it...