Defeating Your Inner Voice

Posted by Dan Sevillle on October 8, 2013

We all know (and some of us are) those people who apologize constantly and make lots of self-deprecating remarks to others.  While these actions may seem gracious or accommodating on the surface, oftentimes the person behind them is seeking (and finding) gratification through their use.  This may sound crazy, but consider this very typical scenario that plays out across the world every single day.
A man has a normal day at the office, which leaves him feeling slightly tired but generally still somewhat energized at the end of his day.  He shuts down his computer, says a cheery goodbye to his colleagues, and drives home.  As he emerges from his car at home and walks towards the front door, it is as if a debilitating fatigue comes over him.  His shoulders sag, and he can hardly wait to collapse on his couch and kick his feet up after such a long, hard day.
What has come over this man?  Is it some mystery illness or allergy contracted on the commute or emanating from his home?  No.  In this case, his wife has set him up to come home exhausted every night because she is sympathetic about his job.  She assumes her most attentive, loving manner when she thinks he has had a hard day.  The consequence of this correlation is that EVERY day becomes a hard day at work.
It is not that he is being intentionally dishonest and misleading her.  He is not consciously thinking, “I am actually feeling fine, but let me see if I can get some attention and maybe even a shoulder rub.”  No, the man does genuinely now feel tired, but – unknowingly – it is for entirely subconscious purposes.  Our minds (and, in turn, bodies) will play strange tricks on us, and we will put up with an enormous amount of inconvenience (or even pain) to fulfill an inner narrative.  
So, the man talks about how tired he is from an exhausting day at work while the wife talks about how frazzled she is from trying to entertain the kids and taking care of the house.  Both are compelled to provide sympathy, love, and comfort – which were the unstated desired objective.
What else is in this inner narrative, and how much of your daily life is influenced by it?
Would you believe the majority of your actions are driven to feed this inner voice?
This compulsion can manifest itself in almost anything, including benign activities like zoning out in front of the television watching a serial drama or horror movie or reality show.  They each provide a safe way for people to experience high levels of suspense without actually being in any real danger.  Sports can satisfy the same need.  Watching sports allows us to enter an ideal world where the suspenseful outcome has no actual bearing on our real daily lives (though it may not seem like it sometimes).  People love a dramatic buildup, a suspenseful climax, and a clear resolution, which are all inherent elements of sports.
This same inner voice can also become a distraction or limiting factor in what we achieve in our daily lives.  For a perfect example of this, just to take a few moments to consider some minor things in your own personal habits that you would like to change but have always dismissed as “just part of your nature.”  Are you are always running late?  Are you bad with directions?  Is your desk always messy?  Are you not a morning person?  Are you just not that good of a speller?  Fill in the blank for yourself.
How many of these are actually the way they are simply because your inner voice says they are?  What would happen if we simply said something new with that voice or fed it an entirely different message?  Is it really your nature or are you creating and living a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Beginning today – as you become more aware of this inner voice – you can begin to understand when it is operating and you become self-critical or needlessly interpret events in a negative way.  This understanding is the first step toward change.  Once you recognize the potentially destructive influence of a critical inner voice, you can choose to ignore its dictates and live life from a more realistic point of view – free from previously imagined constraints and limitations.
Here are a couple of the most effective strategies for combating the inner voice:
Do not let your past determine your future behavior.  Legendary professional wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts once wisely said, “My history is not my destiny.”  There is great truth and hope in that realization.  While past events can offer us insights into why we did not succeed at a particular task or role, we often wrongly assume that they are also a good indicator of what will go wrong either in the present or future.  Although there is little we can do to correct the mistakes made in the past, we still have the opportunity to ensure that the present and future turn out differently from what we previously experienced.
Ignore the noise.  If we look at any example of individuals who represent models of personal or professional success, we will find one trait they share in common: they persevered despite setbacks because they believed in the end outcome.  As much as athletes need to train hard if they want to be the best in their sport, being able to re-train our inner voice to focus on where we can go and on what we can accomplish is hard work that requires a firm commitment on our part to see it through.
No post of mine would be complete without a scripture reference, and the Bible speaks very clearly to this internal human struggle in many passages.  While Philippians 4:13 is one of the most well-known and oft-quoted verses from the New Testament, I would draw your attention instead to a portion of Philippians 3:13 – just one chapter prior instead – for great advice on dismissing the inner voice calling you to dwell on your past and focus on your shortcomings.
 “but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before”