Do you have a little voice in your head that is constantly narrating your life? Many people do, and that voice tends to be pretty judgmental. It’s the voice that tells you your goals are out of reach. It’s the voice that tells you you’ll never get promoted or find a satisfying relationship or master a new skill. It might tell you that you are dumb or unlucky or unloved. It might chatter away all of the time, or it might save its most stinging criticism for the nighttime, making it hard to get to sleep or to stay asleep. And then you wake up tired and out of sorts—and that voice starts criticizing you all over again.
Negative Self-Talk and Recovery
This is a common problem that affects all sorts of people, but it can be especially devastating if you are trying to overcome a substance use disorder. That inner voice can be brutally effective at preventing you from getting the help you need. Or after treatment, it might babble away at you, reminding you that the danger of relapse is always there, undermining your confidence in your ability to stay sober. In fact, you might have turned to drugs or alcohol in the first place just to get that voice to quiet down—and you might be sorely tempted to take up your habit again if it will just bring an end to that ongoing criticism.
But there are other ways to quiet your inner critic, reduce negative self-talk, and to break the cycle caused by constantly being unkind to yourself.
Whose Voice Is It Anyway?
It’s easy to think of that inner voice—the one always telling you that you aren’t good enough—as an external party just telling you the facts about yourself. But that simply isn’t true.
Your inner voice is you.
You are the one constantly criticizing or belittling yourself. Sure, you may sometimes be repeating cruel things other people have said to you at one time or another, but you are the person responsible for the repetition. You are the person giving the negative words and thoughts power over you.
It would be wonderful if once you realized this fact you could simply switch the inner voice off or get it to change its tune about you. But negative self-talk is a powerful thing, especially if it has become ingrained in the way you think about yourself. As a rule, however, you will need to put some work in to get your inner voice to quiet down and be more supportive.
Five Ways to Change the Inner Narrative
- Reduce the amount of negative talk you allow yourself to hear from others. If some of your so-called friends, or your coworkers, or even members of your family have a tendency to belittle you or question your competence, it might be time to make a change. Ending a toxic relationship might not be easy, but it very well may be the best thing you can do—not only to change the narrative in your head but to support your overall recovery efforts.
- Surround yourself with people who build you up rather than tear you down. A strong support network is a key component of your recovery journey in many ways—including making sure that you hear positive messages your inner voice can latch on to and repeat when you need a boost. Whether it’s your fellow members of a 12-Step program or a group of close friends and family who are committed to support your recovery, finding these positive voices is a key component of changing the way you talk to yourself.
- Use daily affirmations. There may be times when you need to stop the train of negative self-talk but there is no one around to provide an encouraging boost. At moments like that, a steady practice of reflecting on daily affirmations can help turn your thoughts in a more positive direction. Focusing on affirmations may help you extend more grace to yourself and lessen your tendency to catastrophize—which means expecting the worst in most any situation.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness encourages us to focus on the present moment and reminds us that we are not defined by our thoughts and feelings. The practice may help you deal with stress, manage significant change (like entering treatment and the recovery journey), and quiet the inner critic. If you are interested in mindfulness, there may be opportunities in your community for exploring the practice. You can also find robust online resources, ranging from free options to subscription programs.
- Give your inner voice a name. Make sure it’s a name different from your own—and maybe something a bit silly. We’ve talked about how you are the voice in your head, but if you give that negative voice a separate name, you may find you can lessen its grip on your thoughts. You can gently (or even sternly) tell your inner critic to give it a rest. “Hush up, Herbert” just might do the trick—and maybe even make you smile.
We Will Always Encourage You
At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we know the little voice in your head may be telling you that detox and rehab won’t work for you. Maybe the voice tells you that you will be judged and scolded during treatment. We want to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. Entering treatment is brave—and the best decision you can make for yourself (and for the people you love). We will provide expert, personalized, compassionate care. And we’ll help you believe in yourself so that you enter your recovery journey with confidence. We are open, with precautions in place to protect you from the COVID-19 virus. Contact us today.