Conquer your critical inner voice: Special interview with Dr. Lisa Firestone, bestselling psychologist

“You’re not smart enough.”

“You’re not attractive enough.”

“You will never find love.”

“You will never succeed.”

“You will never be happy.”

These are some of our critical inner voices, those adopted self-defeating thought patterns that hinder and harm us. Each person has their own individualized self-defeating voice (thoughts), perhaps related to their ability, appearance, or even goodness. These critical thoughts may come from the voices of our caregivers, peers, and others as we were growing up. We often adopt these critical inner voices as our own, and then we suffer from lowered self-esteem, regret, and sadness.

The inner voices also come in a seductive version—trying to lure you into self-defeating behavior: When you’re on a diet, it coaxes you, “Go ahead and eat that chocolate cake—you deserve it.” Then, when you eat the cake, its critical counterpart comes in and says, “You blew your diet—you’re a loser.”

There is a way to conquer your critical inner voices and live free from their influence Here are some ways to get your mental life back so you can think positive and uplifting thoughts a majority of the time.

*Identify the Voice: Write down or draw what it looks like—the Anger voice, the Fear Voice, the Regret Voice. Make it look like a cartoon so it loses its power to scare or intimidate you. See it as a loudmouthed, but impotent, invading entity that has no power to harm you. It has nothing to do with the real you—someone who is strong, loving, and successful.

*Speak to it in the Second Person: Say “You feel stupid,” instead of “I feel stupid.” By separating the essential, authentic you from the voice, you begin to become free from the imagined limitations it tries to impose on you. You recognize that you are someone much greater than the puny, mean-spirited voice that tries to infiltrate your mind.

*Recognize Self-Destructive Behaviors: Become aware (and write down in a journal) those times when the voice lured you into a self-destructive habit, addiction, or behavior; perhaps, smoking, eating, or drinking too much; choosing emotionally harmful relationships; procrastinating, or giving up on your goals. The more aware you are of exactly how much the Voice makes you do things that are against you, the more you will want to rid yourself of its influence.

*Talk Back to the Voice: Tell it: “I am smart. I am attractive. I am loving and lovable.” By doing this, you begin to gain your own inner power, apart from the Voice’s destructive influence. At first, the Voice will resist. It knows you have become comfortable with its tone; its words—it will try to make you feel weird or lonely without its negative chatter. Persevere and you will find that the critical inner voice will diminish in strength the more you instill positivity in your mind.

*Live the Good Life: Choose activities, behaviors, and people that enhance and motivate you. Seek personal meaning in the things you do. Start an exercise program, a spiritual or healing practice that uplifts you, hobbies or interests that inspire you. Associate with like-minded people who want to elevate themselves and help others. Before long you will start to have more healing and self-enhancing thoughts, and you will have more joy and peace in your life.

You can be free from imagined limitations and get your mental life back. Stand up to your critical inner voices and you will find a new powerful voice in your head. It is called “Love”: Love toward yourself, others, and a higher nature. This is the most beautiful voice of all.

For more information, listen to our Podcast: “Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice