Your Inner Voice
By: Coach J
I want to share a story with you about a friend named Carissa…
Carissa wasn’t thrilled with the weight she gained over the last year and she decided it was time to make a change. So, she did what most people do in this situation. She called up a friend who recently lost twenty five or so pounds and asked what she has been doing. Her friend, Allison, told her about her new exercise and diet regimen and after a few days of contemplation and preparation Carissa had started her ‘weight-loss journey’.
Within a week she was feeling AMAZING…she had lost four pounds, felt like her energy went through the roof, and for the first time in a year she was excited to be her. This was actually fun and her inner voice was cheering her on:
“Yeah baby! You got this, one day at a time.”
“Just wait til summer time, #tanlines.”
“Okay, some of this is challenging, but it’s so worth it.”
NOTE: At this point in the story her motivation is really high, therefore any sacrifice needed for this change seems small. Also, notice that she is now excited to be her (as in, she wasn’t excited to be her before) what do you think this says about how she views herself as a person?
Three more weeks go by and she has lost a total of eleven pounds, which is just over a third of her original goal to lose thirty pounds. She is telling everyone about ‘the new her’ and how excited she is to finally feel like she is in control of her weight and lifestyle. However, what she isn’t telling her friends is that the voice inside of her head is starting to take on a new personality (actually it’s going back to its normal personality from before she began to make change…a negative one):
“This is starting to get hard, it would be a lot easier to go back to the old you.”
“How long can you truly do this for?”
“Do we really have to workout today? Can’t we just stay in bed?”
“C’mon, you can have ONE piece of pizza, you’ve been eating SO good lately!”
NOTE: At this point, the new-ness of change is wearing off and her ‘inner-voice’ is doing its best to keep her comfortable and avoid possible failure, cuz let’s face it, this isn’t the first time Carissa has attempted to lose weight.
Fast forward another month. Carissa has lost a total of nineteen pounds in eight weeks (two-thirds of her original goal). She is feeling good, but something is off. It’s almost as if she thought she would feel more excited about her weight loss at this point…I mean, c’mon, she’s lost TWENTY POUNDS! Her clothes are definitely fitting better, but she just had her first weigh-in that didn’t show any weight loss and she’s beginning to get concerned. That voice comes back:
“See, this isn’t working anymore. I told you it would end.”
“You’ve been putting in all this work and it’s not even giving you the results you wanted.”
“Are you kidding me! All of this exercise and sacrificing pizza and ice cream, for what?”
NOTE: If Carissa was witnessing her friend go through this exact same experience, she’d be her biggest cheerleader. But since it is herself, she is her own worst critic. Also, weight can fluctuate daily based on many factors (water retention, hormones, stress, bathroom visits, etc.) and the scale reading can be misleading. What seems like a big deal to her, is actually a very normal part of the weight-loss process.
That night, she was invited to go out with some friends for dinner and drinks. During month one, this would’ve been a hard NO! #weightlossjourney. But now that it’s month two and she’s having these mixed feelings….she says to herself, “Okay, I’ll go out, but I’ll stay focused on a good meal and only have one drink.”
While sitting at the table contemplating what to eat, her inner dialogue sounds something like this:
“You are down almost twenty pounds, you deserve to get your favorite meal.”
“I don’t want to ruin all my progress, so maybe I’ll just get a smaller portion and avoid the bread.”
“Seriously? What is one night out gonna do, just go for it.”
“I know I should probably just get a salad, but I’ve been doing that all week and didn’t even lose a pound…bring on the burger and fries! Oh, and a tall beer :)
NOTE: This is called self-negotiation and it is a very destructive thing to take part in (although very common and inevitable). This is where the proverbial angel is on one shoulder pulling you towards ‘goodness’ and the devil is on your other shoulder pulling you towards ‘evil’. More on this later.
Carissa indulges in a delicious burger, fries, and a few beers. In it of itself, this is not a big deal…although during her drive home (don’t worry, she got an Uber :) she already begins to feel guilty and ashamed of her choice:
“What did I just do? I feel like crap. I should’ve just gotten the salad and only had one beer.”
“Ugh, I guarentee I’m going to gain weight from this. What a waste.”
“There’s no way I can keep up with this diet…I mean, who really lives their life this way?”
“Here we go again, another failed diet…I’m just gonna be fat forever.”
Does this sound familiar? If you’re human, I’m going to guess it does. You might not have gone through this exact situation but I’m sure you have these inner battles within other areas of your life.
So what can you do about it?
Awareness - “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” - Abraham Lincoln
Become aware of your inner dialogue. Simply start paying more attention to how you talk to yourself. In what areas of your life are you positive with yourself? What areas are you more negative? How do you react to this inner voice?
BONUS: write down the things you hear repetitively - the more something ‘shows up’ in your dialogue the more control it’s having on you, so write it down and get it out of your head.
Acceptance - “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” - Carl Jung
Now that you’re becoming more aware, you may start judging yourself for being so mean. This is normal, but not ideal. After awareness must come acceptance. Acceptance that ‘it is the way it is’ and it is a normal human experience. You can try saying something to yourself like this, “I accept my inner voice for what it is, but I know that it doesn’t define me. I’m okay with how it has treated me up to this point, but moving forward I’m going to take more control.”
Ask questions - “He who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask remains a fool forever.” - Chinese Proverb
Start asking yourself where these thoughts are stemming from. Try to dig deeper to determine when you began speaking this way to yourself. Most importantly, ask if the things you’re saying are true or just made up stories (hint hint: they’re mostly made up).
Your thoughts are not your thoughts - “The only bad thought is the one you believe in.” - Tony Robbins
Have you ever noticed that when you have a negative thought you perceive it to be ‘yours’? As if it belongs to ‘you’. Newsflash! You’re not the only one who’s ever thought something like, “I’m just not disciplined enough to workout every day” or “I’ll just never look like that, I’ve always been ‘thick’” or whatever other crazy, untrue, negative thought you’ve had.
So, if you’re not the only one who’s thunk it, then it can’t possibly be YOURS. Therefore, it’s just a thought, it’s not YOU. So moving forward, recognize the thoughts in your head as just thoughts, and be more conscious in choosing which ones you’ll believe in and which ones you’ll let go.
BONUS: when you notice a negative thought coming at you, pretend to grab it out of mid-air, crumbled it up, and throw it into space while saying, ‘go on, get’.
Remove judgment - “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” - William Shakespeare
Remember that self-negotiation thing I brought up earlier? It ultimately stems from the idea that you judge your actions or possible actions as being good or bad; “you were good all week, so you can cheat a little on the weekend.” or “the right thing to do is go to the gym, but I’d rather just go home and be lazy.” or “pizza is bad, broccoli is good…sleeping in is bad, getting up early is good….working out really hard is good, skipping the gym is bad.” You get the idea.
When you cast judgment on your food, exercise, sleep schedule, inner and outer dialogue, how you spend your money, etc. you’re in a constant battle with yourself to do the right thing or not. In turn, when you do the right thing you’re a ‘good boy or girl’ and when you do the wrong thing you’re a ‘bad boy or girl’. When you’re good, you judge yourself as being superior and when you’re bad you judge yourself for being inferior. This is a vicious cycle because the more ‘bad’ things you do, the worse you feel about yourself and the more often you feel bad about yourself you begin to believe you’re just a ‘bad person’ (bad can be interchanged with weak, lazy, fat, undisciplined, not worthy, etc.).
When you identify as a ‘thing’ you will subconsciously do whatever it takes to live up to that identity. For example; if you’ve rode the rollercoaster of weight loss for a long time you’re most likely telling a story to yourself that you’re someone who can’t keep weight off. You’re identifying as the type of person who starts a diet just to fail. Well, what do people who suck at keeping weight off do? That’s right, they start diets and fail at them. With this belief, what must you do to hold up your identity to yourself? You guessed it….continue to yo-yo.
The less judgement you project towards your actions and thoughts (and other people), the less you’ll feel ashamed, guilty, stupid, afraid, etc. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take responsibility for your actions or results, it simply means that they’re not good or bad, they just are what they are.
Woah, that kinda got deep, huh? My bad. Sometimes though we’ve gotta go ‘there’ to uncover what’s truly holding us back. I’m very curious what you think about this and whether or not you find success with the advice given. Please reach out directly if you don’t mind sharing: email@example.com
NOTE: Early on in the story, Carissa reached out to a friend for weight loss advice. This is understandable and in no way wrong. However, often times this results in exactly what happened in this story > failure and disappointment. Next time, Carissa could seek her fitness and nutrition advice from, I don’t know, maybe a trained fitness and nutrition coach, who can give her guidance that is based and her and her past experiences (shameless plug :)
NOTE: I am in no way a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or a trained professional in psychology, self-talk, etc. I simply share my experiences that I’ve had working with people, and experimenting myself. If you or someone you know is battling with severe emotional stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc. I highly encourage you to seek help from a trained therapist (and promise yourself you won’t feel ‘ashamed’ that you need to ask for help)!
- Book: “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle
- Book: “Awaken The Giant Within” by Tony Robbins
- Podcast: “Unstoppable” with Kerwin Rae
- Website: Psychology Today