The Critical and Encouraging Voices in Your Head
It would be so great if the voices in our head were encouraging ones like a crowd in a stadium cheering for you or a friend reminding you of all of your positive virtues. The reality for almost everyone, however, is that that critical voices in our heads are the dominant ones. They can be monster-like, brutish, and really hard.
I think that most of the critical voices start in kindergarten or soon thereafter. Children are not criticized severely when they are young, but when they get to school, parents look around, believe that they are in contest to see who is going to make it to the top, then they start finding everything that is wrong with their children. Children are largely raised by people who have their own critical voices in their head so the parents just see the negative and try to correct it.
The critical voice thrives on making comparisons and is only ever very briefly satisfied with a very high mark, but even as a ribbon is placed on their child’s chest, the critical voice is already thinking of what is wrong and what to do next. The voice lives out of the fear of reaching adulthood in poverty and being discarded. As a result of this most people fail at the one area of life that they care about the most, their intimate relationships. This is because schools and businesses do not grade or hire on the basis of competent relationships, even though it is fundamental for success. They look at who has the highest scores. The problem is that no one is measuring people in relational ability. At best you get a mark for not saying anything controversial, staying in your seat, and doing what your told.
Being competent in human relationships means among other things that you have two fundamental processes, finding and acknowledging the positive in others and being a good listener in a non-judgmental way. When you are trying to get a child to advance in the way most people do it, they are making critical judgments constantly about what is lacking and are only ever focused on the negative. This produces people who either believe that they are always lacking and worthless or people who try to advance by finding the faults in others. No one likes the process, but most people seem to have no other choice than to find fault.
There is not a single bit of evidence in the educational research to suggest that finding fault boosts achievement. What seems to make a difference for achievement is in how much time people stay fully engaged in an activity and then receiving feedback that is useful for improvement. When you hear words of encouragement that tell you what you are doing correctly and name your positive aspects, you feel like staying engaged and doing more. When you tell yourself in your head that you are doing well, you will stay in whatever you are doing longer. Then you need some instructional feedback for how to get even better. When people hear critical comments of how lousy they are doing, most tend to tense up and get more tentative. They lose their confidence to get in the middle of the action. They stay outside of the action.
The myth that most people grow up with is that finding fault and saying it is what makes people improve. As they become youth and adults the voice that was their parent’s becomes an internal one. They now engage in a lot of self criticism. When we have self criticism, we become disengaged from the very processes that will help us improve. This is because we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, coming up short, so we gradually quit.
When you have encouraging voices in your head, you hear how well you performed and then it makes you want to get out there, do more, and listen to instruction. Criticism tends to take away our “guts”, our intestinal fortitude. Over time the beer belly grows. It shows us that we have lost our fortitude to stay in the midst and give it our all. You don’t need others to criticize you because you do it to yourself.
So a big change process for most people is the move from a very critical voice in their heads to a voice that helps them become engaged fully in life. The first step is the awareness of what the negative voice sounds like in your head because for most people it is entirely unconscious. When you start hearing it, what you will recognize is that the critical voice is your ego-in-disguise and it is trying to take over your life by keeping your true self out of the picture. It is crafty and mean and is excellent and dominating you and it keeps you out. It doesn’t want to give up its position even to the destruction of your whole life.
The second step is to hold the critical voice to the side for awhile and be aware of what your encouraging or true voice sounds like. It is only interested in seeing things in a positive light so it will have a positive ring to it. Listen to it. You will notice that when you hear it you feel like doing more positive activities. It is miraculous.
The third step is make a list of activities that you want to do more often and better and then experiment with both voices to see which one you are more motivated by.
The fourth step is to let go of critical voice being the dominant one by turning off its volume. At the same time turn on the volume of the positive one and become more aware of it all the time.
This will dramatically improve your fortitude. The only problem in doing this procedure is that in the midst of changing the voices from one voice to another, you might run into the fear of poverty or something like it. If you do not address that fear, the ego voice will remain in tact because it feeds on the idea that criticism is the way to overcome the bottom state.