play with your internal dialogue
We constantly talk to ourselves, and fortunately, most of the time, this dialogue happens internally in our heads. This internal voice is our constant companion, providing us with advice and feedback on our actions.
Unlike the voices of our friends, family, and colleagues, this voice is only heard by us. Although the tone of this voice changes with context - for example, it may scold us when we make a silly mistake, but forgive us for grave errors, reasoning that it values intent more than the outcome. It can understand, encourage and judge us. This voice is an important factor that defines our relationship with ourselves.
However, since we are the only listeners, we cannot validate if the tone of this voice is fair. There are times when the tone is overly critical, like in my teenage years, when the voice was often judgmental, filled with phrases like “should,” “should have,” “must,” and “must have.” This indicates that my relationship with myself was very commanding, which isn’t necessarily bad, but in retrospect, I needed a more understanding voice. So it was a little unfair to me, I just couldn’t recognize it in that moment.
If you notice that your tone stays the same across contexts and time, you may need to check if this voice is working for you or not. A good way to do that would be to start playing with the tone of this internal voice. Deliberately change the default tone with something surprising. For example, when you make a silly mistake, instead of being harsh on yourself, which is the default setting, talk to yourself in the voice of your favorite teacher or coach, who helped you fix your mistakes with a kind and understanding voice.
Keep experimenting with it every chance you get. Eventually, you will find instances where your default tone doesn’t work for you, and the experimental tone does wonders. You will also find instances where this exercise will make you feel like an idiot, but that is expected when trying new things, so go easy on yourself. But these “default tone bad” instances should help you identify the tone that you need to avoid. Then, deliberately try to replace it with another tone (by writing, role-playing, or repeating). Keep experimenting to learn more about yourself and the tone that works for you.
PS: Proof reading and fixes done on chatGPT instead of Grammarly