The Voices In Your Head
We all have voices in our heads. You have them. I have them. We all have them.
I’m not here to help you eliminate those voices. I’m just here to help you control the volume on the voices you hear. You can turn up the voices that align with your values and goals, and reduce the negative noise that isn’t conducive to you.
Think of all the voices you hear like you are listening to Spotify, or if you’re of an older generation, radio stations. You can’t decide what gets published on these platforms, but you have the choice to listen to it. You control the volume dial and what gets put out into the world via your speaker system. Unfortunately, Miley Cyrus being played on the radio is not within your control. But, Miley Cyrus being played on your radio is.
We are the filters to our world. We don’t get to decide everything that’s released into the world, but we do get to decide how much our voice and actions amplify it.
We need filters that are rigorous with what it allows in, and even more rigorous with what it allows out.
“Out” isn’t necessarily out into the world. “Out” can still be in your head but it’s made more or less real by the amount of time you spend with it.
Through social media and online rating systems, “out” has become a way of life. Platforms like Facebook & Yelp say, “you know that voice in your head...you should not only listen to it...but you should post about it.”
We live in a society where everybody is a pundit or critic. If you’re like me, simply being critical of yourself is enough. I’m my toughest critic and I don’t need any more critics than the coaches I’ve hired in my life.
When did we turn into a world full of critics?
At the risk of dating myself, I remember when Sportscenter on ESPN was this amazing, inspiring show that highlighted all the greatest happenings in the sports world. I loved watching incredible feats of human physicality whether it be in basketball or cricket. Even at a young age, I loved the inspiring stories, and insights from Sunday conversations of the greatest coaches and players of the time. Stories on Sportscenter would move me to tears on the regular.
Nowadays it’s about 5 minutes of sports reporting, and 55 minutes of what someone thought about it. Opinions have become the story.
The regular news channels are no different. It’s not odd to hear, “One Twitter user tweeted…” or “a comment on the post said…”
We’ve been brainwashed by the media, mainstream and social, to believe our opinion matters more than they do. Heck, I’m writing you now about my opinion on opinion. I’m not blind to the irony here.
Have you ever found yourself intrigued by a cooking show hoping the judges will pick the same winner you’ve already crowned in your head? You’ve decided through your years of culinary school, and mastery of the art of mincing, that you’re now an expert ready to decide someone’s fate.
You know who the ONLY judge who matters when it comes to food is? Yes that’s right...the person eating the food. Food is taste, and taste doesn’t translate over TV, or at least not as far as I’m aware.
We get so caught up in this job of picking winners and losers. We’re convinced it’s our job to decide who wins American Idol or America’s Next Great Baker.
What if it wasn’t our job to always have an opinion?
What if that voice inside our head right now wasn’t really ours?
As a coach, it’s my job to empower others. And I fully realize that silencing an opinion you have doesn’t sound very empowering, does it?
I should be empowering you to speak your truth and live your values.
and you can...
if that voice is truly something you wholeheartedly stand behind.
You see, most things “you” say to yourself, are simply manifestations of the environment you’ve been in.
Your opinions are mostly regurgitations of those around you, but narrated in your voice.
We get tricked because when we hear voices in our head speak to us, we hear it in our voice.
Yet it’s not our voice at all. It’s a product of everything we’ve ever heard.
The simple distinction between knowing thoughts are not fully owned by us and are more of a rent-to-own model, can help us cut out the noise for the things we really want to hear and embody.
I’ve been told I’m a good writer, but I’d say I’m a better observer. I’m a good curator of other people’s thoughts and making them my own. I’m careful with the words I choose because I want them to truly come from me and my mind, my heart.
I find my true inner voice clearest when I write. I owe a lot of that to the act of writing, but mostly owe it to the act of shutting out distractions. I let go of the thoughts that serve little purpose, and summon all the helpful thoughts to the surface.
You may not be a writer, but you have the ability to get quiet. Go somewhere for 10 minutes each day where you can get eerily silent with yourself. As thoughts enter your mind, picture yourself knee-deep in a river just observing your thoughts go by. It’s up to you which thoughts you want to hold on to, and which you want to let float away.
Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
You have the power to revoke or repeat each thought that comes across your mind’s path.
You have the power to pick the volume level on the voices you want to hear. Choose the ones you want, then turn them up, LOUD.
You have the power to not have an opinion. Break free from the pull to be a critic of yourself, and let go of the urge to criticize others.
You’ll never be able to fully eliminate critics from your life or negative thoughts from your brain, but you can train towards a fitter filter and a stronger mind.
How have you, or how will you, take 10 minutes each day to sit quietly with your thoughts and choose the voices you want to hear in your head?
P.S. The day after I finished writing this post, February 9th, I opened “The Daily Stoic” to find the headline “YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE AN OPINION”.
It contained this quote from Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations”.
“We have the power to hold no opinion about a thing and to not let it upset our state of mind - for things have no natural power to shape our judgments.”