Steve Jobs once said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice.” Our inner voice can be called self-talk, internal dialogue, or thinking to yourself, which is something that every person does throughout the day. What we don’t realize is that this inner voice is more important than it seems, regulating how we think and behave. It allows us to see the consequences of making a decision to avoid danger or discomfort, as well as establishing a viewpoint from which we see the world. Now, more than ever, girls need to be armed with confidence and have faith in their own abilities. Knowing your inner voice enables you to resist the need to please others, fight against intimidation while standing up for yourselves and others, and growing from a confident girl into a confident woman.
An interview with Karol Ward,
Confidence Expert, Coach and Speaker
New York, NYC USA
Can you explain what an ‘inner voice’ is?
I define inner voice as a verbal or nonverbal feeling or thought that seems to come out of nowhere, that’s used to guide you toward making a decision that’s right for you. The reason I say nonverbal is, sometimes people will feel it as a shiver up their spine, or a feeling in their stomach that something is either right or wrong in a decision that they’re about to make. And, other people have said it’s like a whispering voice that will say, “You can do it,” or, “No, don’t do that.”
It might seem to come out of the blue, maybe you just met someone and they seem normal and nice, but there’s something inside of you that doesn’t feel right. Try to give that feeling some thought, don’t brush over it.
How can teenage girls discover and begin to trust their inner voice?
Your inner voice needs to be cultivated. Try to find a time in your day where you’re not bombarded or cluttered with images, sounds or words. Some people write in a journal every day. They get their thoughts out and they let it flow. Often, through writing, they discover what it is that they are trying to find the answer to. Some people use meditation apps or long walks to clear their mind. When I used to walk my dog, I never used my phone to fit in calls to friends. I simply just let my mind drift and many times I had creative thoughts or ideas. Finding your inner voice doesn’t have to be something formal, such as sitting down to meditate, but it can be something that’s quiet, where you can sit with yourself, write it out, walk it out, and just let your mind and heart give you information.
When it’s hard to focus, I recommend a daily reader. You can download or buy inspirational books that have a saying or quote for every day of the year. You can read it first thing in the morning, or turn to it whenever you need guidance. Just let yourself reflect on it and think about what it brings out in you. This helps you get out of your own way and stops some of the chatter in the mind.
What can we do when social pressures go against what our inner voice is telling us?
It’s important to start to identify your team of people. These are the people who support you in what you want to do. Be wise, and be very selective about who you share your dreams with. Because not everybody gets it. Sometimes people can be frightened about following their own dreams and try to shut down yours. Others might react out of jealousy and say “Oh, you shouldn’t do that.” Think about the people, when you imagine yourself sitting with them, that you feel joyful and happy with.
For some people, their inner voice isn’t always kind or loving. How can we shift from this to something more positive and supportive?
Well, I really separate out those two. There’s the inner voice, which is on your side, the one you were born with – we were born with positive feelings about ourselves. Then there’s the critical voice, and the critical voice is usually a voice that has learned to be critical. It’s not really who you are. Ask yourself, “Who does that critical voice remind me of? Because it doesn’t sound like me. Where did I learn to judge myself so harshly?” Sometimes it’s through how you were brought up, sometimes it’s through bullying, or the social pressure. When you identify that that critical voice is something that’s learned, you can step back and remind yourself that’s not really who you are. Name it, separate out from it, and then say to yourself, “If I wasn’t speaking so critically to myself, what do I imagine my best, most trusted friend would be saying to me instead?”
What’s the best thing you’ve ever done based on what your inner voice told you?
I moved around a lot as a kid and it’s tough when you have to make that many transitions. At the last new school I went to, there were auditions for the school play. Even though I had no experience in acting at all, I went with my inner voice that said, “I’m going to try out for the school play, I’m going to do it. I did try out and got the lead. It ended up setting me down a path of exploring drama and acting, which eventually led me into realizing how much I liked working with people, which eventually led me into becoming a therapist, coach and speaker.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received as a teenager?
I was not the most popular person in high school. I had friends, but I struggled with my weight, and my self-esteem wasn’t very high from moving around as a kid so much. I was babysitting a family, and the mom said to me, “Your time is coming. Don’t worry. You’re a late bloomer, but late bloomers can make a big impact in the world.” There was just something about what she said, – that this time wouldn’t be forever, that I could hear and I believed her.