To live an authentic life, you have to know what’s authentic for you – that is, what you truly think, want, desire, believe, value, feel, etc.
You already know that.
What’s harder is connecting to, and staying connected to that authentic voice. You may say to yourself, “What voice? I don’t hear anything!” But that doesn’t mean the voice isn’t there. The problem is that we have gotten incredibly good at putting duct tape over The Voice’s mouth and stuffing her in the closet. Then we wonder, “Where did I put that inner voice thingy? It’s got to be here somewhere.” When she does speak loud enough to be heard from the closet, she’s often so hard to understand that we just tune her out.
Well, don’t worry. I have a few strategies that are going to help you locate your Voice and rip off the tape so you can hear her loud and clear.
Strategies for Finding That Closet and Ripping off the Tape.
- The Gap: When we are in conversations with others or even while being introspective, we often are in a rush. We jump to conclusions about what we feel and why we feel that way, without understanding how we really do feel. Slow down and create a gap. Feeling your answers will help you know what you want. It doesn’t have to be a long gap– just a few seconds will do. But this will help you be thoughtful and reflective. Try this with every question you get today, from “What do you want to make for dinner?” to “How do you feel about that?”
- Ask yourself questions, then ask again. You might have seen this type of exercise before. Ask yourself a question about how you feel, for example, “Why do I feel so angry with him?” Answer it. Then, ask it again. Write down your answers – all of them, without judgement.
- Dig Deeper: Another version of the exercise above is to drill down on your answers. You may complete the exercise above, and then find that two or three of the answers really resonate with you. Highlight those and then dig deeper. Why do you feel that way? And why do you feel that way? You get the idea. Eventually, you’ll get to the root of it.
- What everyone thinks: Sometimes a major barrier to connecting to what we think is what everyone else thinks – or what you think they think (phew, I’m tired). The first step is to write out who “everyone” is. Whose judgements are you worried about, and what do you think they’re thinking? Now, there’s two ways to handle it: You can write out what a kinder, gentler version of that person is thinking or if you’re a brave soul, go check it out with them. Chances are it’s not as bad as you think.
- Who cares: If you find out it IS just as bad as you thought (or worse), then write down all the reasons you really need to care about what they think, and then refute those reasons. The truth is, you almost never need to care what another person thinks when it comes to your feelings (the same is not true when it comes to your actions, and bridging this gap with integrity is a post for another day). You feel what you feel. Get used to using the phrase “With all due respect.”
Your inner voice needs to be treated with respect, kindness and understanding. When you do this, she feels free to speak her mind and allow you the ability to choose your actions, feel authentic, and begin to rebuild trust in yourself. Her voice will get stronger and you will be happier.