We hear a lot about improving how we talk to others at work. But there's something that's even more impactful on our careers and well-being: how we talk to ourselves.
Each one of us has an inner voice guiding us through life. Unfortunately, that inner voice can be extremely negative, which can undermine your success at work. But with a few simple strategies, you can train your inner voice to be an advocate in your life and career.
What Is an Inner Voice?
Your inner voice is the "voice in your head" that informs your perception, beliefs, and emotions as you interact with the world. You can think of it as the narrator of your own life. Most people experience their inner voice simply as the thoughts in their minds.
The things your inner voice says, and the way it says them, are informed by many factors, including your experiences, your parents or other influential people from early life, and your overall mental health.
Your inner voice isn't inherently bad - in fact, it can be extremely helpful. But for many, an inner voice can easily transform into a critic that points out shortcomings while ignoring successes.
If your inner voice has turned critical, you might frequently have thoughts like:
- "I'm not good enough."
- "I'll never achieve what I want."
- "I can't do anything right - I always make mistakes."
- "I'm not capable of handling this."
A critical inner voice is not a conscience or moral guide. Unlike a conscience, a critical inner voice doesn't offer solutions to your mistakes - it only encourages negativity.
Your Inner Voice at Work
Your inner voice has a major impact on every area of your life, including your career. While a positive inner voice can guide you to the right career path and propel achievement, a negative inner voice can prevent you from enjoying or succeeding in your work.
A critical inner voice might:
- Prevent you from applying to jobs or pursuing careers you want by fostering fear and self-doubt.
- Encourage impostor syndrome, making you believe you don't deserve your position.
- Keep you from working toward your goals by telling you that you'll never achieve them.
- Isolate you from your colleagues and professional network by making you think they don't enjoy working with you.
To tell if your inner critic is sabotaging your success at work, pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and mindset throughout the work day. If most of your thoughts are negative, and if you end most work days feeling exhausted or hopeless, you may be dealing with a critical inner voice.
How to Train Your Inner Voice
If your inner voice is hurting your career, you're not alone. Many of us experience negative thoughts that cause fear, envy, frustration, or self-doubt to override our work. Luckily, there are steps you can take to change that.
The goal isn't to get rid of your inner voice completely, but rather to retrain it so that it acts as a helpful guide instead of a useless critic. Explore these ideas for turning your inner voice into an advocate both inside and outside the workplace.
Get honest about the career you want.
A negative inner voice can signal that your work is out of alignment with your core self and values. Take some time to journal about your talents, passions, and interests - the things you wanted out of your life and work before other people's expectations clouded your vision. Is there a way you can incorporate more of those interests into your current job? Is there another career path that might allow you to explore them? Could you fulfill them outside of work through classes or volunteering? If you give your inner voice the chance to speak freely, it can tell you how to build a life and career that truly fulfills you.
Follow the data.
The thoughts you receive from your inner critic are often irrational, and a scientific approach may be needed to silence them. For instance, if you find yourself thinking, "I don't deserve this job," ask yourself what evidence you have to support that claim. Better yet, ask yourself what evidence you have to negate that claim. If you can list the experiences and achievements that have allowed you to reach your current position, you'll have irrefutable proof that you've earned your success - and that your inner critic is incorrect.
Don't ignore your emotions.
Emotions are often signals that something is wrong, and if you can uncover what's underneath a negative emotion, you can often solve the problem. The next time your inner voice causes you to slip into a bad mood at work, ask yourself why you're feeling the way you're feeling. Maybe you're experiencing envy and frustration because a coworker was promoted instead of you, and your inner voice is saying something like, "I'm never going to be promoted - so why should I even try?" Digging into the frustration behind this message could help you see the underlying issue: that you don't understand the requirements for being promoted. And that's an issue with a clear solution - talk to your manager and ask if they can work with you to set up a path to promotion.
Seek out alternate voices.
If your inner voice constantly gives you negative feedback, you may need to balance it out with external messages. Talk to trusted friends, family, and colleagues about your career: your successes, your anxieties, and the negative self-talk you're experiencing. Most likely, they'll give you the encouragement you need to balance out your self-criticism. And if you hear these positive messages enough over time, your inner voice will start to internalize and repeat them.
Find a Job That Creates a Positive Inner Voice
Your inner voice isn't the only career advocate you have available to you. A recruiter from a staffing agency can be instrumental in supporting you as you search for a role that aligns with your values and encourages a positive inner voice. Reach out to connect with a recruiter today!