How To Use Your Internal Monologue To Change Your Subconscious Beliefs

“You’re not enough”. “You don’t have enough”. “You can’t do enough”. This kind of negative chatter is the consequence of an untrained internal monologue.

If you’re like me, deep inside, there is an inner voice in your mind. It can be your greatest friend or your biggest enemy.

This Zen story illuminates the state of our inner monologue well:

A man on a horse came galloping quickly down the road. It appeared the man had somewhere important to go.

Another man, who was standing alongside the road, shouted, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

The horse represents the untamed inner speech that takes us down to the path of suffering.

“If you want to change the fruits, you will first have to change the roots. If you want to change the visible, you must first change the invisible.” 

T. Harv Eker

An average person’s inner monologue mostly consists of negative self-talk because their mental programming is messed up. Since childhood, they’ve been shamed, blamed and scolded. They learn to talk to themselves the same way. 

The reason most people stay mediocre is that their beliefs about themselves are messed up too. They never get to know their genius. They never find the gift within them. They stay deprived of their own greatness.

According to research, most of the time, our inner speech comprises negative things about ourselves, our negative emotions, or us trying to decide if we’re good enough.

Your internal voice is the manifestation of your subconscious programming and beliefs. You become more of what you believe about yourself. If you don’t change the subconscious programming, it will keep dragging you down.

The good news is that there’s a way to change that programming. But it’s not as easy as saying “I’m a good enough” once. It’s not a magic pill, and it takes effort. But today, I’ll show you what it takes to change that programming so you can become the person you’re meant to be and actualize your wildest dreams.

Table Of Contents
Why Negative Inner Monologue Exists
Benefits Of Positive Inner Voice
How To Take Control Of Your Internal Monologue
1. Catch The Inner Voice Monsters
2. Make Friends With The Inner Voice Monsters
3. Know, Accept, Forgive And Love Yourself Unconditionally
4. Use Affirmations Or Mantras
5. Craft Your Environment To Support Positive Inner Voice
6. Tell Yourself A New Story With Your Inner Dialogue
7. Change Your Beliefs Using Your Inner Speech
8. Change Your Actions Using Your Inner Speech
Conclusion – Your Inner Monologue Is Your Destiny

Why Negative Inner Monologue Exists

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

Marianne Williamson

The goal of negative self-talk is to protect you. We tell ourselves:

  • I can’t do this
  • I don’t have time to do…
  • I’m not smart enough to…
  • I don’t have enough money to…
  • I can’t find a decent partner
  • Nobody wants to be my friend
  • I am ugly
  • I could lose my job at any moment

It’s not that those statements are never true. But if you talk to yourself that way, those thoughts become absolute truths for your subconscious mind.

That kind of internal monologue is a form of mental laziness so you can stay comfortable in the victim mode. By doing so, you never get to see the truth of what could be. It disregards the fact that power is still within you.

Procrastination, laziness, victim mentality, a fixed mindset, a scarcity mindset  — all result from faulty programming. When you fix your programming, success becomes smoother, life becomes easier, and you become limitless.

Our inner monologue has evolved to help us with self-regulation activities like problem-solving, planning things out, time management and motivation. But people who have depressive tendencies experience more depressive self-talk. And people who are more anxious engage in more self-critical inner speech.

Benefits Of Positive Inner Voice

The benefits of having a positive inner voice are immense. It’s a window to a better you and a better life. It’s one of the biggest investments you can make in yourself.

Let’s start with the benefits of positive self-talk (gathered from various sources and studies):

  • Reduced cortisol and HPA-Axis activation
  • Improved physical health and well-being
  • Improved emotional regulation
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Greater life satisfaction
  • Improved intelligence
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved immunity
  • Better performance
  • Increased energy
  • Improved focus
  • Better memory
  • Reduced pain

This is just the beginning. Let’s dive deeper and find out the effect internal monologues can have on you.

Self-Talk Creates Your Reality

“Loving or hating the life you are living is solely all in your repeated self-talk.”

Edmond Mbiaka

The human mind is not good at identifying what is true or false. It accepts thoughts without examining them. It believes whatever you tell it to believe repeatedly.

Every day, you’re creating your reality based on the perception of yourself and the world. If you tell yourself that you’re fat, all you’ll see in the mirror is a fat person. You know that fat people don’t exercise or eat healthily, so automatically, you won’t do that either. You may have fat, but it doesn’t mean you need to identify as a fat person.

All emotions originate from your inner monologue. When most of your interior monologue is negative, you create a negative reality. But if you take control of your inner monologue, you can create a positive perception and hence, a positive reality.

Self-Talk Can Make You Antifragile

“Positive self-talk is to emotional pain as pain pill is to physical pain.”

Edmond Mbiaka

Life is a game. It’s full of tests, challenges, twists and turns. What’s coming next is not under your control. What is under your control is your internal dialogue. Through self-talk, you can face any obstacle with the attitude of antifragility.

If you’re fragile, you’ll break when you face enough pressure. If you’re tough, you’ll survive the pressure. But if you’re antifragile, you’ll grow in response to pressure. That’s the difference between those who survive and those who thrive.

The good news is that anybody can become antifragile through the power of your inner dialogue. How you talk to yourself when you face life’s challenges will make or break you. Pain can make you weak or it can make you strong. You make the choice through your internal monologue.

Self-Talk Changes Your Subconscious Programming

“Consistent positive self-talk is unquestionably one of the greatest gifts to one’s subconscious mind.”

Edmond Mbiaka

Most of your mental programming comes from your childhood. The subconscious programs you have installed in your mind define your beliefs and behaviors.

Media, culture, news, society, education — they all are designed to make you a victimized robot. It is as if somebody has put a chip in your brain. You follow its commands without even realizing it. When you realize the lies they have fed you, you make up for them through destructive behaviors. You buy more, eat more, check social media more, have sex with more people or get addicted to entertainment.

The only way to take control of your chip is to tap into your subconscious mind. How do you reach your subconscious mind? Through the power of awareness and self-talk. The way to freedom and happiness is not out there in the future. It’s right here. It starts with awareness. Once you’re aware, you can rewrite the programs by what you say to yourself repeatedly.

Self-Talk Can Boost Your Self-Image

“Relentless, repetitive self-talk is what changes our self-image.” 

Denise Waitley

You are what you do. You do what you believe you can do. Therefore, you are what you believe you can do. Your belief bridges the gap between what you can do.

It’s not easy to change beliefs. Self-belief is the #1 barrier of greatness. The paradox of belief is that you don’t have to work on changing your beliefs directly. It’s much more effective when you work on your self-image first.

Self-image comes from your character. When you change your character, you change your image. When you change your image, you change your actions. When you change your actions, you change your results. When you change your results, you change your belief about yourself. You attract more of what you think you deserve.

How do you build your character? By defining your values and principles to live by. Follow them ruthlessly and everything else will fall into place. As your self-image changes, success becomes easier, which brings me to the next point.

Self-Talk Can Wire You To Succeed

“No level of obstacle can prevail in crippling a mind that’s continuously fed with positive self-talk.”

Edmond Mbiaka

By default, you’re not wired to be successful. The society has brainwashed you into believing that you’re helpless. The media keeps feeding your fears and tells you what an ordinary person like you is supposed to do.

Success is not complicated–it’s simple. You probably already know what you must do to succeed. The problem is that you don’t do it.

The cycle of negative inner monologue starts when you don’t do what you know you should do. But if you can master the craft of self-talk, you can change that cycle to a positive one. Through positive internal monologue, you can accept yourself, forgive yourself, love yourself, inspire yourself and improve yourself as needed.

What do you say to yourself after you fail? What about the times when you get rejected? What if you make a terrible mistake? What if you perform poorly? Success happens after all that mess. How well you handle those scenarios depends on your inner speech.

Self-talk creates new instructions for your subconscious mind. It’s the language of success. If you want to learn it, you must pay special attention to it like you’re learning a new language.

How To Take Control Of Your Internal Monologue

1. Catch The Inner Voice Monsters

Your inner voice not only creates your thoughts, but it creates a cascade effect of creating your sensations, emotions, actions, and ultimately your life.

The first step is to identify your current internal dialogue is through:

  • Thoughts
  • Speech
  • Written words

Thoughts run on autopilot while speech and written words are more in your control. The best way to catch the critical inner voice monsters is to fish in the river of your thoughts.

How do you do that? You do it through the practice of mindfulness and labeling. All you do is notice your thoughts as much as you can without judging them. Instead, you label them as they are.

Listening to your inner monologues is the first step. You can’t change what you aren’t aware of. The more you listen, the more power you gain. 

Some of the most common examples of interior monologue in different areas of life are:

Relationships

  • I am unlovable.
  • I’ll never find true love.
  • I’m a bad partner/son/daughter/family member.

Physical appearance

  • I am ugly.
  • I feel gross.
  • I’m not as attractive as him/her.

Work/education/finances

  • She is more successful than I am.
  • Wow! I’ll never afford a house like that.
  • I’m lousy with money.

Personal development (progress on a spiritual path, hobby, etc.)

  • Their art is so much better than mine!
  • I’ve read all the books, I should be enlightened by now.
  • I meditate daily, but I still get angry in traffic. What is the matter with me?

Here are the different types of negative interior monologue to watch out for. Many of these come from AllCEUs Counseling Education’s video called Developing Positive Self Talk:

  • Personalization

“They haven’t responded to my email yet. They must be laughing at me. I’m such a fool”.

  • Catastrophizing

“If I ask her out, she will hate me and block me forever.”

  • Magnification / Overreaction

“If I don’t get that job, I’ll be a failure for my entire life.”

  • Self-other Comparisons

“She is so better than me. I suck”.

  • Global Statements / Absolute Language / Polarizing

“I am lazy”.

  • Assumption

“I’m not good enough for that.”

  • Expectation

“I’m supposed to focus for an hour. What’s wrong with me?”

  • Regret

“I should have never made that mistake.”

  • Internal locus of control

“She got hurt all because of me.”

  • Minimization of the Positive / Filtering

“I only lost 2 pounds.”

  • All or Nothing Thinking

“I’ll never find love again.”

  • Emotional Reasoning

“Public speaking is so scary. I must avoid it at all costs because I’m terrible at it.”

Once you have a handful of inner voice monsters caught in your net, it’s time to go to the next step.

2. Make Friends With The Inner Voice Monsters

The goal is not to “defeat” the inner dialogue, but it is to make friends with it and point it in the right direction.

Explore, question and listen to the inner voice monsters. What are they telling you? What do they need? Where are they coming from?

Most of them come from past traumas and other people’s beliefs. Ask yourself — Where do my fears, judgments, beliefs or stories come from? Past experiences? Social influence? What judgment am I making? What story am I telling myself because of this judgment? What do I know to be true?

When in doubt, ask yourself:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it kind?

Who would you be without those thoughts? What new story, identity or belief is more helpful? Speak it or write it in your own words.

Become your own best friend, not your worst enemy. Will you say what you’re saying to yourself to a friend? What would you say instead? Be the cheerleader, not the drill sergeant. 

Do it as often as you can in your daily life until it becomes a practice for you to break the internal monologue by writing or speaking. Keep asking yourself powerful questions to re-frame your thoughts.

These examples of interior monologue from the book Talk to Yourself Like a Buddhist can help you out:

  • Replace overreaction with a calm assessment

Old habit: “That was the worst mistake I could ever make,” or “Everything is terrible.”

New habit: “That wasn’t my best. Next time, I will do better.”

  • Replace personalization with balanced responsibility

Old habit: “It’s all my fault,” or “I’m to blame for this.”

New habit: “I played a part in this situation. I am doing my best and am only responsible for my own decisions and actions.”

  • Replace absolute language with relative language

Old habit: “I am fat.”

New habit: “I have fat on my body, but the size of my body does not determine who I am as a person.”

  • Replace assumption with facts (or not knowing)

Old habit: “They didn’t say hello to me, that means they don’t like me.”

New habit: “They didn’t say hello to me. All that means is that they did not say hello to me; nothing more or less. Maybe they didn’t see me.”

  • Replace expectations with open curiosity

Old habit: “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!”

New habit: “This isn’t what I was expecting, but how exciting is it to try something new! I love surprises!”

  • Replace comparison with cooperation

Old habit: “They are smarter/ more attractive/ wealthier than I am.”

New habit: “They are doing so well! I love to see others prosper; there is enough good in the world for us all.”

  • Replace regret with appreciation

Old habit: “If only that hadn’t happened . . .”

New habit: “If that hadn’t happened, I never would have met . . . / never would have experienced . . . / never would have seen . . . etc. I’m grateful for that experience, which I used to regret.”

3. Know, Accept, Forgive And Love Yourself Unconditionally With Inner Speech

Self-talk is an internal game. Without knowing yourself, you can’t play it well. Therefore, self-awareness is the key skill you need to master if you want to win the game.

Know your strengths and weaknesses as deeply as you can. Accept yourself for who you are and forgive the dark sides of you. That’s how you can love yourself fully and unconditionally. 

I love this quote from Kamal Ravikant’s book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It: “This day, I vow to myself to love myself, to treat myself as someone I love truly and deeply – in my thoughts, my actions, the choices I make, the experiences I have, each moment I am conscious, I make the decision I LOVE MYSELF”.

Complete as many sentences as you can that go along the following lines:

I love myself even if/when…

Example: “I love myself even if I’m not a perfect father. I’m doing my best and I’ll keep learning to be the best father I can be. I know I will make mistakes, but that’s part of the process. I will not blame myself for that.”

I forgive myself for…

Example: “I forgive myself for judging myself and for all negative self-talk that I engaged in as a result. We all say things from time to time that aren’t helpful or accurate, and I forgive myself for saying those things to myself.”

4. Use Affirmations Or Mantras

Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, in their book Words Can Change Your Brain state “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” They add…

By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action.

And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain. Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with.

A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.”

In a study, researchers found that self-affirmations activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward reinforced by future orientation.

The subconscious mind accepts thoughts as facts. Most people think negative thoughts more than positive ones. You can’t expect to reverse your conditioning by saying your affirmation once.

Self-affirmations and mantras work, but it’s easy to do them wrong. Here’s how you can make the best use of them:

  1. Make it a practice and repeat as many times you can to rewire your subconscious mind.
  2. Add depth — emotions and mental imagery (study).
  3. Add proof to amplify your new belief by remembering actions from the past or making small wins in the present

As you keep doing those steps, a new attitude and identity will emerge. Your new programming will replace old programming. Once the programming shifts, the new positive actions will flow naturally.

It’s a fight between your old programming and new programming. The stronger program wins. Self-affirmations and mantras are your practice drills. Keep training your programming until it becomes stronger than the default programming.

Here are a few self-affirmations and mantras to start with:

  • I am capable
  • I am lovable
  • Today is going to be an awesome day
  • I choose to be present in all that I do
  • I feel energetic and alive
  • I can achieve my goals
  • I love challenges and what I learn from overcoming them
  • I’ve got this

Recommend Resources:

5. Craft Your Environment To Support Positive Inner Voice

Your environment shapes you and your internal dialogue. Negativity breeds negative internal monologue. Pay careful attention to who and what you surround yourself with. Here are a few ways you can craft a positive environment.

  • Positive and loving people who support you
  • Learning material (quotes, articles, books, podcasts, videos, apps) that lifts you up
  • Music that inspires you
  • Your success vault (a record of your wins — small or big) to remind you of your greatness
  • Role models, coaches and mentors who elevate you

How do you think successful people talk to themselves? How would your future, better version of yourself talk to you? How would the person who has achieved what you want to achieve talk to him or herself?

Raise your environment. Raise your standards. Raise your internal dialogue.

6. Tell Yourself A New Story With Your Inner Dialogue

We are storytelling creatures. Even when we’re not telling stories out loud, we’re always making them up in our minds. Whether it is about the past or the future, our stories are either serving us or destroying us.

A good story changes your inner monologue for the better. Everything you experience goes through your perception. The reality, therefore, is the combination of the truth and your perception. The good news is that you can control your perception to change your reality.

To change a story from the past, visit your memory and make meaning out of it. A good story has a lesson. When there is a lesson, you can use that incident to your advantage. When there is no lesson, you can still find meaning in the suffering. Would you let that incident break you or make you even stronger?

The other kind of story is from the future. Instead of telling yourself ridiculous false stories, tell yourself a positive one. When you can visualize a positive story, your actions will align according to how you want your story to go. Face your fears by anticipating them in advance. Never lose hope because losing it is the end of the story.

7. Change Your Beliefs Using Your Inner Speech

Every time you say “I can’t”, “I should” or “I have to”, pause and ask yourself — is this belief yours or someone else’s? When you take full responsibility for your life, you can make the following shifts in your interior monologue:

  • I can’t → I will
  • I’m not able to → I’m capable
  • I should → I must
  • I have to → I want to

Another way to reframe those statements is to ask a corresponding question like “How can I?” every time you catch yourself saying “I can’t”.

In her Ted Talk, Dr. Carol Dweck describes how adding “yet” can change your mindset about failures. If you add the word “yet” to most of your self-limiting beliefs, you stop identifying yourself from the situation and focus on getting better. For example, “I don’t have my ideal body weight, yet”.

In the same way, if you replace the word “but” with “and”, you don’t close your mind with a limiting statement. Instead, you open a dialogue for change. For example, instead of saying “I want to lose weight, but have to keep my diet clean.” you can say, “I want to lose weight, and have to keep my diet clean.” Like I mentioned before, you can even replace the words “have to” with “want to”. Then, back up your words by creating intrinsic motivation.

Lastly, studies have shown that using your own name or talking to yourself in the third person boosts reasoning and emotional regulation as it enhances self-distancing. For example, instead of saying “I can do this!”, say “[your name], you can do this!”.

8. Change Your Actions Using Your Inner Speech

While changing your beliefs is a crucial step towards behavior change, it takes a little more to change your actions.

Real, long-lasting change comes from the self. No matter how much someone tells the other person to quit smoking, one only does it when they decide to do it. Self-talk is how you start that process. As Maxwell Maltz, in his book, Psycho-Cybernetics said “You will act like the sort of person you conceive yourself to be.”.

Another author, Shad Helmstetter Ph.D., who wrote the book, What to Say When You Talk to Your Self said “If you tell yourself, “I will, I’m going to, I need to, I should, I’d like to, I want to,” or “I wish I could,” I don’t doubt that your subconscious will believe you: it just won’t do anything about it!”

So he gives a self-talk checklist which goes like this:

  • Is your self-talk stated in the present tense?
  • Is it specific?
  • Does it get the job done without creating any unwanted side effects?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is it practical?
  • Is it personal and is it honest?
  • Does your self-talk ask enough of you?

Research has also shown that when you want to improve performance, you can add instructional-based self-talk besides motivational self-talk to enhance its benefits.

Conclusion – Your Inner Monologue Is Your Destiny

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

Lao Tzu

Self-talk is a powerful weapon in your arsenal. Are you using the weapon to hurt yourself? Or are you using it to cut through the bullshit? Are you making yourself miserable or are you elevating yourself?

Your internal monologue is like a radio. If you get stuck on a negative frequency, all you have to do is change it, and tune in to a different frequency that serves you better.

Your subconscious mental programming is designed to make you miserable by default. But your inner dialogue opens up the possibility to install a new program in your mind. It turns obstacles into opportunities; Failures into fuel; Hate into love.

Show yourself the love and respect you deserve. High-five your inner self and make it your best friend. What will you say when you talk to yourself?

What Is An Internal Monologue?

Inner monologue is a person’s thoughts that are spoken in their mind without producing any sound. Self-talk emerges from the inner speech of a person.

Does Everyone Have An Internal Monologue?

Surprisingly, not everyone reports having an inner voice. But people aren’t good at being aware of their inner experiences.

How Common Is Internal Monologue?

Researches have used a procedure called Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES), which prompts people to write about what they are thinking throughout the day.

They found that very few people have no inner monologue, and very few people engage in it all the time. It’s more of a spectrum where 70–85% of the people experience spontaneous inner speech occasionally. Of those inner dialogues, most of them are talking to themselves about 15–30% of the time.

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Prakhar Verma

Prakhar is the creator of Design Epic Life. His mission is to help ambitious people design their epic lives so more people can truly live before they die. Sign up to the DesignEpicLife newsletter to stay up to date!