What is an internal narrative?
People have an internal voice that speaks to us and narrates our life as it is happening, or even helps us create our sentences before we speak. This voice is driven by the story we tell ourselves about why the world is the way it is, and why our life is the way it is. It is our thoughts and our realities. It’s something that we acquire from other people, typically from our parents when we’re children, and it can form from the conditional or unconditional love we receive.
Inner narrative can be called many things, including internal monologue, inner speech, and inner voice, although each is slightly different. I prefer the term “inner narrative” because it helps us understand what’s really going on behind the scenes.
We accidentally forget to pay our credit card and we’re charged a fine. Our inner narrative is saying, “Oh, I’m not good with money.”Maybe her boyfriend dumped her, and she told herself, “I’m just not a lovable person.”
Let’s take a look at your inner speech and see the major impact it can have on your life.
What’s the difference between Internal Monologue, Internal Dialogue, and Inner Narrative?
Although they are similar, they’re not really the same thing.
As stated above, your inner narrative is what you tell yourself based on the limiting beliefs or the way you were raised as a child. Sometimes you might hear them called “the lies we tell ourselves.”
Internal dialogue, internal monologue, and inner speed are all terms for narrating or talking to yourself about what is happening in your life. Basically reacting verbally to what’s going on, but in your head. Your internal dialogue is shaped by your inner narrative, but it does not really include the understanding that this inner speech comes from the deepest parts of us.
Fun fact: many people aren’t aware of their inner dialogue, and this is completely normal (and quite common.) These are just individual differences. But for those of us who hear this inner voice, it can be extremely helpful.
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My Internal Narrative Story
Just recently I was interacting with some strangers on a thread on social media. To make a long story short, I made a judgmental comment about something I had seen, which to me seemed completely innocuous.
Surprisingly, a stranger commented and said something to the effect of:
“This is what you are telling yourself based on past experiences. I believe that we need to get out of our comfort zone to grow.”
Talk about a defining moment: when a random facebook commenter is objective, helpful, and positive! (And even spiritual!)
I could have taken it personally, but I saw the truth in the statement. The truth was, I was allowing my past to inform my fear response, which then came out as a judgmental, not-helpful comment.
My inner voice told me that based on my past, this shouldn’t work for the future.
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How can I discover my inner narrative?
Our inner narratives are buried deep and are mostly subconscious. Using the iceberg analogy, the part that sticks out of the water is our behaviors, our routines, and how we conduct ourselves in the world. Our inner narratives and beliefs are the part of the iceberg that is submerged beneath the water.
It takes a lot of work, consistency, and open-mindedness to really discover our inner narratives.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself about your inner voice. Make sure you write them down for clarity and to draw connections later.
- What are my triggers for negative emotions?
- How do I define myself?
- What were some of the defining moments of my past?
- What are some habits that I’m trying to break?
- How do I come across to others?
- What are my expectations of myself?
- What are my expectations of others?
- What expectations do others have for me?
- What do I tell myself I’m good at?
- What do I tell myself I’m bad at?
While you’re answering these questions, see if any patterns emerge. Here are some more deep questions you might want to journal about.
For example, perhaps you expect perfection out of yourself, and one defining moment as a child was when your mother came over and corrected your work while you were doing homework, and when it wasn’t perfect, grounded you for a week.
Examining our past lives as well as our failures and successes, our tendencies, and our “autopilot”, can all help us draw out these limiting beliefs.
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How can I change my limiting beliefs and inner speech?
“Our thoughts become our words, our words become our beliefs, our beliefs become our actions, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our realities.” Jen Sincero
When you want to change your reality, you have to start with the smallest thing. Start with your thoughts.
Dr. Joe Dispenza early in his career as a neurobiologist and brain researcher, gave a TED talk on forming connections in the brain. This is my “go to” solution for changing my reality.
Take a watch.
In essence, first become aware and change the thoughts. And if you change them often enough, you start to wear a new path in your brain that will lead to new beliefs, new actions, new habits, and a new reality.
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Our inner speech doesn’t have to be something that wears on us like a burden. The things we tell ourselves are absolutely malleable!
When you examine your behaviors and thoughts, become aware, and make some effort to change these limiting beliefs, we can absolutely rewrite this inner narrative we tell ourselves for a happier, healthier, more satisfying life!
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