The Anchor of Your Inner Voice

Anchor and chainIt would be nice if life presented itself as a clear-cut path with well-defined signs to clearly state what we should do (or not) at each fork in the road. The weather would always be beautiful. We’d always be enjoying our favorite foods while talking to our perfect families and friends. Great music would be playing as we spent the day doing work we loved and looked forward to evenings filled with activities we were passionate about. There wouldn’t be relationship problems, layoffs, health scares, or frustration with parenting. There would be no place for fear or sadness.

Unfortunately, life isn’t one giant sing-along, and ups and downs are a part of the human condition. Volumes have been written on how life works the way it does, but my understanding is that problems are really opportunities to access the inner resources we all have. Once someone claims his or her inner resources, the sky becomes the limit. The problem may not go away, and even if it does, new ones will be on the horizon, but what we do in the meantime will make all the difference.

We all have an inner “anchor,” that small voice that is ready and willing to guide us if only we allow ourselves to listen. It is wise, strong, and kind, and represents the inner wisdom that resides in every human. It will guide us in precisely the right direction. Unfortunately, it can be hard to hear in the midst of our stress. It’s often drowned out by the negative things we believe about ourselves and our circumstances. The good news is we all have the capacity to clear the space and allow it to make itself heard.

Two steps that can help you access your inner anchor: cultivating more self-compassion and establishing a daily time for mindfulness.

  1. Believe that you are worth it. Lack of self-compassion lies at the heart of so much pain. Cultivating self-compassion starts with noticing how you react to yourself. When you make a mistake, do you blame or criticize yourself? What judgments do you place on yourself (how you look, how successful you are, the friends you have, etc.)? How does what you say or think about yourself make you feel? When you have a problem, do you stop to check in with your feelings or immediately go into panic mode to solve the issue. Once you have taken a look at your relationship with yourself, the next step is to imagine you have a friend who is experiencing the same struggles. What kinds of things would you say to comfort or support this friend? Would you criticize or blame him or her? Most likely, you would offer kind words and the recognition that everyone struggles. It’s also possible that you would cheer the person up, suggest giving himself or herself a break, or do something to take care of the person. At the very least, you would let the person know you care about him or her and are here to offer support. Giving yourself compassion means offering this same type of caring, reassuring support. Remind yourself that everyone deserves kindness. You are only human. Begin to notice when you fall into criticizing yourself, and practice replacing negativity with kindness. Start the day by telling yourself something positive about yourself instead of falling into old routines.
  2. Create a space to devote to yourself. Yes, this means adding it to your schedule. Five minutes a day (or even three) will do. Find a quiet spot and a comfortable position. Here’s a basic breathing practice to start with: Close your eyes and let your shoulders relax. Count to five as you inhale, letting your belly fill with breath. Count down from five as you exhale through your nose. Let your face relax with each exhalation. Repeat the inhale/exhale cycle 10 times. Keep it simple, but take the time each day to give yourself a breather. Mindfulness means being fully present right here, right now. There are countless ways to achieve this state, but simple and consistent is a surefire way to start on the path. Congratulate yourself for taking the time. Good job.

Remember, this is a practice, and it will take time and effort to establish—so be patient with the process. Over time, talking more kindly to yourself and creating a space for self-care will bring you into contact with your wise, inner voice.

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  • rachel

    rachel

    February 14th, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    There have been too many times that I have chose to ignore that strong inner voice only to find myself making the wrong decisions and doing the wrong thing with my life. This happens when I fail to nurure the soul, you know? I forget to take that time and advice that I give myself from time to time and believe in myself. Where does that lack of belief and confidence creep in from? All I know is that when I ignore this voice and the true me, life always throws me that little curve ball that I’m not so sure I can handle. But when I take the time to care for me, I feel strong again and willing to listen to what I know to be right.

  • ken

    ken

    February 14th, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    I always end up being so hard on myself..When it comes to others I’m often a supportive figure and will do my best to cheer them up but it is completely different when it is me..I am never supportive or cheerful..I should work on changing that.
    Thank you for this insightful article.

  • buzz

    buzz

    February 14th, 2013 at 11:20 PM

    although I do try and listen to my inner voice sometimes it’s so damn hard to do so.it often happens when the stress and pressure of the situation is too much.not to take anything away from this wise voice though.because when it does work and make itself be heard it works wonders and can help me make my way out of even a seemingly difficult maze.

  • Cris

    Cris

    February 15th, 2013 at 3:49 AM

    I have always told myself and others too that we are far harder on ourselves than others are

  • Marguerite

    Marguerite

    February 15th, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    I think that the hardest thing for many women is to trust that we are worty it. We are for the most part conditioned from an early age by dads that we are secondary to men and are not expected to do well in school or the workplce because of that, and unfortunately that is the inner voice that then becomes our own. It is hard to go against everything that we have come to believe about ourselves and therefore we end up making very little progress in our own lives. And even for me even though this is something that I see and that I clearly recognize that does not make it any easier sometimes to replace that inner voice that has been there for so long with something that can be more positive. Old habits doe very hard.

  • gwen

    gwen

    February 15th, 2013 at 11:22 PM

    I had the habit of being too critical about myself and that would even stop me from trying things,because I thought I was incapable of it.

    Since the past few months though,I have been better able to manage my stress and so have been able to convince myself of my worth and can not only take up things but also accomplish them with relative ease, the same things that I thought I was incapable of. The frame of mind and how you perceive yourself can and will make a huge difference for any person. And that is the reason why each of us should practice and cultivate this.

  • Melissa Owens

    Melissa Owens

    February 16th, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    If you have never been given the tools for how to have that calming impact on yourself it is awfully hard to rely on that as an adult

  • ezra a

    ezra a

    February 17th, 2013 at 5:38 AM

    What with all of the other scheduled events in my life I find it harder and harder to take the time out for me and doing things just for me. When I did I let myself become such a non factor in life?

    It really does take a personal toll on me when I look at how much I do for others and how little is given in return but there often seems to be no clear cut way to reverse that course of action.

    As a result I find that I have to stifle that inner voice and ignore it because if I always paid attention to it, honestly I am not sure that I would do anything for anyone anymore, only me, and I have kind of forgotten how to do that

  • oliver

    oliver

    February 18th, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    I seem to always shut down my inner voice.I dont know why but Ive been doing this since years,probably since my childhood.Whenever it does try to pop up I say SHUT UP and put it down.I feel it helps to assess the situation rather than go with an inner voice but maybe Im wrong.But how do I allow it to emerge?

  • Sawyer

    Sawyer

    February 19th, 2013 at 4:04 AM

    Ok am I the only person who listening to my inner voice only gets me in trouble?

  • Clement

    Clement

    February 19th, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    My inner voice definitely helps! It has not always been this way but right now I think I’m pretty good at listening to it and more importantly in allowing it to speak to me in the first place. I think a major reason for people not being able to listen to their inner voice is because they think their inner voice CANNOT help them. this may be due to low self esteem or whatever but when you think your inner self can help you it surely can!

  • salome

    salome

    February 21st, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    inner voice helps yeah but I need to learn to make it work for me even under stressful situations.because for me it seems to go missing in such situations and it is often the times I need it the most :(

  • Julie Hanson

    Julie Hanson

    February 22nd, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    I appreciate everyone’s comments…It’s a huge task to tap into this inner wisdom especially when the voices of past experiences creep in and compete for our attention. It can be overwhelming and frustrating, maybe seeming even impossible. These negative responses can actually serve as good reminders to stop and take a minute to practice the breathing exercise- this is a good self-compassion practice too! Best wishes.

  • Brynn

    Brynn

    February 25th, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    The hardest thing for me is to take that time for ME everyday even when I feel like I don’t have the time to squeeze it in.

    I have learned pretty late in life that if I am not going to make myself a priority in life then no one else is going to do it either.

    I know what I need and what I want better than anyone else does, so why not do it right the first time and be able to give myself what I know that I need and deserve?

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