Listen to yourself! | Sunday Observer

Listen to yourself!

21 March, 2021

Before going to school, we listened to our parents. When we attended school, we listened to our teachers. If you happen to be an undergraduate, you will listen to your lecturers.

The rest of us have no one else to listen to except ourselves. As teenagers and young adults, we all have constant conversations with ourselves. Such internal dialogues, sometimes called monologues, can take place anywhere anytime. The key to success is to make such monologues work for you.

As a person, you have a bundle of beliefs, facts, opinions about others and yourself. They have been created by internal and external factors. External factors are the events and experiences you have gathered from the outside world. When you look at them, you might feel pain and pleasure. When I made myself a fool in a romantic relationship, I felt some pain. When I cleared my Advanced Levels with flying colours, I felt a sense of happiness.

The fact remains that all those external factors now belong to history. I have no power to change them. However, I can change my internal responses to the external factors. Suppose you have resigned your job without finding a new avenue of income. This is an external event to which you have an internal response. Your reactions might be: “Hey, I have no regrets over leaving my job, but I have talents to do a new job.” Even if you do not get a job immediately, it is a learning experience. You can use it to your advantage. You have learnt a lesson not to leave a job without finding a new one. You thank yourself for being realistic, yet you are not suffering a huge blow to your self-esteem.

Positive thinking

If you are a person given to positive thinking, you will not feel sorry for yourself. As you are young, ambitious and qualified, you can get a job quite easily. But you may have to suffer until you get it. If you happen to be a person given to negative thinking, you might feel that you have come to the end of the road. How to find a job when thousands of unemployed people are clamouring for jobs? You might feel that you are a loser and you have messed up your life.

If you wish to rise above ordinary people, you should be honest to yourself to learn something from your personal history. Before you can step out of the prison of your past, you need to identify and challenge your internal rhetoric. As a leading psychologist has observed, we all look at the world through a set of filters.

Unfortunately, our perceptional filters can be highly sensitive to negative thoughts. You have no control over it because that is human nature. When information flows through your filter, you will have a dialogue with yourself. It is a voice nobody else will hear. The only advantage is that only you can control it.

I remember the day I tried to repair a winding clock. I removed the parts, oiled them and tried to put them together. Then I realised that I had no technical talents to do so. I heard my internal dialogue screaming: “You have messed up. You have no chance of putting the parts together. Now seek the services of a repairman.” That internal dialogue taught me an important lesson – not to meddle with things for which I have no knowledge or experience.

Doubts and anxieties

If you are a person riddled with doubts and anxieties, so too will be your internal dialogue. If you are not smart enough, you are not good enough to do anything.

That means you are bound to fail. It gets the loudest when you try to select a job or life partner. If you think you have got the ideal job, accept it. When you meet your dream girl, accept her.

Internal dialogue is ever present. Nobody can deny it. Sometimes, it can wreak destruction. For instance, you will find yourself in a highly-paid job in a bank. But your inner voice says you should quit and work as a writer.

A writer has to earn his money through hard work. He does not a get a regular monthly income or a company maintained vehicle and other perks. However, if you are not happy with your highly-paid job, listen to your inner voice which will say: “Quit and work as a writer.” If you do not listen to your internal dialogue, you will lead a frustrated life. Your frustration will come from not being true to yourself.

Your internal dialogue will include constant comparisons, fears, worries, anxieties and bouts of pessimism. You may downplay something that you really care. I know of an English teacher who was a highly talented artist. He used to draw pictures of animals on the whiteboard to explain the meaning of words.

Students complained that he was not teaching English but exhibiting his artistic skills. Strangely, he knew that he was a good artist, but he preferred to earn his living as an English teacher. He probably did not listen to his inner voice and act accordingly.


You need to examine your internal dialogue from time to time. Spend a few minutes and write down the observations in your notebook. The contents may include what you have been telling yourself about your looks, ambitions, competence and your self-worth. You will come to grips with reality when you have a self-talk. In a self-talk you are the one who is talking and you are the one who is listening. Nobody is eavesdropping.

Psychologists have demonstrated that our self-thoughts help determine how we perform. For instance, weightlifters can lift more when they hold self-affirming thoughts. Similarly, you can pass any examination if you tell yourself that you can do well. Positive self-talk helps swimmers to swim faster and runner to run like Usain Bolt.

A positive internal dialogue is not a litany of a “feel good” mantras. It is a rationally optimistic self-talk. If you are tasked with a difficult assignment, tell yourself: “I’m ready to do it.” When you have a self-talk, it should be honest. There is no need to deceive yourself. If you are too busy to do something, admit it. Remember that it is the busy people who do well in any task assigned to them. An internal dialogue will help you to succeed in life. With all your weaknesses, you are a unique person who is gifted with certain talents. Make use of them to the maximum through self-talk!

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