The inner voice has been getting a lot of spotlight these days, deservedly so. If you’ve even lightly grazed the surface of the self-help world, chances are you’ve heard the term before. If you’re not familiar with it, listening to your inner voice is a fancy way to articulate that you're paying closer attention to what you think, feel and say to yourself.
We all swoon over the inner voice because it’s always first to come into consciousness- pure and clear. It’s a useful and powerful tool, especially when you’re looking for answers and willing to listen.
Admittedly, our outer voice can be less reliable. When I say outer voice, I'm referring to the voices we use to speak and communicate out loud. A lot of times, what we say out loud is filtered or processed. Our outer voice is a constant balancing act, taking into consideration what you know is right, what you think you should be saying, what you want to say, how you want to be perceived, who you’re talking to, how you’re feeling at the moment, etc. Filters galore.
However, there are things that we blurt out loud and verbalize often without realizing it, that hold a lot of truth and need to be paid better attention to.
I recently went camping in Maine with a large group of friends. The range of camping and hiking abilities within the group were greatly varied. For instance, I own zero camping gear and only camp when my friends go. A few of my friends live out west and camp all the time. One of my friends rented a hotel room a mile down the road. One had a snazzy tent that looked like a space ship. It was a wilderness skill mish-mosh.
Anyway, one day the advanced hikers decided we would hike up a mountain in Acadia called the Beehive. This was the hike “with the rungs” that require gripping the rungs like a ladder to climb it. Just thinking about it made my stomach do back flips. On top of it all, my pinky finger was out of commission because I had just gotten stitches two days prior, which is not exactly the best situation for dangling off the side of mountains.
Anyway, about ten minutes into a morning hike I realized we were doing the rung hike (I thought the idea had been dismissed). I decided I would just give it a shot since I was already there and I didn’t want to look like a big chicken. Soon, we reached the first grate, which required actual shimmying on wet rocks around the side of the mountain for about 5 feet across. For this part, I found myself hugging the mountain for dear life with nine functioning fingers. It was a Nine Finger CLING FO YO LYFE Hug. Anyway, my friends were much less startled by this and kept marching on with determination. My inner voice was shouting, ABORT ABORT ABORT. My ego ignored it. I wanted to prove I wasn’t a big fat chicken or wilderness newbie (maybe I am).
If my inner voice had vocal chords it would have gone hoarse from yelling so much. However, the ego kept whispering suck it up, pretend you’re a bad-ass wilderness woman, Meg.
Then I heard a different voice, my outer voice, announce “I don’t want to do this,” like a graceful queen. I stopped in my tracks. Wait a minute; I hadn't consciously decided to call it quits yet. However, the internal bickering was over. My outer voice had made the final decision. Just like that, I turned around with another friend and we went on a lovely scenic hike with ocean views instead.
Sometimes when I hear my outer voice and I continuously ignore it. For instance, it happens in some relationships. I once had a relationship that was perfect on paper. I would continuously say to my friends, “He’s such an amazing guy, but…..” And then I would vent for 5 minutes about a few small things I couldn’t stand. Unfortunately, my logical brain kept ignoring what my outer voice kept verbalizing. Once I finally listened to what I was saying out loud I was able to eventually break it off.
Bottom line: your outer voice can have just as much truth and power as your inner voice; it’s just a matter of picking up on the unfiltered and pure words and phrases. Start noticing and listening for a few things when you speak:
Listen to the things you blurt out loud.
Listen to the phrases you say often
Listen to the “buts”
Listen to your word choice
Listen to your narratives (more on inner narratives here).
When you practice this, you can start trusting the outer voice a bit more. What you say out loud is important, and you need to tune into that too.