Internal Dialogue art by Ely Bulnes

If I had a quarter for every time my mom told me that my words matter, I wouldn’t have to take out student loans.

From the beginning of my childhood, the idea that internal and external dialogue had the ability to make or break a person’s success was a repeated concept hammered into the fibers of my being. As annoying as it was, being corrected every time I made a self-deprecating comment made its way into my adult life. Now, as I am growing up and making long term goals for myself, I am quickly realizing that the internal dialogue I partake in dramatically influences how happy I am with my life, as well as the rate of success in achieving my goals. 

The concept of self-dialogue is hardly new. In fact, I think it’s pretty safe to say that “The Oprah Winfrey Show” taught us all that what we say to ourselves has power. That being said, the words we speak are only half of the conversations we partake in; the other half is the internal dialogue between our consciousness and our deepest fears. It is within this conversation that the potential for success or failure is decided. 

For a very long time, I was like most other people in the sense that I thought there was only one kind of self-talk. I believed internal and external dialogue only consisted of the short remarks that erupt in passing. It wasn’t until recently that I found out that there is a second type of self-talk. It is the silent kind that exists in the bowels of the subconscious, quietly creating limitations.  

It is every quip we received as children that tucked itself into our minds and made us think that there was a cap to our achievements. The consequences of this kind of silent, effective dialogue aren't overt, which might be why they are so dangerously effective. It is the voice in the back of our heads whispering for us to stay in our comfort zones, to hit snooze on the alarm and to never try anything new for fear of the unknown. 

While there is a place for apprehension and caution, these safety features of our subconscious shouldn’t convince us to sabotage our potential. 

For me, the effect of my negative internal dialogue reared its head in the form of my flat out refusal to try in college academics. I have always been what the public school system deems a smart child. When it came to actual grades, however, I coasted on B’s and participation points. Coming to college has been a real culture shock because of the necessity to supplement a bi-weekly 50-minute lecture with actual study material. C’s get degrees has been a mantra in the back of my head since my first college exam, and now, looking at law school, I am quickly realizing the fallacies that have unbeknownst to me been hindering my academics. 

I didn’t try for straight A’s because I didn’t think I was smart enough to achieve them. No matter how easy a class was, there was a little voice in the back of my mind telling me to just get by without effort for fear of trying and failing.  

I think a lot of people experience similar self-imposed limitations. Just judging by the massive collection of self-help content at the library, I’d say everyone at one time or another has submitted to the quiet dialogue going on in their subconscious that convinces them to stay comfortably put in a zone of complacency. 

I think the only way to change that dialogue is by being uber aware of it, and blindly believing in possibilities in the way a child believes they can be a rockstar, a firefighter or the president when they grow up. 

It is easy to forget that we are active agents in the success or destruction of our lives. For the most part, the choices we make directly result in the type of life we lead. Setting a goal is half the battle, and marginally easier than the latter half. The true game changer happens when we believe in the goal we set. Perhaps the goal is lofty, or even branded impossible. One will never find out how accurate that observation is unless they wholeheartedly believe that they can achieve it — which involves telling yourself you can at every opportunity you get. 

At the end of the day, our lives are manifested by our internal conversation about ourselves. It’s easy to give in to the negative self-talk. A life of complacency is a safe one, but safe doesn’t always equal happy.