Neural Pathways and Your Inner Voice: Can one change the other?

I am the type of person who needs something to base my beliefs on. I need proof, or at least an understanding. I try to have more faith in things without needing to necessarily understand them, but it is hard. Over and over again, I find myself searching for the why and how.

My best friend is the complete opposite. If something feels right, she goes for it. I envy that sometimes. Recently, we were discussing the powers of affirmations. She was saying that it can change you. Especially if you are telling yourself something you don’t believe. She is completely into it, and whole-heartedly believes in its ability to change you.

I am more hesitant. My brain immediately searched for the how. “Maybe it’s one of those things that only works for people who believe in it.” “Maybe you are just deluding yourself into believing something that is not true.” Essentially what I am saying to myself is, “the only way I am going to believe something different about myself is if I prove it to the world and myself.” The sticking point is when you want to believe something that is un-provable, or is a moving target. I’m not talking spirituality here, but rather things like confidence in your abilities. At what point have you proven yourself? Who knows. It’s different for everyone, and sometimes it keeps moving to stay just out of reach.

While I tried to convince myself to not feel ridiculous when reciting, “identifying my emotions is easy for me” repeatedly, I realized that my mind went straight to searching for evidence in my past that would support the claim. After doing this for several days, I actually started to believe! I am not so sure this is the way it is supposed to work, but who cares. It has started to work. Initially, I was only seeing the negatives, but once I got past the initial barrage of my go-to self-criticisms, they moved out of the way to reveal the supporting evidence.

Creating your own pathway

Meanwhile, I have been reading about neuroplasticity and how you can create new pathways in your brain. I started reading about the topic as it relates to making habits for my series on New Year’s Resolutions, but it certainly applies here, too. If you can make new pathways in your brain to create a habit, why can’t that be done for thought patterns as well?

Why is it so easy to berate yourself in your head when you do something dumb? “Why do I always eff up?” “Ugh, what a dumbass.” etc. etc. etc. And yet, we feel silly saying something positive to ourselves. Try saying, “I love myself” or “I rock at …” Part of the unease might be modesty, but believing something good about yourself also doesn’t make you an egomaniac. And I’m not suggesting you say this stuff out loud necessarily (though why not??). But I bet the majority of you say negative things about yourselves all the time, even if it is just an internal rolling of the eyes or sighing.

So how about every time you say something negative about yourself, you add “BUT, you are getting better” or something. Maybe that begins to change the neural pathways of self-doubt. And after adding that on for a while, maybe you’ll eventually be able to stop yourself before you think it. You might even believe the positive so that the negative becomes weird to say. How awesome would that be?! Meditation has recently been found to actually create new grey matter in your brain, so why not affirmations as well? Maybe there is something to all of this.

We even have proof now.

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2 comments on “Neural Pathways and Your Inner Voice: Can one change the other?
  1. kimmer says:

    Well done! Now….to get my own brain re-adjusted.

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