Dr. Cynthia L. Phelps is the founder of InnerAlly.com, a B-Corporation building mobile apps to help people improve their mental wellness. She has extensive experience in digital interactive design and has been developing mental health technologies for the Veteran’s Administration since 2009 through her consulting company Health eDesigns, LLC.
I’m Dr. Cynthia Phelps, and I’m going to show you how to use the power of your inner voice to help you thrive and be happy. So I’ll back up and talk briefly about the research that it’s based on: self compassion.
Self compassion is just like taking compassion and applying it to yourself. When we’re suffering, it can be a lot harder for us to have a kind and nurturing voice on the inside for ourselves.
What is the inner voice?
Now when I say “inner voice” maybe you know what I’m talking about, maybe not. But when I say “inner critic”, people usually have a pretty good idea about what I’m talking about. Just like we have identified for ourselves an inner critic, we also have an inner ally. This is that kind, supportive and compassionate voice.
So how do we do it?
I think it’s important to understand where our inner voice comes from in the first place. Most of us adopted from an early childhood caregiver, so maybe it was a parent or a grandparent that was there to nurture us. And however they spoke to themselves and even how they spoke to us can be ways that we internalize just unconsciously and turn that into our inner voice.
What stops us?
It turns out there are some real barriers to creating an inner ally. And the first one we may have no role model to teach us how to do this. People don’t just go around talking and relating what their inner voice is and saying it to you. And so this thing that we have adopted, the inner voice that we adopted from the early childhood caretaker, that is usually the one that we have by default.
Another barrier is that there’s a lot of pushback in our culture around the practice of self compassion about being kind to yourself. When you’re kind to yourself, our culture tells you things like you’re weak. And if you look at the research, it couldn’t be more opposite. Another thing that I’ve heard people say is “if I’m nice to myself, I’m just not going to be motivated to change or to get what I want out of life. I’m just going to be lazy”, and this also is not borne out in the research literature. It turns out that people who are high in self compassion have a better capacity to change, like create new healthy habits and then also sustain them.
Another thing that people sometimes say is “well, I don’t want to be kind to myself because it sounds narcissistic” or “it sounds like I’m being self centered, only thinking about myself”. It turns out people who are high in self compassion are actually much better at taking care of other people.
Why is an inner Ally important?
These are things as human that we all need. And so they’re like the need for love, the need for security, the need for forgiveness. They’re very central to being a human, and you need them to be able to thrive. I have a little example, it is a set of about 16 characters that all have their own essential emotions with them. You can find them here.
And so they are your role models to help you practice this self compassionate language. And each of them has an essential emotion that is good for all of us to nurture. So you can’t lose with any of the inner allies, but you might find that a few of them are specifically really great for you. And so right now, we’re looking at The Artist and the core emotional need, the essential emotion of the artist is expression or the need to be seen or heard.
And you can see each of these little descriptions has who is the inner ally, some examples of language that you can modify for yourself or take it as is, and then just a little bit more about what this inter ally has to offer for you. And then at the very bottom, there’s some other ways that you can conceptualize this inner ally. And so the artist is primarily expression, but it can also be playfulness, creativity, and bravery.
Practice your wellbeing daily
So we’ve got these role models now. But one of the powerful ways of practicing self compassion in your inner language, your inner ally, is to actually craft language specifically for yourself. So I call it making your inner ally phrase. Well, the first part is really identifying what essential emotion you want to work with. The next part is to choose kind of the beginning of your phrase.
The next thing that you can consider while you’re building this language is do you want to have something like a qualifier in there? We have so many hang ups in our culture about how to use these phrases, giving yourself permission can really make a huge difference. And so the final things at the bottom here where it says, check your tone, check your critic and feel it in your body. These are all about how you’re judging if it’s working for you.
How to use these phrases? Two ways. One is: I want you to use them in a time of distress. So if you already have your phrases handy, you can put them on post it notes or somewhere. You can use it when you’re feeling not so great, some of those difficult emotions. But just like mindfulness and meditation, this inner ally, these phrases, this inner language, is a practice.
It’s a practice to shift a critic over to an ally. And so it’s something that you’re going to want to do on a regular basis. I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to tell you about the invoice and how you can use it for your own happiness.