Building yourself from the inside out requires mindfulness and control of your inner dialogue. The words you use internally, in your own mind, toward yourself and about your world determine for you the way your decision switches steer your actions. It's critical to know:
Whose words do you hear?
Parents, relatives, caregivers, teachers, friends, lovers, spouse, children, heroes, manager, magazines, movies, idols... all of them contribute in varying degrees to your inner conversation. The echoes of their words, depending on the weight of their importance to you, rebound in your skull and flavor the way in which you see yourself and your life.
Then listen some more.
Whose words do you hear throughout the day? You can tell this most easily and naturally by looking at how you respond internally to surprises, abrupt change, conflict, compliments, seeing people you like, seeing people you don't like, demands on your time, someone doing something nice for you...
How do you react? What words do you hear in your head?
When did you first hear those words? Whose voice, across the span of your life, delivers the lines of dialogue that you hear?
How do those words steer your actions?
A lot goes into how we react, so let's break it down and see how this plays out.
A woman's boyfriend loves her. When he looks at her, he admires her shape and when he sees her smile, it lightens his heart. He isn't shy to tell her, "You're so pretty."
Growing up, her older sister taunted her about her acne problem and some of the kids at school made fun of her body. As a woman, she has grown lovely and curvy, but when she sees herself, she still sees the pock marks of acne from long ago and she sees a bit of cellulite in her thighs and she doesn't like her belly.
"You're beautiful," he tells her, as he often does.
"No," she counters. "My thighs disagree with you."
She could have simply smiled and appreciated his admiration of her. We teach people how to treat us, and by parrying his kindness with rebuff, she trains him.
And so he tires of fighting this uphill battle, and the compliments come less often, until their absence is noticeable to her.
She says to her best friend, "Something's going on. He doesn't notice me like he used to. He used to tell me I am pretty, and I haven't heard that in a while."
Her friend shares her concern and asks, "Do you think he's looking for something else?"
"I don't know." Her worry grows, and starts to spread into other areas as her insecurities take root and she feels that she might not be attractive enough for him.
Never mind that nothing could be further from the truth. Unbeknownst to him, with each day their relationship moves into jeopardy. Finally, one day it all comes to a head during a misunderstanding, and then her insecurity blurts itself out, jumping front and center into a disagreement.
"You don't love me like you used to. You don't tell me I'm pretty any more. You're probably moving on, like all men do."
She feels less. He feels less. So the erosion continues until their breakup occurs, a breakup that had little to do with either of them, actually. The seeds of their demise were planted long ago and remained dormant until they were watered by his adoration, which to her was jarring and inconceivable because it contrasted with a mantra she repeated to herself so often through her life.
Whose words do you hear repeated in your head? And why do you hang onto them?
They might be the words of one person, or the amalgamation of many people's words, but learn to recognize your internal mantras, and investigate their source. Then look to see how those words steer your decision switches into your automatic responses and bring about actions that may lead to the exact opposite of what you want for your life.
If she had ignored those aged voices in her head from long ago, and learned to cherish his loving attention, his affectionate words would have continued and her happiness would have blossomed in a relationship where she felt real joy. Instead, she felt abandoned and alone.
It's the little things in life... and the decision switch is the littlest of little things.