How to Silence Those Self-sabotaging Inner Voices

Steve Goodheart Essay

You really should do something about those voices you’ve been listening to!  No, I’m not saying you’re crazy! I’m talking about the inner “voices” we all listen to, consciously, and unconsciously.

Yes, those voices—the ones in your head that say you’re a failure, that you’re no good, that you will never get ahead, that you’ll never get a job, that you’ll never find a life partner, that life has passed you by, etc. etc. blah, blah blah!  The ones that say things like this, in a cartoon from Cheri’s “The Voices” blog:

If you want a hand with breaking free from these debilitating, sabotaging inner voices, you won’t find a better friend and helper than Zen teacher Cheri Huber. Although Cheri is not my primary teacher, I know Cheri Huber well through her books, and I’ve read and used almost all of them.

The very first one I read changed my life. It is called There is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self-Hate.  If you conclude from the title that this book merely offers “new age” nostrums of positive thinking and mental admonitions to feel good about yourself, you couldn’t be more wrong!  Instead, Cheri invites you to really look deeply at what these voices are all about.  Speaking from the depth and wisdom of her Zen training, she shows how to come to grips with these “inner voices” and understand why they are so persistent. And she shows how meditation, insight, and loving-kindness can help us break free of these internal voices and assert our genuine humanity.

As Cheri explains in There is Nothing Wrong with You, these internal voices are so ingrained in us, we often don’t even realize that they are sabotaging us.  We just think “that’s the way I am,” or “that’s just the way things are.”  But Cheri uncovers how we’ve all been “socialized” in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  Parents, family, teachers, and society have all intentionally and unintentionally inculcated in us the feeling that there’s something basically wrong with us.  From the earliest age, we are taught that we should look for flaws in ourselves, that we should judge the “flaws” when we find them, that we should hate ourselves for being the way we are, and that we should punish ourselves until we change.

Have any of these strategies of self-condemnation and self-judgment ever worked for you?  They sure haven’t for me!  And despite years of sincere practice, I’m still learning how to be mindful of the self-hatred that disguises itself as the desire to be good.  As Cheri says:

“Self-hate is a ‘how’ not a ‘what.’ If I’m a worrier, worrying is the ‘how,’ the process. The things I worry about are the ‘whats,’ the content. If I am judgmental, judging is the ‘how,’ the process. The things I judge are the ‘whats,’ the content. If I am caught in self-hating, self-hating is the ‘how,’ the process. The aspects of ‘me’ that are hated—body, personality, looks (the list is endless)—are the ‘whats,’ the content.

In other words, I am not hating myself; self-hate is hating me. Self-hate is an autonomous process with a life of its own, an endless tape loop of conditioning, creating, and shaping the world in which we live.”

If anything of this speaks to your heart and desire to be finally free of self-hatred and self-sabotaging inner critics, you owe yourself a visit to Cheri Huber’s website, Living Compassion.  A great (and fun!) place to start is her “The Voices” blog, which I mentioned above.

I can also highly these books of hers, all of which have helped me immensely over the years:

There is Nothing Wrong with You: Regardless of What You Were Taught  to Believe
Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline
Be the Person You Want to Find: Relationship  and Self-Discovery
That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek
When you’re falling, Dive: Acceptance, Freedom, and Possibility
The Fear Book: Facing Fear Once and for All
The Key: And the Name of the Key is Willingness

And if right now, some voice in you is saying, “I could never do this,” or “this is just Eastern pop-psychology mumbo-jumbo,” or “maybe others can be helped by this, but I can’t” — don’t you believe it! Each of us has the built-in capacity to be free. Give yourself a chance to be free.  The path Cheri Huber shares is the real thing.

If you are interested in shorter dharma and inspirational articles and notes, please visit:
Metta Refuge Dharma Nuggets.


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About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza


  1. How Insight and Loving-kindness Free Us from Mental Parasites « Metta Refuge - 2010/04/15

    […] How to Silence Those Self-Sabotaging Inner Voices […]

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