When I was in the fifth grade, my parents walked across the street to meet my teacher for a parent-teacher conference.

Of all the teachers I’ve had from kindergarten through law school, Mr. Clinton gets the “World’s Best Teacher“ award hands down. As a model student, I was hardworking, intelligent and got good grades. I’ve had many excellent teachers, but what made Mr. Clinton special was what he gave me that my father never did.

He genuinely appreciated me as an individual and let me know it.

As I watched my parents make the short walk to my grammar school, I was certain they would return with a glowing report of which we could all be proud.

No such luck.

Instead, my father harangued me for the next hour all because Mr. Clinton, who had only wonderful things to say about me, also said:

“Our little Debbie has discovered boys.”

I don’t remember any congratulations for my stellar accomplishments as a fifth grade student. There was no recognition of the obvious affection my teacher had for me. There was only criticism and dire warnings should I veer from model student to boy-crazy dropout.

I was ten years old and that was the dawn, as best as I can remember it, of the voice in my head that heckles, “You are not enough.”

Now I ask you, who do you think owns the voice in my head?

It seems obvious now, but it wasn’t always. Forty years later, when I was working through cancer with a therapist, she made the connection when I mentioned regretting something I had not done. To her, my hesitance made perfect sense given that I had been conditioned to feel, “Why bother if it’s never enough anyway.”

Over the years, the voice in my head became a part of me, adopted and given my name and my voice, indistinguishable from my true self and certainly from my father. Its truth settled into my soul, because what you learn from pain sticks with you.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Silencing a broken record from the past and revealing your true inner voice takes awareness.

What’s the story behind the voice in your head? Oftentimes, the voice in your head traces back to experiences from your past. It might be uncomfortable, but tracing the voice back to a particular time or incidence brings awareness and helps separate your true inner voice from lies you’ve been taught.

Listen to and question what you tell yourself. Do you hear a faint echo of another’s voice coming at you from somewhere else in time? Is the voice loving or is it critical? Do you feel inspired by the voice, or limited and small? Is the voice in your head serving you or holding you back?

Take inventory. As my therapist pointed out during our conversation, I’ve actually accomplished a lot in spite of my nagging voice. I was enough to put myself through college and law school, get and stay married, have two children despite years of infertility and miscarriages, and get through cancer. Taking stock refutes the lies told by the voice in my head and puts it in its place.

Practice compassion. If a good friend needed your support, would you talk to him or her the way the voice in your head talks to you? Are you able to comfort and nurture yourself when you need it, or do you beat yourself up? We are all comprised of energy and light. If your inner voice is mean to you, it’s not originating from you but from a place outside of you.

Of course, sometimes even your true inner voice has difficult truths to deliver. With awareness and compassion, you can take that advice and better yourself. But, if the voice in your head is just mindlessly repeating an old story someone else made up about you long ago, then someone other than you owns that voice.

And whoever owns the voice in your head, owns you. @DebbieWWGN (Click to Tweet!)

DebbieWoodbury knows we’re all survivors of something. Her “somethings,” include family dysfunction, being laid off, miscarriages, infertility, and cancer. It was surviving cancer that pushed her to stop thinking about writing and actually sit down to do it, resulting in her first blog and two books. Now, she’s moving beyond cancer and leaning into joy (via yoga, mindfulness, gratitude, walking, relationships, interior decorating and all the other “little things” that make life worth living.) Debbie also blogs for The Huffington Post, and is an inspirational speaker, wife, mother, and a former very stressed out attorney. You’ll find Debbie’s first blog about surviving cancer at WhereWeGoNow. To find meditations on creating joy and to sign up for Debbie’s newsletters, click here and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of John Haslam.