The Power of the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Something I’ve been looking at a lot recently is the stories people tell themselves.
I’m fat. I’m bad at math. I’m not smart enough, not good enough.
Have you ever looked at a story that you’ve been telling yourself for years and asked it a very important question: Is that true?
And more importantly, where, when and from whom did you learn that this was true and you went forward believing it?
A few years ago, someone was talking to me about a conversation they were having about me with someone else, and in the conversation, referred to me as “flaky.” The person wasn’t aiming to cause pain, but I walked away from that moment and took what they’d said to be true. Because I’ve changed my career several times, and I can be very light and fun and whimsical, that combination meant that I was flaky.
The thing is, it’s not the thoughts we think that matter. We think thousands of thoughts a day. It’s the ones that hook us in, that we create logical stories around and believe to be true, those are the thoughts that are the building blocks for the stories we tell ourselves and the world about who we are.
I’ve had a lot of stories. I’ve even hidden behind them. I’ll give you an example of a story I decided that was no longer true.
For a long time one of my stories has been this: I’m an introvert.
Introversion has a lot of varieties, but mine went like this: I’m an introvert that masks as an extrovert – I can public speak and teach classes, but being around people is very draining for me. And in my head introverts are also not confident. So when I had to go to a conference last year, it looked like this:
I dressed in casual attire, aiming to be comfortable and blend in. I only talked to the two people next to me at my table. I was vague in explaining who I am and what I do. On the breaks where you’re supposed to network, I went to the bathroom. And I attended nothing other than the main sessions, because I might have to talk to people.
Two weeks ago, I attended Podcast Movement in Chicago, by myself.
And before I went, I decided to drop my introvert story. I asked myself, “Who did I want to show up as at this conference? What does the best version of me wear? Say? Do?” And I decided to be her, right then and there. I packed my bags and took the train downtown.
All three days I dressed very nicely, heels (comfortable ones!) and jewelry and all. I looked great. I felt great. I talked to people left and right. I found my groove. I networked. I went to extra events and networked there too. I found people who fit my jam and hung with them. I stood in front of a very intimidating gentleman and held my ground, and then I walked away feeling like a rockstar. And at the end of the night, because I was a bit drained, I read books and took salt baths in my beautiful hotel room.
And all of this happened because I made a choice not to believe a story that I used to tell myself. Sometimes I need to remember that I’m not who I think I am.
I’m also not flaky. I know myself, and I trust my intuition. I changed careers several times because I followed what society told me until it didn’t feel true anymore. When I needed a more fulfilling career, I transitioned once. When my intuition said I needed more depth and freedom and ease, I transitioned again. And it’s my choice to be light and fun and whimsical, it makes me feel like I can light up the world.
We all tell stories about all aspects of our lives. It’s a natural part of being human that we’ve all developed. We also all have the power of choice.
What stories are you telling that you can decide in this moment are no longer true for you? And who can you become when you let go of that story?