“I’m not creative.”
“I’ll never get organized.”
“I’m such a dummy.”
“I don’t have time.”
What do these statements have in common? Not one of them is true.
Before you rush to explain that your situation is different, and that those statements are indeed true, hear me out.
Often what seems real to us is the result of a story we’ve told ourselves.
We’re born with tremendous potential and confidence. As we grow up, our experiences and the words of others teach us to make up stories to protect ourselves, to explain why, and to help us cope.
For instance, when a teacher embarrasses a young student by criticizing his artwork in front of the class, most of the time the student believes the teacher’s opinion. He begins to tell himself the story that he isn’t good at art. For the rest of his life he repeats the story that he has no talent for art whenever the opportunity to create art comes up, when all along he actually does have creative ability hidden inside.
Sometimes we can pinpoint the painful event when a story began, but often we don’t remember when the belief and subsequent storytelling started. And most of the time we don’t even realize how stories are running our lives. They become such a part of our thought process that we believe them as absolute truth.
The key is to become aware of storytelling. I recently said to a coach that “nobody takes care of me.” He asked “Is that true?” and I had to admit that it was not! As a child it felt true, and I made up that story to help me survive emotionally. The trouble is, I hung on to the story as an adult and it was no longer serving me to believe that story. Storytelling was causing me to disconnect from the very people who were happy to care for me, because the story created behaviors like refusing help or feelings like loneliness. Once I realized that it was a myth, its power was broken.
When you feel stressful emotions rising, check for storytelling. We use stories to blame others and make excuses so we don’t have to get out of our comfort zone. Our stories can seem pretty comfortable, but they keep us locked up and boxed in.
When you realize you’ve been telling yourself a story, don’t shame yourself and bemoan your ignorance. Just notice what you’re doing and nip it in the bud. Catch the story when it’s a 2 on a scale of 1-10. That will go a long ways towards more stable emotions.
Telling ourselves stories can increase discouragement, maintain a lack of confidence, keep us playing small and more. Realizing what we’re doing, figuring out the truth, and starting the process of applying truth instead can change our lives!
Bedtime stories and reading stories aloud are great for starting and ending your family’s day. Why don’t you start a new habit of checking yourself for storytelling in the morning and and at bedtime? Those checkpoints will help you create a new habit of daily personal growth that will pay enormous dividends in your life.
“How people live their lives is as a result of the stories that they believe about themselves.” ~ Les Brown