I am a master storyteller; at least I am when it comes to the stories I tell myself. Last week, I shared with those in my community a little bit of my storytelling capabilities but I realize that I am not the only one with this particular gift.
I think we are all guilty of telling ourselves stories that, though they feel true, are in fact completely false and made up.
According to Brene Brown, storytelling helps us impose order on chaos especially emotional chaos. When we are in pain, she says, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it.
The feeling of emotional chaos can be triggered by a number of things but I believe what ultimately drives the story forward are the filters through which we process the trigger.
And I believe the fabric of those filters is made up largely of the labels we put on ourselves and on others and the lies we believe.
Labels help us organize files and other inanimate things. But we also use them to organize people. Think about it. We all have the friend we label the funny one or the smart one, the dependable one or the unreliable one.
We label people and people label us. The problem is attached to those labels is a set of expectations around how someone should behave or act. When those expectations are not met or someone goes against those expectations a story is triggered.
The friendly person sees us but doesn’t say hello like they normally do and we instantly start telling ourselves a story, a story that has us catastrophizing the situation beyond the one interaction.
Our made up stories also derive their power from the lies we tell ourselves. These lies are the limiting beliefs that are deeply rooted in our subconscious, where we are unaware of them but where they ultimately drive our behavior.
If Mary believes she is not good enough then when an opportunity comes up that pushes her outside her comfort zone, Mary won’t do it. The belief that she is not good enough creates a narrative detailing all the ways Mary will fail and how everyone is going to think she’s a joke for trying. Believing the story, Mary never does anything that feels risky or scary and in the process Mary ends up never really showing up for her life.
Change the Story
There is good news though. You have the power to change the story you are telling yourself. It requires a lot of intentionality on your part but it is possible.
You start by noticing when you are experiencing an emotion that doesn’t match the situation. You get really angry or you start tearing up and you can’t figure out why.
Once you notice the emotion, it’s time to get curious. Grab pen and paper (or your favorite note taking app) and start asking yourself a few “why” questions.
Why am I feeling so angry? Why did that bother me so much? Why is it so important to me what he/she thinks?
The key is that you stay out of judgment. As answers start coming, it’s important that you not judge what you’re feeling or thinking. If you judge it, you can’t move through it and you’ll never get to the truth so no judging.
As you keep asking why, you’ll eventually uncover the story you’re unconsciously telling yourself. Once the made up story presents itself, you can then start challenging it with what is really true.
What are the FACTS of the situation? What do I know for sure (versus what I’ve made up)?
In challenging the story, you’ll likely discover that it starts to fall apart. As the false narrative unravels you can choose to write a different ending, one that is more grounded in truth.
The better you are at noticing your made up stories, the more you’ll be able to stop yourself by simply saying out loud “I’m telling myself a story”. This will arrest your thoughts and you can quickly anchor back into truth.
It takes practice to get there but it’s worth the effort.
Here’s to you changing those false narratives and rising into your greatness.
From my heart to yours,
If you know that you are telling yourself stories that are keeping you playing small and not really showing up in your life or your leadership, but you can’t figure out to stop them let’s talk. Click here to schedule a complimentary call with me today where we can discover what it could look like for you to change those stories.