The Stories We Tell Ourselves

In my last post, I wrote about the power of storytelling. Stories help convey our values, purpose and brand. But what happens when that oh so powerful story is a lie we repeat to ourselves often?

Much like fairy tales, our personal narratives were constructed at an early age, whether we believe it or not. The people closest to us helped to develop these stories, both positive and negative, that we end up carrying with us through life. So, if you were told you weren’t good enough your entire childhood, chances are you’ve carried that baggage with you through adulthood.

Another thought is that we may have perceived situations as children and translated them into negative stories about ourselves. The mother who was tough on her kids was merely preparing them for life’s challenges versus how a teenager might have perceived this tough love. Either way, the stories we tell ourselves can both help and harm us in the long run.

For me, the stories I create in my head are absolutely dramatizations of reality. I’m still trying to figure out why this is. I’m assuming it has something to do with my personal triggers. Triggers are scenarios that prompt an emotional response. Note: this emotional response can be extremely positive or extremely negative. Triggers, much like personal stories, are deeply rooting in your past experiences.

I tend to obsess about certain situations, then create a false story in my head that in turn solicits an emotional response. See what kind of chain reaction I have going on here? It’s not healthy or sustainable. I’m working on it but am finding it’s really hard for me stop the whirling in my head. The good news is I’m starting to recognize when I’m giving in to this behavior, so that’s step one. Here’s what I’ve been attempting to do when I know I’m obsessing, lying and reacting.

  • Recognize that I’m obsessing and creating a false story about a particular situation
  • Take a deep breath to calm myself down and pull myself out of the emotional reaction I’m having
  • Think about what actually happened versus what I perceived
  • Put myself in the other person’s shoes: could something have triggered them that then caused a chain reaction?
  • Ask myself: will this matter tomorrow, next month or next year? This one is especially helpful in keeping things in perspective.

I am certainly a work in progress, but have found these steps helpful. What kinds of stories do you tell yourself? Do any illicit an emotional response and how do you manage that? Share with me!

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