In the absence of information, we all make up the details. It’s a way of making sense of the world and creating order out of chaos. Normal, human, mostly adaptive. But like all coping skills, if we rely on it too much, it starts to skew the facts and loses it’s original purpose.
Have you ever considered the story you tell about yourself or others? Not just the story you tell to others about yourself. That’s a whole other enchilada. I’m talking about the internal narrative that’s constantly running in the background of your head about how you are in the world. We aren’t born with a voice in our head that tells us about ourselves. It’s installed later – by the environment we’re born into: parents, siblings, teachers, religion, culture, society, government. We’re influenced by our family history, region, and the time we’re born into. For instance, a young tall boy from the United Stated may be groomed to be a basketball player while a young, tall Tibetan boy may be groomed to be the next Dalai Lama. Those same boys may have doubts, fears, and anxieties that cloud their potential. Each may secretly tell themselves, “People say you’re great but they don’t really mean it.” Or if they are nurtured well enough, they may have another voice that responds with, “If I keep working, I’ll get better.”
Adults tell themselves stories about themselves and others all the time. At Resolute, we find our client’s narratives get them stuck in a way of thinking that makes them believe there’s no way to a solution. Even the most healthy people have voices inside them that Brené Brown terms ‘shame gremlins’ that undermine confidence and erode self esteem. Sometimes it’s in sentences like, “I keep trying to work it out with my wife but it’s never good enough.” More often it’s in snippets like thinking ‘stupid’ or ‘such an idiot’ and then feeling guilty or shameful. Most adults don’t even realize this is happening or just how mean they are to themselves. They would never dream of saying these things to another person. We may also say good things about ourselves from time to time. That can be complicated as steering away from reality goes back to that concept of being out of balance. But the story adds up either way: in a summary of all the things you say about yourself to yourself, is the inside of your head a comfortable and safe place to be? If it started out without any stories, let’s make you the writer.
What stories do you tell about yourself? What new story do you want to tell?
Originally Inspired by: The Two Kinds of Stories We Tell Ourselves
Also published on Medium.