A conversation with someone I’ve known for a long time reminded me of a challenge so many of us face. We have a story we believe and continuously tell about ourselves, even if only in an internal dialogue. That story begins when we are born and what we are told, what we experience and what we want all comes together in a narrative we play subconsciously and often recite to others.
When I was a child, a woman who went to our church looked down at me one day and said, “Don’t worry sweetie, some day you’ll grow up to be a pretty girl.” Wow, right??! Basically, I heard, “You’re pretty ugly right now and hopefully you’ll grow up and be pretty.” What I internalized for YEARS was that I wasn’t pretty yet.
My friend relayed to me that her father said she wouldn’t ever amount to anything. She translated that to mean she would never be successful. It’s a limiting belief she lives with and probably thinks about often. When she searches her brain for memories, she finds experiences that reinforce her story that she will always be nothing much to talk about. Then she relays the story to me and probably to others.
A professor gave me a nugget of information once that changed my life. He said the thing is, our brain believes what we tell it to believe. If you tell yourself you are worthless, you’ll constantly feel worthless. If you keep repeating a successful story, you’ll begin to feel successful. Even if you had a bad experience in your life, you can stop feeding your brain with the same memory, dialogue or belief. You have the opportunity and all the skills you need to tell a new story.
So how do you tell a new and better story about yourself? You have to create a new story or belief about yourself. And you have to tell it a lot – a lot more than the slightly or completely negative one you’ve told most of your life. It takes some effort. Think of it as a record album with grooves that the needle fits in to. Those grooves are deep. Your job is to change what plays in the grooves.
Seek out other stories about yourself that make that original story no longer true. Think of times you succeeded! Replay compliments you’ve received from others or times when clients or employees were extremely satisfied about something you’ve done.
To me, my friend is determined, a talented artist, compassionate, diligent and successful. She mentored me and helped me just because she is all of those things I described. She certainly didn’t have to put in the time with me. And she put in the time with about ten of us, creating a shared experience that I will never forget. I hope she can incorporate the parts of that experience into her own story. To me, she was everything I needed her to be at that time in my life.
One of my favorite gatherings with a group of friends happened one New Year’s Day several years ago. We were all thinking about the new year and decided we would go around the room and say one thing about each person that summed up how we felt about them. Meanwhile, a scribe wrote them all on a note pad and gave them to each person to keep. I carried mine in my wallet for years. Now I keep it on my desk and unfold it once in awhile. It’s part of my new story. Some of the chapters of my story can still get pretty negative. It’s a constant and evolving process, especially when the examples I can point to so clearly reinforce those things I believe that just aren’t true. That little piece of paper helps a lot. So do all the people in my life who help to correct my story when I get it wrong.
words for my new story
- Mama – fixes anything
- Strong – brings out the best in others
- My saving grace – my Queen
- Intelligent – teacher
- My heart
Wow, right?! That’s a story with a much happier ending.
Do you need help rewriting your new story? Ask for help – friends, mentors, family, colleagues, coaches and others are likely ready and willing to help you.
Journal it out – the old story and the new version. What words and phrases will you use to replace those that hurt you or changed your belief in yourself?
Start telling your new story.
“But her story isn’t finished, and for once she’s picked up a pen.”
― Kelsey Sutton, Some Quiet Place