Beware of the stories you tell yourself

Updated: Jun 26

The stories we tell ourselves become rules that we live by, and without realising it, these stories start to dictate our actions and responses. An event or situation that may have happened years ago, still influences these stories as we hold that thought close in our memory. Over time this event becomes ingrained into our thinking. That thought that sticks and becomes a story we play over and over and, often, these are negative stories about ourselves to ourselves.


A personal example of mine is that many years ago someone close to me called me 'selfish'. The reason they called me that was because I had put myself first which they were not particularly pleased with. They would, ad hoc, refer to me as 'selfish' and quite quickly I took to repeatedly using that label for myself. I find myself casually referring to myself as 'selfish' or making jokes about it, and even using it as an excuse for my behaviour. It wasn't until many years later, when I was working with a coach, that I was challenged on this reference.


Unpicking it, I realised I didn't really think I was selfish, and that it was simply a habit I'd gotten into. Without realising it, my 'selfish' label had created a negative narrative and led me to berate myself time and time again - especially when I was doing things for me, or focusing on myself. I would tie myself in knots wanting to do things for myself but then feeling hugely guilty for being 'selfish'. I've now learnt to be kinder to myself but I needed the support of someone external to work through this with me; to enable me to see what I was doing and look from a different perspective.


This is only one example, but I'd predict there are many more. We may not realise the full extent of the stories we tell ourselves until we're presented with the time and space to think and challenge. Other examples I often come across are 'I'm lazy', 'I'm not good enough', 'I can't do that', 'I'm not as good / successful / intelligent as everyone else around me.' Coaching can help look into these 'headlines' as to what's driving it. As well as shining a light on the statement, coaching helps to identify the positive (which you're undoubtedly not seeing), and often asks 'how true is that?'.


In a world where we're working so hard on being our authentic selves, it is important to look closely at these stories. Each one will shed a little light on who you really are and what story lines you want to re-write.


Look out for the stories that you tell yourself, and be kind. I'd love to hear about your stories and how you challenge your thinking on these.


Gemma Brown is a certified coach who works with successful women, 1-2-1 and in groups, to identify their strengths and build confidence which enables them to have the self-belief to fearlessly bring their whole being into all areas of life. Gemma is based in Cambridgeshire and carries out face to face coaching in the area as well as via Skype and Zoom. For more about Gemma, visit her 'About' page or contact her directly.

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