Don’t Believe the Lies You Tell Yourself
Your stories aren’t “the truth”. None of our stories are. They are merely the way we’ve chosen to interpret the events and experiences of our lives.
Here’s one of mine. When I was in kindergarten my classmates and I would often sing songs as a group, led by one of our teachers. I was six-years-old, full of beans, and never missed an opportunity for good ol’ self-expression.
On this particular occasion, I closed my eyes as the singing began. The song was one of my favourites, and I belted out the tune with the rest of my classmates. My six-year-old self was having a blast, loving every minute of the performance!
Then I noticed that something seemed odd. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something had definitely shifted. Gingerly, I opened my eyes, and to my horror I saw that everyone had stopped singing. Instead they were all staring at me as if I’d lost my marbles!
I got a scolding from the teacher for singing so loudly, and shade from my friends for taking over the performance.
That day I made a decision: It was “bad” to stand out from the crowd. I had to fit in if I wanted to be liked and approved of. That’s the story I created from that single incident.
I carried that story with me for years. I allowed it to influence how I expressed myself, who I hung out with, and the goals I chose to pursue. It wasn’t easy; a part of me did want to stand out and be noticed, while another part feared reproach. “What will they think of me?” became a standard feature of my decision-making processes.
I chose to let that story go a number of years ago, when I realised that I was never going to get to a point where I was universally liked and admired!
In hindsight I realise that I could have interpreted the events of that day in a number of different ways and therefore constructed different stories:
- I could have seen it as a lesson in teamwork and the value of harmonising with others towards a common goal
- I could have been defiant, created a diva story about how I would never allow my light to be dimmed!
Perhaps you can see other interpretations I could have arrived at that day? My point is, I chose to create a particular story and that impacted how I tended to show up in all sorts of future events.
The thing about stories is that, once we believe them, they define us. That’s great if the story is one where you are a warrior or a champion; not so great if the story limits you and causes you to hide.
- Think of a story you tell yourself. e.g. “I’m not good with numbers.” “Nothing works out for me.” “Life is hard.”
- Where does this story come from? What happened? What was the event or experience that led to the creation of that story?
- Is the story true? Now this is a bit tricky because your immediate response might be: “Of course it’s true; look at the evidence!” Here’s another way to approach the question: could there be a different interpretation of the event? Would other people (your partner/boss/friends/parents/co-workers) observing this event interpret it in the same way?
When you open yourself up to the possibility of a different interpretation – a different story – then you will see that your story isn’t necessarily true. It’s just what you’ve chosen to believe.