I’m talking about the stories you tell yourself – those particular sentences that you repeat to yourself and others OFTEN.
A client of mine frequently said this to me: “I haven’t made any money this year.”
Think about the feelings of inadequacy and resentment and failure that she experiences every time she thinks this.
Once I recognized the pattern, my client and I completed an exercise where she totalled all her invoices for the year. She was astounded and how much she had actually earned.
Sometimes she still tells me that. I remind her and she lets it go.
These are some of the stories other clients of mine tell themselves:
- I haven’t done as well in life as I should have (Despite having a job he enjoys, good remuneration, solid relationships etc)
- My boss has it in for me (all the bosses from her last 3 jobs??)
- I don’t get enough sex (I remember a story about Woody Allen who said “We hardly ever have sex – only 3 times a week.” His wife said, “We’re always having sex – about 3 times a week”)
- I have no energy (Despite the fact that she is extremely productive and gets more done in a day than anyone else I know)
These stories are destructive because of the feelings that are generated every time we buy into them. These negative feelings lead to a consistent loss of self-esteem. This leads to unhappiness, loss of focus and an inability to achieve goals.
The main reason these stories destroy is because we tend to notice only the things in life that support the story. We totally ignore anything that proves the opposite of the story. This way we can believe the story. We continue to repeat the story to ourselves – over and over. The destruction continues.
We live the story.
Here’s what you can do to change this:
- Become aware. Listen to yourself when you are chatting to friends. Listen to yourself when you are driving your car or in the shower. Make a note of the things you are telling yourselves and others about you. Do this for a month. You will soon pick up the most common negative story you are telling about yourself.
- Choose one story that you wish to change.
- Start an evidence diary. Take a few minutes every day and write down anything you have done or thought that provides evidence for the opposite version of your story. For example: if your story is that you are stupid, write down EVERYTHING you do that shows your intelligence: I wrote a good report today; my boss praised me in the meeting; my husband was impressed with the catering I did for his Birthday. Keep collecting evidence, big or small, until you have pages and pages that disprove your story. Eventually your subconscious mind will adopt the new story.
- Let it go.Every time you start telling yourself of someone the story, stop yourself and merely let it go. Even if you stop mid-sentence that’s better than nothing. Eventually you will train yourself to not tell that story.
Practice these steps every day. If you forget for a day or two don’t give up. Just start again and continue doing the steps.
One day you will notice that the destructive story has become a powerful and constructive one.
Is there another story you’d like to change? Get going!
Oddly enough, we come to rely upon our own stories so much
that it seems that all we can tell ourselves are stories as well.
Roger C. Shank