Today I want to talk about the stories we tell ourselves, how to recognise whether or not they’re helpful and how we can start changing them. When I say stories, I mean things like…
“I’m not creative”
“I could never wear that”
“I’m not good at public speaking”
For some of us, these ‘stories’ are so ingrained in us that we don’t even give thought or energy to it. For example, if you say to yourself “I’m bad at maths”, chances are you’ll shy away from things that involve maths (like financial tasks) and probably won’t even try.
I use this example as it’s one of mine. I hate maths with a passion and have always said to myself that I’m bad at it and therefore just ignore any jobs that require numbers – and that’s not ideal.
Another story of mine is that I’m ‘bad’ at networking. I always feel nervous before meeting new people and I was so convinced of it that I avoided events. Thankfully this is one I’ve managed to shake off and over the last year have seriously pushed myself out of my comfort zone and ramped up my event attendance.
It can be incredibly hard to sort truth from fiction when it comes to these stories.
So where do they come from? A lot of them seem to, in my humble non-professional opinion, come from our early years and experiences. If we excel at a certain subject at school we may be pinned as a certain ‘type’ of person. Our parents may use certain descriptors when we’re kids. A bad experience or two may have scared you off a certain subject.
And of course there’s the fear. That’s a big one. Sometimes we want to be something so much, we’re terrified of it. We’re scared that if we try and fail, we’ll be crushed. So instead of giving it a go, we keep it at arm’s length insisting we’re not X or we’re bad at Y.
These are called ‘limiting beliefs’, because, well, they limit us. They stop us from trying, they stop us from hoping. But how do we pick them out – and what the hell can we do about them?
To figure out what beliefs you have and which ones are limiting can be tricky. It takes a certain amount of self-awareness and a bucket-load of honesty. Here’s an exercise to get you started:
- Write down all the words you would use to describe yourself.
- Write down what you think your talents and flaws are.
- Now, ask someone close to you to do the exact same thing.
- Compare the lists and go back to yours.
- Pick out the potentially limiting beliefs (these tend to be negative, i.e. ‘I’m bad at X’ or ‘I can’t do Y’) and question every single one.
- Can you find any evidence to back up your belief?
- Have you tried your hand at the thing you think you can’t do recently?
- What would it look like if you tried and failed? What would it look like if you tried and succeeded?
This self-analysis can often get us in the right headspace to understand where we may be steering ourselves wrong. Being aware of them is an excellent start and questioning them is the first step to changing them.
For some of us, a little extra support can help – be it through coaching or even counselling if you want a deeper exploration. Some of these stories are deeply ingrained, but I honestly believe with work and attention, we can all change the narrative. We are the authors of our own book after all (ouch, that was cheesy… but you know what I mean).
Can you think of any beliefs you have about yourself that could be holding you back?
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