I don’t think I’m the only one who tells myself stories (and no, not because I’m an author). I mean the stories we tell ourselves about of lives and our Self. They can be labels, ideas, “evidence-based facts” or other, but there’s a lot of things that we just accept and believe about our lives that we never question because they come straight from our own mind.
Let me explain through my own poor narratives…
I used to believe I grew up in a poor neighbourhood but as I’ve grown older, I don’t see that as the case. My neighbourhood has a library, a community centre, a doctors and dentists, therapy facilities, a shopping centre, coffee shops, cafes, takeaways, an airport (though not really in my town but in the one by it), train station (again, not my town but the one over), and plenty of buses.
There’s graffiti and crime but it could be worse. None of my immediate family (that I know of) has been directly affected by crime *touch wood*. When I was young, I could play out in the streets, walk to my grandparents, call for my friends, ride bikes, climb trees, and stay out late. Now does that really sound like such a poor neighbourhood? Does it seem like I didn’t have what I wanted? What I needed? Was it dangerous due to poverty sending people to crime? No.
Yet I told myself as much for a very long time.
I’m socially awkward
The reason I said awkward and not anxious is because I want to relate this point to a few others in one neat section. I tell myself that I’m socially anxious, shy, not good with people, awkward, introverted, or just hate doing things and this is very toxic. They may be true enough, in a way, but that doesn’t mean that I should attach myself to this narrative. I believe that it doesn’t help my social anxiety to think about it so much and blame everything on it. It just makes it worse and gives it more power.
The same goes for my general introversion. If you are an introvert, be careful what you tell yourself about who you are. Yes, you may be introverted and that’s great; be you. But don’t decide that being introverted means you don’t go out or see people or do anything considered “extroverted”. Don’t attach to that narrative! You’re only limiting yourself and putting yourself in a box of your own lies!
I’m not as good
This is a big one as I do have low self-esteem. I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, fit enough, interesting enough and so on. There’s been times when I’ve said to myself “I’m not as smart as my brother, that’s a fact” and “I’m not as interesting as my sister, that’s a fact” and in doing this, I thought I was accepting the truth and therefore giving it less power over me. But it does the opposite!
One: intelligence, likeability, and beauty are all subjective. It depends on the person you ask, the situation, and other variables like that. Two: how does comparing myself to other people help me at all? Even “positive comparisons” where you say, “I’m not as smart as this person but at least I’m smarter than that person” still doesn’t help. It creates this toxic hierarchy. Instead, we must avoid comparison altogether (I’ll let you know if I ever learn how to do this!)
What I’m saying here is, I attached myself to these narratives of comparison. By doing this, I look in the mirror and don’t see a pretty woman, but I accept it. I have a conversation and feel I’m not impressively intelligent, and I accept it. I wear it and say “yes this is me and it’s not great but that’s how it is.”
Change the narrative. I’m beautiful, I’m intelligent, I’m interesting, to me.
I won’t go further into personal ones, but here is a quick list of narratives that you may have attached yourself to and may be limiting you on a regular basis:
- I’m not a good learner
- I can’t read/ don’t like to read
- I don’t have money/can’t make money/can’t afford this or that
- I’m ugly
- I don’t like INSERT THING HERE
- I can’t run
- I don’t think I could travel alone
- I could never do what you do
- I’m not as brave as you
- I can’t do maths, English, history and dates, science, etc.
- I can’t do THING because of my ILLNESS OR DISABILITY (some)
- I’m too busy/don’t have the time
- I can’t make decisions
- I’m not smart enough
We are in control of the narrative we choose to tell ourselves about our lives and who we are. Whether something has any truth to it or not doesn’t really matter, what you need to be careful about it accepting that truth too blindly. Or encompassing that truth and making it who you are without ever venturing away from it. Yes, I’m introverted; or yes, I have clinically diagnosed social anxiety, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go out and have fun and be around people and have a good time! I need to stop telling myself this every time I’m asked out!
So, now that it’s drawing closer to the end of the year, I want you to start thinking about the bad narratives you’ve told yourself in 2018 (and years before). Then, make a conscious effort not to bring those limiting narratives into 2019.