Why You Need to Know Your Story
We tell stories to connect, to build relationships, to form history, to understand, to explain, to present and to avoid. Stories are also part of our inner narrative, the way we make sense of things, explain the world to ourselves and navigate through successes and downfalls. In short, storytelling has been around since the beginning of time.
We collect a series of events, thoughts and feelings that we find meaningful and create stories that feel like the truth to us. If I tell you that it is all made up, you may feel offended at the very notion that who you are and how you present yourself is not true. It is not untrue, but it may very well be a truth that is not working so well for you.
What will empower you?
If I am given an opportunity – say it is to lead a new project that requires that I step up – I can look at this in different ways:
- I can choose to let my fears run the show by listening to my inner narrative telling me that I am not skilled or knowledgeable enough, I don’t have the resources, nor the right team or time. The combination of these limiting beliefs resulting in turning down the opportunity. Limiting beliefs often comes camouflaged as “The Truth”.
- Now, say I choose to recognize that there are indeed challenges, and an inner narrative that keeps reminding me of my limitations, I can make a conscious choice about what I will listen to. I can remind myself that I can overcome limiting beliefs and deal with challenges. It can sound something like this: “I don’t know how I will do this, but I am sure I can figure it out. I am grateful for the opportunity to prove myself. Clearly, my boss believes in me and trusts that I can do this. I need to trust myself as well!”.
Both versions are “made up”. They are both stories I tell myself.
Which of the stories will empower me? Which of the stories will help me feel good about myself?
Being scared is totally okay. Being run by fear is not.
What is a story?
The dictionary defines story as “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.”
In her book, The Language of the Night, Ursula K. Le Guin, says: “The story—from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace—is one of the basic tools invented by the mind of man, for the purpose of gaining understanding.”
Every time we tell ourselves that something can or can’t be done there is a story accompanying our narrative.
We want to bring our focus to the story we create and ask: Is it empowering? Does it help bring out the best in me? Am I filled with energy, motivation and drive? Or does it have me slump, struggle and fight? Am I the victim or the hero in my story? Be the hero! Step into leadership and lead as if your life depends on it. Your wellbeing certainly does.
Pay attention to the signals
If you find yourself blaming and making excuses, if you see others as obstacles or circumstances blocking your way ahead, it is a pretty sure sign that there is some victim talk going on in your mind. If you notice a sense of impatience or a stirring of discomfort that keeps nagging, it is time to get curious. What are your excuses? The ones you keep using so often it feels like entitlements? Who and what do you blame?
Check in with yourself
With the answers slowly coming to life, ask: what am I willing to take responsibility for?
Diving into the above questions is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage. It craves compassion for yourself. This is not another guilt trip where you switch the blaming to judging yourself. It is a discovery. A treasure hunt uncovering what is true for you so that you can live and lead feeling empowered, confident, fulfilled and at choice. That is why you need to know your story.