YOUR SELF STORY
Do you define yourself by what you have or haven’t achieved in the past?
- You had debt in the past, so you think of yourself as someone who’s bad with money
- You don’t have the relationship of your dreams, so you think you aren’t worthy of love
- You haven’t created a lot of close friendships, so you think you’re bad at connecting with others
- You haven’t gotten any paying clients, so you think you aren’t a capable of being a successful entrepreneur
- You’ve given up before, so you think of yourself as someone who gives up when things get hard
It’s very common to seek evidence of our capabilities (and limitations) by looking to our past.
It’s also one of the biggest ways we limit our growth.
The thoughts you believe about yourself are the foundation of everything you feel, do, and create in the world.
If you limit yourself to only believing things about yourself that you have believed in the past or can support with evidence from the past, you will sentence yourself to a lifetime of only being able to be that same person and take those same actions.
It’s a bit of a mindfuck, so let’s break this down with an example.
Let’s say you have never made much money in the past. You haven’t believed you could negotiate when starting jobs, you haven’t asked for raises, you’ve set limitations on how much money you thought you were capable of making, maybe you even bet some money on people or ideas that didn’t work out. You’ve literally made decisions that lost money.
So your thought about yourself is that you’re someone who struggles to make ends meet, and that you’ve made bad decisions with money in the past.
And you have a mountain of evidence to support this belief.
Just look at your past! Look at the facts! You’ve made bad decisions with money, you’ve wasted money, you’ve bought stuff you don’t need or left money on the table.
But here’s the thing:
When you hold onto those thoughts, you know what happens?
You feel shame.
Because you’re feeling shame, you are MORE likely to question your decisions and doubt yourself. You may oscillate between creating unrealistic, restrictive budgets and then rebelling against them by making impulse purchases that you don’t really need. Or you may just ignore your bank balance altogether, and just hope the charges go through and feel bad when you get an overdraft fee. You’re LESS likely to negotiate for yourself in your job or look for ways to make extra income.
Thinking the same things about yourself only produces MORE OF THE SAME for you.
Thinking you are bad with money will NEVER make you act better with money.
But what if you worked on believing the opposite – that you are great with money?
I know, I know, it sounds delusional. There’s no evidence to support this belief! But just imagine, as a thought experiment, that you believed “I’m great with money.”
You would likely feel confident.
And when you were feeling confident because you believed you were great with money, you wouldn’t be afraid of making more money. You might invest in a range of things, some of which would work out and some of which wouldn’t. And you know what you’d do with those investments that didn’t create more money? What people who believe they’re great with money do: LEARN from them. If you thought you were great with money, you’d probably be more willing to negotiate at work.
Look at that: New thought, entirely different result.
This is just one example of how your thoughts create your results, but it applies to every single belief you have about yourself now.
Don’t think you’re good with people?
The next time you’re at a party, you’ll be more likely to feel anxious and not form connections.
But if you thought “I’m great with people,” what do you think would happen?
You’d put yourself out there. You wouldn’t take it personally if someone wasn’t that into you. You’d move on and meet MORE people and build a new mountain of evidence of your amazing people skills.
Think you’re a person who gives up easily?
You will feel bad about yourself and find all the evidence in the world to give up before you’ve even STARTED a new thing.
But if you think “I never give up” you will stick to your goals until you make them a reality.
The moral of this story is that you simply can’t get different results in your life by thinking the same things about yourself.
Most of us think it’s important to dwell on our inadequacies in order to motivate ourselves to change.
But as I just demonstrated, the OPPOSITE is true.
When we focus on our inadequacies, we just produce shame. And ultimately, we recreate the exact same (unwanted) results for ourselves.
If you limit yourself to only being allowed to believe something about yourself that is proven by your past actions, you will never be able to change.
Your past thoughts about yourself have all created the results you have in your life NOW.
If you want to do something new, you will have to practice thinking new thoughts about yourself.
It’s as simple as that.
The good news?
You can choose to believe ANYTHING about yourself.
You can believe something that is literally contradicted by every one of your past actions or results.
Because guess what?
ALL of your thoughts about yourself – including your interpretation of what happened in the past and who you are as a result and even the very concept of failure are just THOUGHTS.
And even IF some of them are facts, you STILL get to choose what to think about yourself.
After a recent coaching call, a Clutch member posted in the Facebook group that her takeaway was, “your actions don’t determine what you are allowed to think about yourself.” And that’s spot on.
You don’t have to think about yourself in a certain way because of anything you did or didn’t do in the past.
You are allowed to think WHATEVER you want to about yourself.
If you yell at your kids all the time, you don’t have to think “I’m someone who yells at her kids all the time.”
You’re allowed to think “I am a calm and peaceful parent.”
And practicing thinking that will actually MAKE you a more calm and peaceful parent!
Not only that, but it’s actually NECESSARY to believe that about yourself if you ever want to produce that result.
You have to believe you are something new or different before you can actually create that reality for yourself. BEFORE you have evidence or proof of it. Even when all the evidence and proof supports the opposite.
This is what you have to understand: Your current thoughts are producing your current feelings and actions.
If you already believed something new, you’d have different ones already.
So when you look at your past, and see all this evidence for your old beliefs? That’s because the old beliefs CREATED it.
It will INHERENTLY contradict new beliefs, every time. Because if you already believed the new belief, you’d already have different evidence.
If you want to create something new in your life, you have to believe something new about yourself.
This will feel terrible, by the way.
It will require you to look past the long list of evidence you have about who you are and what limitations you have.
It will require you to rewrite some old stories about yourself.
You will have to go hunting for evidence to support your NEW beliefs and you will have to ignore your brain when it screams at you to stop.
You will have to PRACTICE your new beliefs about yourself and sit with the wildly uncomfortable cognitive dissonance that comes from believing two contradictory things about yourself, at the same time.
And with practice, and with dedication, you will learn to focus on your new belief more than the old one.
Your new self story will become your default story, more often than not.
And your beliefs about yourself will fuel new emotions, which will allow you to take new action in your life, and create the results that you desire.
THIS is what change looks like.
And it is always available to you.
No matter WHAT you have or haven’t done.
Remember: Your actions are not in charge of what you are allowed to think about yourself.
What’s done is done. Over. As gone as ancient Rome.
You are not required to blame or shame yourself because of anything in the past.
You are not required to criticize yourself.
You are not required to believe the worst about yourself.
Doing all of these things does not make you a better person and in fact, it only makes you more likely to recreate the very thing you are beating yourself up for.
You get to decide, TODAY, what and how to think about yourself.
Your past actions have nothing to do with how you want to think about yourself NOW.
What do you want to open yourself up to believing about yourself today?