A good story can entertain, motivate, and teach valuable lessons.
That is why it is important we pay attention to the stories we tell ourselves.
Stories can change how we see the world. But they can also impact how we see ourselves—especially if we tell ourselves the same ones over and over again.
I had a rule when my kids were young. Under no circumstances would they wear clothing that told an unflattering story.
You know the type. Most of the time, designers created them to be funny. They use brightly colored fonts on a t-shirt with sayings like: “Here comes trouble.” “Wild Child.” Or “Just a kid that loves to watch YouTube.”
And I suppose they are kinda funny to the adults in the room. I just didn’t want my kids wearing them. The last thing I wanted every time my child walked into a room was everybody greeting him/her by saying, “Oh, here comes trouble!” Or “Here’s Wild Child!”
If every time my child walked into a room they were referred to as “trouble,” it wouldn’t take long before they began to believe that story and act on it.
The stories we tell ourselves matter. And the stories we allow others to tell us about ourselves matter as well.
Too often, as adults we miss this fact. Or we get so used to the same stories over and over again, we forget that we get to write our own.
Somewhere along the way we adopted the story as truth. So we believe certain things to be true about ourselves:
- I can’t declutter my home, I’m just a messy person.
- I can’t get in shape, it’s not my thing.
- I can’t be brave, I’m a worrier.
- I can’t quit smoking, I’ve tried.
- I can’t be stable, my entire family is dysfunctional.
- I can’t achieve that lifelong goal, I’m just not wired that way.
In almost every one of the circumstances above, it’s not you that can’t achieve the change you want to see in life… it’s the story you are telling yourself that is keeping you from achieving that goal.
And you can change the story you tell yourself any time you want!
You don’t have to be a messy person.
You don’t have to be unhealthy.
You don’t have to be a worrier.
And on and on and on.
Those old stories don’t have to define you. Start telling yourself a new one!
You accomplish this in two ways: 1) The words that you use and 2) The actions you take.
I am a fan of positive self-talk. But I’m wise enough to know that you don’t just speak change into existence. Change takes work, effort, and discipline. But the first step is to change how you talk to yourself. That is why positive self-talk is so valuable.
Every positive change begins with these four words: “I can do this.”
So start there.
If you are a person who struggles with eating healthy and have always believed you cannot change, start each morning with one simple phrase, “I can do this.” Look yourself in the mirror and say it aloud, “I can do this. I can change my diet. I can be a healthier eater.”
And then follow it up with action.
How? By choosing to only eat fruits and vegetables every meal for the rest of your life? Probably not. But your first step in the right direction doesn’t need to be a large one. Change one meal. Go one day without sugar. Or change your order at the restaurant.
When you go to bed, remind yourself, “I did it. I ate healthier today. I feel better about myself. I can do it again tomorrow. I can become a healthier person.”
Almost certainly there will be progress and setbacks. When the setbacks happen, don’t fall back into the same old story of “See, I knew I couldn’t do it.” Tell yourself a new story, “I can’t believe I took a step backward! I was doing so well. I will start again tomorrow. I can do it.”
The stories we tell ourselves matter. Choose positive ones that foster the life you want to live and the person you want to become.