I follow Elizabeth Gilbert on Twitter (even though I absolutely have mixed feelings about her), and she recently said something that resonated with me:
"Keep buying into (and defending) your own garbage storyline, though, and the change can never come."
We tell ourselves all kinds of things, but they're never really the absolute truth; they're just the narrative we choose to tell about ourselves. It's unavoidable, but the real question is whether we're gaining anything from the narrative we're writing.
For example, there are people who will always tell the story of being a victim. They're always innocent. Everyone screws them over. Of course there will be truth to that, but if they believe this narrative and tell the victim story to themselves over and over again, they'll only ever be the victim. They'll never take responsibility.
What a lame protagonist, right?
The point is that the narrative shapes our reality. When you say things like, "I'm not someone who ___," or "I always ___," are you filling in those blanks with a self-defeating characteristics? Are you labeling yourself in a way that limits your actions or goes against what you value?
I'm not talking about "The Secret" where you're supposed to positive-think your way into the life you want. It doesn't work like that. Sometimes we just get lucky or unlucky. Life isn't fair after all. You shouldn't blame yourself or take credit for things you truly didn't have control over.
I'm talking about telling your story in a way that allows you recognize behavior patterns, admit mistakes, and acknowledge accomplishments, so that you can better decide your next step.
For me, I have to reframe stories that deal with my ego. Oh, how I love an ego boost. But I can be tempted by the spotlight and lose focus on what's important. In other words, I get self-absorbed, and I can't see the bigger picture. In the end, it hurts me. I've done some dumb things just to gain and retain others' favor. While it's good to accept compliments of course, I try to turn that positivity into something productive. Instead of a story about how great I am, it's a story about what I've accomplished with hard work and help from others or what I've done to help others accomplish their goals.
We can't go back in time, but we can change our past, present, and future by taking control of the narrative. Tell your story in a way that empowers you moving forward.