As children, we grow up listening to fables and fairy tales.
This is how many of us begin to associate with the world — through stories.
As we grow, we naturally begin to tell ourselves more personal types of stories…
Stories about who we are and who we are not, stories about our abilities and our faults, stories about past moments of perceived weakness and future moments of anticipated failure.
And as the stories we tell deepen, they also become more damaging. Many of us begin to accept these stories — often false beliefs about ourselves — as truth.
Maybe the story is that we’re horrible at math (raises hand), or that we’re not funny, or that we can’t cook.
Or maybe it’s something bigger, like we’re selfish, or we always fail, or we’re not very likeable.
The scary thing is, these beliefs are usually rooted in very few facts and a whole lot of unqualified self-doubt.
We lie to ourselves about ourselves through negative, made-up stories like this that we single-handedly author and then put on repeat inside our heads. Potentially forever.
Never once stopping to dig deeper, to question our own narrative, to even think of second-guessing the validity of the very things we tell ourselves…
Just like as kids when we believed in tales of dragons and witches and monsters, no questions asked.
Except that now, believing in our own made-up dragons comes with some pretty serious consequences.
These stories affect how we see ourselves, they affect our self-esteem and they ultimately affect our path in life — whether or not we have the confidence to make certain choices, to take risks, to put ourselves out there. They have the power to define so much of who we are, and can often prevent us from living up to our best selves.
And that is scary as f*ck.
Now for the good news:
If you, as the one and only author of these self-sabotaging stories have chosen to write them this way, then that means that you, too, can choose to write them in a totally different way.
Rather than being your own villain, you can choose to be your own hero. Your own warrior. Your own champion.
You have complete control over the stories you tell yourself, and it’s not too late to start opting for fact over fiction…
Start by making it a habit to acknowledge what, exactly, you are telling yourself. This is the first and most critical step — if you don’t acknowledge your thoughts, you can’t change them.
Many of us are so used to the stories we have playing on inside our heads that we never stop to truly recognize them. Oftentimes, we’re not even fully aware of the negative beliefs we’re holding onto.
So stop, listen, and acknowledge what you’re actually telling yourself about you.
This goes for both newly-created stories and those you’ve had on repeat for years. It goes for the monumental ones and the lesser, seemingly inconsequential ones — because they all have ramifications, no matter how big or how small.
2. Question every word
You’ve stopped to acknowledge your story. Now it’s time to dig deeper, and for the sake of your self-esteem, for the sake of all that stifled potential within, question every damn word of it.
Compare your feelings against what is real.
What external evidence do you have that these thoughts are accurate? Just because you feel like you’re bad at math, doesn’t mean that you are bad at math. Failing one test does not discount the others you passed, nor does it dictate your ability to succeed on the next one.
Ask yourself, “Is this story substantiated by facts, or is it just my own insecurities parading around as so-called truth, with nothing more than my feelings to back it?”
And if it’s the latter, move on to step #3…
3. Rewrite that sh*t
Where previously you chose to author your story from a place of insecurity and self-doubt, start re-writing it from a place of positivity and realism. Do this daily, not just with the current stories you find manifesting inside your head, but with any old favourites that pop up too.
For example, maybe you’ve been telling yourself for years that you’re a quitter. Dig a little deeper, look at the facts and outcomes to date, and perhaps you’ll find, just as I did, that your new, true story is that you’re not a quitter, you’re an expert grower.
These types of revisions can quite literally rewire how you perceive yourself. It’s like strength-training for the brain.
As you start to rewrite your stories and form new, positive beliefs about yourself, you’ll find that your life will change positively too.
When we replace false, negative beliefs about ourselves with authentic, affirming ones, our confidence grows, our self-love meter rises, and we become more in tune with who we actually are and what we’re capable of genuinely doing in this life.
We no longer have an inaccurate story holding us back from living up to our best and truest selves. We believe we can pass our next math test, and so we actually do.
Your stories are your thoughts, which become your beliefs, which have a funny way of becoming your life — these stories therefore can’t and shouldn’t be taken as lightly as the ones from when we were kids.
This ain’t your daughter’s Paper Bag Princess. Don’t just take the dragon in this one at face value.
Your story is whatever you tell yourself. You can rewrite it to change how you view yourself past and present, how you set yourself up for success, how you look back and how you move forward.
You’re in charge of your own narrative. Of every single word.
You can choose fact, or you can choose fiction. You get to decide whether you win in the end, or whether you lose.
Because it’s your story.
And it’s all up to you how you tell it.
Originally published at medium.com