#69 The Single Story Approach that Can Change Your Life
The Indelible Power of the Stories We Tell Ourselves
You may have noticed that I don’t talk about personal stories as much as I do brand stories and career stories. That’s because I feel like a personal story is an ever-evolving experience that needs to be captured in the right moment. And for each of us that right moment will be different. It’ll be a turning point, or the end of an era or a hard learned lesson. Our lives are beautifully different and that is the magic of personal stories, each one is a snowflake (yes, just like brand stories if you’ve heard me teach about them).
But I think a lot about the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and experiences. What are the moments we infuse meaning into and how often are they positive versus negative? This question matters to me because, as you know, I believe stories are a powerful thing. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and about the people around us shape our worlds. As someone who is often in the process of managing anxiety and someone who has a wild imagination, I am hyperaware of the stories I form and shape in my head and their impact on how I perceive and engage with the world.
The negative stories (aka negative self-talk) are often the ones I give more voice to when I’m anxious or sad. They can overwhelm the beautiful experiences and stories I’ve also been lucky to be a part of and make it harder for me to share with authenticity and vulnerability. So when I came across a tool to help deal with those negative internal narratives using it truly made a huge difference in how I experienced the world.
It came from a personal favourite of mine, Brené Brown. In her book, Rising Strong, Brown shares a story that has stayed with me since the moment I read it years ago and has helped me notice and pay better attention to the stories I tell myself. It has in turn made me a better business owner, strategist, and writer. It’s a tool to recognize your emotions, acquire more data when necessary, and shift your narrative.
In the story Brown reveals the one sentence that has helped her show up authentically in her personal life and professional life when she begins to make up stories in her head about a situation without having the full picture of things. It has done the same for me in my own work and life. It’s as simple as saying: “The story I’m making up is…” It’s a powerful sentence. But it requires you to be self-aware in moments of stress or uncertainty and a fair dose of vulnerability. It takes practice. To catch yourself when negative self-talk might be taking over and to say out loud to yourself or the person you’re engaging with, “the story I’m making up is,” share it, get feedback and perhaps change your perspective. I encourage you to practice it.
“The story I’m making up is…”
It leads to clarity, one of my favourite things in life, and it also leads to deeper connection.
As a business owner who guides other business owners and as someone committed to helping people become better communicators through storytelling, it’s really important for me to recognize and understand my own stories in order to be of better service. It’s also important for you, which is why I’m sharing this with you. The stories we share are deeply influenced by the personal ones we tell ourselves every day (more on that soon).
Our personal narratives are beautiful powerful things. It’s the voice of the story in movies like Stand By Me or shows like “Black-ish.” Except ours tell the stories of our lives as we see it. Pay attention to them and also gut check them with the folks around you. Our experiences are wonderfully diverse and you can be in the same moment with another person telling diametrically opposed stories about what is happening; the only way to get to clarity and gain connection is to share that story you’re telling yourself.
Take your time, practice it and let me know how it goes. Also, if you haven’t I highly suggest reading Rising Strong (and really any Brené Brown book you can get your hands on).
A Story Well Told
I just finished Michael Coel’s first book, Misfits: A Personal Manifesto. I read it twice in a row. It’s a small little book with a powerful message about what it means to not fit in. She shares her journey in television and creativity in this reprint of her speech from the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Festival. It also includes an intro and epilogue. To give you a sense of what to expect, here’s an excerpt from the back of the book: “The term ‘misfits’ takes on dual notions; a misfit is one who looks at life differently. Many, however, are made into misfits because life looks at them differently.” I encourage you to go out and buy the book even if you’re not a big reader. She makes it easy to read.