Stories we tell ourselves (and how to change the narrative)

One of the areas that has always interested me in working with leaders is how we get stuck into the stories that we tell ourselves.

When I first started my own business, I remember sitting at home wondering whether I was good enough. It was really strange to be sitting around after sending proposals to people you may know, trying to market your business, and then “waiting for the phone to ring”. When it took longer than I’d hoped, the first thought that would come into my head was, “I’m not good enough! They must not want to work with me.” 

There are many stories we could choose. Are you choosing the same again and again?

There are so many reasons why the” phone may not ring”. Maybe they’re busy. Maybe this offer isn’t a priority for them right now. You begin to realize, when you become aware of these other stories, that the issue may have nothing to do with me—but making about me was my default. It took me some time to work through my own stories – actually it is a continuous journey, however realizing that I can choose other than the one which was “holding me hostage” was a perspective that was  powerful and freeing.

What stories have you chosen that have been holding you hostage?

These stories can be limiting in terms of our development as leaders. An example could be “I’m not good at this” or “this is something I’m not able to do.” These stories start early on in life and are built up around some perception or story that we’ve chosen to tell about ourselves.

Some people may experience this as imposter syndrome where it’s as experienced as “I’m never good enough, no matter what I do. I’ll never be good enough.” I’ve definitely experienced this one myself. Our greatest defense in this case is to be our own strongest critic, for the fear of anyone telling us so.

Do you often find there’s a story that you tell yourself that limits who you can be? As I work with many leaders, I often find that some of them have just one story that they’ve connected themselves to. This one story can drive everything in how they show up as a leader. These stories may have gotten them this far, but might not be serving the next iteration of their leadership journey. I invite you to ask yourself: What are the stories that you identify with and What other stories could you tell? 

Do you hide parts of yourself and cover up your vulnerability to personify a more put-together leader? Sometimes admitting your own vulnerability or needing help can be a story we tell ourselves that gets in the way. If you’re someone who has been very successful in your career and you get to a place where you’re struggling, you may look to the past and say, “I’ve always figured this out on my own before. I don’t need anyone’s help.” This could just be a part of leadership growth; you could be experiencing new challenges that need to be reframed.

Changing the narrative can be uncomfortable

It’s going to feel uncomfortable at first to change any story. You’ve reinforced that story for a long time. That discomfort with change is a very normal emotion—and one that doesn’t need to be pushed away. A key lesson in the Conscious Leadership framework is learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. 

As we’ve all experienced, stepping outside of your comfort zone is definitely easier said than done. That’s why awareness is the first step.

Be curious and release judgment

Awareness is the first step of Conscious Leadership for a reason; how can you be an effective leader if you’ve never explored the stories, beliefs, internal assumptions, fears and triggers that impact you each and every day?

It’s easy to fall back into old habits, which is why it’s important to look at why we’re telling this story versus another. We become aware by noticing or being curious first, before making any changes. We want to get out of the judgment here and just observe. What stories are you telling about yourself that are holding you hostage to who you could be versus staying where you are?

Working with an Executive Coach can help change the narrative. Contact us for more support.