Whether you are conscious of it or not, somewhere along the way you will have developed your own life story in your mind. This story provides a unique insight into your subconscious mind – including your ambitions, desires, and fears. The stories we tell ourselves hold great power over how our life experience unfolds.
My story included details of growing up in poverty, moving many times while I was growing up, and not being able to make friends and fit in with others around me. This story, or a modified version of it followed me into adulthood.
By the time I was in my twenties, I had succeeded in creating and living a story that was no longer based in the truth of who I was, who I wanted to become, and how I was living each day. My story held me back for way too long, and it doesn’t have to be this way for you.
Our connection with storytelling begins when we are children, and it continues long into adulthood. From assigning meaning to past events, to editing out things that don’t fully match our narrative, the stories we tell ourselves can have a huge impact on our lives.
So, what are the stories we tell ourselves and why are they so important? Discover the main things you need to know in this useful report.
What Is Meant by Stories?
Stories are the things that you tell yourself over the course of your life. They are often based on assumptions, though there can be some truth behind them. In essence, you are basically living in a thought-driven reality.
Your experience in the world is determined by your thoughts. These thoughts impact the way that you feel, and in turn the choices you make.
We all have different experiences in life, and these contribute to personalized thought patterns, behaviors, and beliefs. These thought patterns cause us to live in our own personalized world, as we navigate life based upon the stories in our mind. I learned this as thoughts => feelings => beliefs => actions => results and this has made a difference in my life.
We must all focus on shifting our thoughts first, which leads to improved feelings, and this changes our beliefs. Once we feel better and believe that we are worthy and capable and that anything is possible in our lives, we take different actions and experience incredible results.
So, what do these stories look like? Common examples of stories you may tell yourself each day include:
“I’m just not good enough.”
“I’ll never succeed.”
“I’m not good at this.”
“I should give up.”
You’ll see that there is a common theme here. Most of the stories we tell ourselves on a daily basis are negative. The mind tends to cling on to negativity much more than it does to positivity. However, there are positive examples too. These include:
“I’ve got nothing to lose by giving this a try.”
“If they can do it, so can I.”
“I will work this out.”
If you have a more positive mindset, you are going to tell yourself more positive stories. If you’re stuck in a negative mindset on the other hand, your stories will be predominantly negative too.
The stories you tell yourself are basically the thoughts that you have throughout the day. But where does this internal monologue come from?
Why We Have an Internal Monologue
Our internal monologue is partly controlled by a type of brain signal known as corollary discharge. Its purpose is to help you identify the different sensory experiences that occur internally and externally.
This signal helps you to hear your voice as you think, blocking out external stimuli. You can also use it to organize your thoughts when you can’t speak out loud.
Another purpose for our internal monologue is to use it to answer questions that we ask ourselves. It can help to identify potential solutions to the problems we face, or make them sound worse depending upon whether you have a positive or negative inner monologue.
These are some of the main reasons why we have that inner voice, and how it can help in our daily lives. One quote, from the late Wayne Dyer is one that I have incorporated into my internal monologue. It goes like this…
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Does Everyone Have an Inner Monologue?
While most of us do have an inner monologue, not everybody hears their own voice or has an inner narrator. Experts aren’t sure why this is, but there is a theory that it could be down to how the dorsal stream develops. This is basically the language tract within the brain.
If you can’t hear your inner voice, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have an internal monologue. Rather than hearing your monologue, you may see it instead. An example would be rather than hearing your to-do list, you might be able to see it in your mind instead.
For most people, their inner monologue is something they can hear. However, it’s important to realize that not everybody does have one, and some may experience it a little differently than others.
So, why does our inner monologue matter and what kind of power can our stories have over our lives?
Why Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves Important?
The stories we tell ourselves are important because they control how we live our lives. They can also have an impact on how we see ourselves and the experiences we have. Let’s look at some of the main reasons why the stories we tell ourselves are important.
Stories Can Cloud Our Judgement
All too often, the stories we tell ourselves aren’t fully true. They are based on our assumptions and beliefs that have developed throughout the course of our lives. If you believe these half-truths, it’s going to severely cloud your judgement.
You will make decisions based upon what you believe to be true rather than what is actually true. Stories can cause us to become ingrained in our thought patterns, making it difficult to see different points of view.
If your judgement is clouded, you won’t always make the best decisions.
Stop Us from Going After Opportunities
One of the more harmful effects of listening to the stories we tell ourselves, is that they can stop us from going after opportunities. It could be that you don’t seek out promotion opportunities because you feel you aren’t good enough. Or you may miss out on life experiences because you aren’t confident enough to step out of your comfort zone.
If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities that come your way, your quality of life is going to suffer. You won’t move forward; instead, you’ll be stuck right where you are now. For me, this meant changing my life by resigning my position as a classroom teacher, while also working simultaneously in real estate in favor of coming online in 2006 as an online entrepreneur.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves Can Wreak Havoc on Our Mental Health
Mental health issues affect over one billion people worldwide. It’s amazing to think that a lot of these issues could be down to the stories we tell ourselves.
If you are constantly narrating negative stories in your head, it’s going to increase stress, trigger anxiety, and possibly lead to depression. When you are struggling with your mental health, it’s difficult to live a life of contentment.
Our Stories Can Damage Relationships
Another reason the stories we tell ourselves are important is because they can damage our relationships. You may feel like your partner dislikes you, or that your friends find you annoying.
This in turn could lead to you viewing your relationships in a more negative light. You may withdraw from your social circle or begin to resent people in your life due to how you think they view you.
If you want strong, healthy relationships, you’ll need to be mindful of the stories you tell yourself.
Storytelling Can Impact Our Physical Health
It isn’t just your mental health that is impacted by the stories you tell yourself. Your physical health can also take a hit if you are constantly negative.
Negative stories can increase the amount of stress that we feel. Too much stress is known to drastically impact our health and wellbeing. It affects your relationships, sleep, anxiety levels, and it can even impact your life expectancy.
By focusing on more positive stories, it helps to strengthen the immune system, eliminate stress, and protect both your mental and physical health.
Our Stories Impact Our Future
The things you tell yourself will have a huge impact on your future. They can affect the type of job you do, who you surround yourself with, how you spend money, and the places you go.
Practically every part of your future is determined by the stories you are telling yourself right now. While that can be a scary thought, the good news is you can always change the stories narrated inside your head. This means you ultimately have power over how your future goes.
Real Life versus a Story Life
If the way that you feel and act is controlled by the stories you tell yourself, how do you know what is real and what isn’t? This can be a huge challenge for those looking to switch from a negative mindset to a more positive one.
The trouble with stories is that we often take them as fact. That is, you don’t recognize them as being false, or something your mind made up. This can make it a lot trickier to identify what is real and what isn’t.
If you’re looking to distinguish between reality and fiction, there are some things you can pay attention to. Here, we will look at the difference between real life and story life, and the key ways to start living in reality rather than a distorted storyline made up in your mind.
What Is Real Life versus Story Life?
Real life relates to things that are actually happening. Story life on the other hand, refers to what you perceive is happening. So, it’s facts verses perception. Well, almost!
Your story life can reflect real life, but mostly in snippet form. So, you’ll have a grasp of reality, but your story influences how you see the world and the people around you.
If you are living a real life, it means you don’t let your inner narrator dictate what you think or feel. You are aware of it, but you can separate it from the truth. People living a real life know who they are, and they are typically a lot happier.
If you are living a story life, you are led by your thoughts and emotions rather than facts. You don’t have control over your thoughts and feelings, so they tend to dictate how your life goes. People living a story life usually aren’t content with what they have or who they are.
So how can you tell if you are living a real or a story life? Here’s a few signs to watch out for.
Fact Checking Your Story
To discover if you are currently living a story life, check the facts. How accurate is your story really? If it tells you that you aren’t good enough, what are the facts to back that up?
Now, if you suffer with depression, or you are stuck in a negative story life, you might immediately think of the “facts” to support your theory. However, these facts often aren’t facts at all. Instead, they are an extension of your story.
What you will often find is that there are no solid facts to back up most of the negative stories you tell yourself. There may be an element of truth there, but no concrete evidence. If you can’t find the facts to back up your story, then you aren’t living in real life.
Observations versus Evaluations
In real life, you make observations about the things you around you. You’ll notice things as they are, forming an opinion based on fact. When you tell yourself a story, you’ll take a more evaluated approach.
Instead of just observing, you’ll create scenarios, opinions, thoughts, and feelings related to what you see. A story life goes much deeper than real life, often working on perceptions rather than what is actually going on.
Move Away from the Hypotheticals
Another thing you’ll notice about stories is that they work on hypothetical scenarios. You will constantly think about things that haven’t occurred yet, often getting yourself anxious or stressed out over hypothetical situations.
If you want to start living, really living, then you need to focus on the here and now. Whenever you notice yourself going over a hypothetical event or scenario in your mind, stop. Remember to only concern yourself with what is happening right now.
The Power of Positive Stories
So far, we’ve covered the negative aspects of the stories you tell yourself. However, did you know they can be used for good?
When narrated correctly, the stories you tell yourself can have a positive influence on your life. Simply by switching the narrative of your story, you could enjoy the fantastic benefits below. I have made a concerted effort to turn my stories into positive reflections that may inspire or motivate others, at least in some small way.
While negative stories can tear down your confidence, positive ones can build it up. Repeating positive affirmations in your mind and talking positively about yourself will do wonders for your confidence and self-esteem.
Never Miss Another Opportunity
When your stories are positive, you’ll grab on to any opportunity that comes your way. Even if you are nervous about the opportunity, you’ll go after it anyway because you have self-belief. When you are willing to go after opportunities, you’ll get to achieve your goals and potentially better your life.
Helping You to Be Your Own Personal Cheerleader
We all need someone in our corner to back us up. What if that someone could be you? The mind is a powerful thing – it can be your greatest ally or your worst enemy. When you follow a more positive narrative, your mind will soon start to fight your corner.
The great thing about this is that when you are your own cheerleader, you don’t rely upon anyone else to make you happy. That gives you a lot of power over your life, and it also stops you from making poor decisions.
If you want to strengthen your relationships, the stories you tell yourself are key. With positive stories, your relationships will flourish. There won’t be as many disagreements, you’ll feel happier about your connections, and you will have solid, healthy boundaries in place.
Improved Life Satisfaction
If your stories are positive, you are going to feel a lot more satisfied in life. You will see things in a completely different light, feeling calm and relaxed, rather than stressed out and sad. You will also be a lot more grateful for the things that you have, making you feel even more content.
So, if you want to become more satisfied in life, paying attention to the stories you are telling yourself will help.
When you fill the mind with negative stories, it leaves you feeling helpless. Positive stories on the other hand put you firmly back in the steering wheel. You will have the self-belief and confidence to overcome your daily worries, and you won’t let the “what if’s” leave you feeling insecure or helpless.
Better Mental and Physical Health
When you tell yourself positive stories, it’s going to have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.
Mentally, it can help to build confidence, reduce anxiety, and decrease the chance that you will fall into depression. Instead, you will feel happy, content, and fulfilled. You won’t spend time stressing about things that haven’t occurred yet. The reduction in stress alone is a huge benefit.
Your physical health will improve too. Positivity eliminates stress, or at least greatly reduces it. This is great news for your cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
Studies have also shown that positive people live longer. This is likely down to a boost in immunity. So, if you want better mental and physical health, healthier relationships, and increased confidence, it’s time to start changing your story into a more positive one.
Changing Your Story
By now you should have a good idea of what the stories you tell yourself are and where they come from. Being able to distinguish between real and false stories can help you to avoid listening to that negative narrative and go after new opportunities.
Now that you have a better understanding of the stories you are telling yourself, it’s time to figure out if they need to be changed and if so, how to do it. To your storytelling success!
I’m bestselling author and marketing strategist Connie Ragen Green, sharing my stories, life experiences, and ideas with everyone who might benefit in some way. Come along with me on this journey of self-discovery if you will and please, reach out to me any time at all.
Melva Blackburn says
Connie, your words are so true. Telling ourselves negative stories all the time tear down our mental and physical health. By changing them to positive stories, they improve our mental and physical health.
Connie Ragen Green says
Melva, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this important topic. I appreciate you! ~ Connie Ragen Green