The Stories We Tell Ourselves: by Heather Barron

Self-limitation, low self-worth, and other crippling beliefs come from the stories we tell ourselves.

Empowerment, capacity, and self-actualization come from the stories we tell ourselves as well.
So why don’t we just choose to tell ourselves empowering stories?

The stories that control our inner narrative may have been told TO us long before they became the stories we rehearse within and believe about ourselves. Beth Kurland, Ph.D, writes: “As children, we inevitably experience upsetting things that happen, whether the smaller hurts such as having a parent yell at us, or being called a mean name, or having an embarrassing moment, or the bigger hurts of loss or traumatic events. We do our best to make sense of our world, but because of our limited ability to see things from a more complex perspective, we can internalize inaccurate messages from these early experiences that lead us to believe that there is something wrong with us. The stories we tell ourselves about these situations can become beliefs about the very nature of who we are, about our worthiness, value and ‘enough-ness’.”

If we had a parent or guiding adult in our life who told us, “You are brilliant. You can do anything you set your mind to. You are made of infinite possibility.” We may have a very empowering inner narrative.

If, on the other hand, the role models and adult guides (and, to our impressionable, young selves, all it takes is one person we trust or look up to) in our childhood told us things like, “You’re stupid. You’re worthless. You’re trouble. You’ll never amount to anything.” You may struggle with feeling like you will never be good enough. You may even believe that you are broken or flawed in essential ways.

As adults, many of us tend to think that whatever our internal voice(s) say must be true about us because they present in the first person.

Do any of these sound familiar:
– I’m not/never good enough.
– I’m a fraud.
I’ll never be as good/talented/beautiful/funny as INSERT NAME HERE.
– I have to prove my worth.
– I’m not worthy.
– I’m not smart enough.
– I’m too fat.
– I don’t deserve love.

Many of us don’t realize that we have adopted external lies as our internal stories. The beauty of this? We have the power to CHANGE the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we have accepted as our own and as the truth about us. We have the capacity to, as Dr. Kurland says, “unhook” these limiting stories. 

We can change our inner narrative. 

So how do we do that? Here is a process that has helped me and the clients I work with as a Transformational Life Coach:

We have to observe and become aware of the stories bouncing around in our heads. These may be hard to identify at first because they are as close as our own thinking. Sitting down to journal – what beliefs stand in the way of me having the courage to live authentically. 

In “The Work” by Byron Katie, there is a step in her simple and profoundly freeing process that asks us to imagine who we would be without certain beliefs.

Once you have identified the stories that are limiting your peace and keeping you hustling for your value and worth, ask yourself what life would look like without these stories.

Close your eyes and ask, “Who would I be without the story/belief that…” and then notice and record how you feel. 

Without the old stories, what story do we want to claim for our life. Taking the lead of the last step, let us imagine what life looks like without all the tension, fear, concern of the old stories. What new possibilities can we perceive for our life as we write our new story? WRITE THEM DOWN and post them somewhere we can see them regularly.


Just because a thought comes to us in the “I” form does not mean we have to believe it or keep it as our own. A very powerful practice is to begin observing the thoughts that present themselves as “I”: 
– I can’t believe I did that. 
– I’m so stupid. 
– I should be ashamed of myself. 
– Well, as long as I look like this, I will never deserve love. 
– I will never be smart enough to own my own business. 
– I’m such a fraud and someday everyone will find me out.

Leo Babauta writes“… (T)elling ourselves stories is natural — we all do it, all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. But if we’re not aware of the stories we tell ourselves, we can’t understand how they shape our happiness, relationships, moods, and more.

We can become aware of these aggressive stories. We have the right to start saying, “THIS IS NOT MINE.” We have the right to say, “I no longer choose this as my story.” And then REPLACE IT. “My story is…”

Affirmations are a powerful tool because they are a stepping-stone to filling the old space with the new. We cannot remove something without a better something to put in its place. For whatever reason, the old way becomes a sort of default (probably because that is what we have practiced for so long already). When we affirm the story we know is rightfully ours, or that we wish to experience, we are claiming, practicing and living our way into a new story of our life.

Perhaps the greatest challenge of this kind of work is that we have practiced the old stories for so long that it can feel challenging, and even impossible, to practice new, empowering stories.

Josh Becker says“Almost certainly there will be progress and setbacks. When the setbacks happen, don’t fall back into the same old story of ‘See, I knew I couldn’t do it.’ Tell yourself a new story, ‘I can’t believe I took a step backward! I was doing so well. I will start again tomorrow. I can do it.’”

What we practice, we experience. We can change the inner narrative we rehearse daily, one story at a time. And that, in turn, can change the way we experience ourselves and the whole world. 

by Heather Barron, Founder of Luminous Life, Inc. Heather is an Integral Life & Mindset Coach, Writer, Speaker. 
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