Call yourself out with kindness and escape the stories in your head

Stories have power, and the stories we tell ourselves often have hidden power when we fail to recognise that’s what they are – stories.  

Let me share with you some stories I’ve noticed coaching clients tell themselves. Names have been changed to protect the identities of these master storytellers. 

Jill told herself that if something needed to be done right, she had to do it herself. She did far more than she needed, and her team missed out on development opportunities. 

Jack told himself he couldn’t share what he was working on with anyone else until he could say he’d done his best. Sadly, he missed input from others that could have stretched his thinking and improved his work. 

Tom told himself if he was signing off work, he had to be meticulous and pay attention to every detail. Unfortunately, he spent most of his time checking information that could have been delegated to a detail-oriented team member. He was so overwhelmed with detail that he missed important parts of the bigger picture. 

Mary believed that if someone told her to jump, she had to ask, ‘How high?’ and not question why or what’s most important right now. She constantly crossed her own boundaries and experienced poor well-being as a result.

Our stories have enormous power if we choose to let them. Many have been with us for a long time and have become a habit or thinking pattern that stems from influential moments in our lives. They may have served us in those moments but can lose their usefulness over time.

Robert Kegan, a developmental psychologist and professor known for his theory on the evolution of adult consciousness, might tell you to imagine you’re wearing glasses that colour everything you see. These glasses represent the stories and beliefs you hold about yourself. Sometimes, those stories aren’t entirely positive or fair.  

He would suggest making a subject-object shift by removing and examining those glasses. Rather than unconsciously being ‘subject’ to the glasses’ influence, make them an ‘object’ of our attention. 

Doing so gives us the power to question, refine, or even replace the stories the glasses represent.  

Instead of being ensnared by limiting beliefs, we can assess them objectively and choose more empowering narratives. 

When we are kinder, more curious and compassionate towards ourselves, those stories start to lose their power, enabling us to look at situations through a different, more objective lens.

It’s akin to peeling the layers of an onion, gradually removing the self-limiting beliefs and narratives, one by one, until we reveal the core truth beneath all the accumulated stories. 

Kristin Neff, a leading researcher and author exploring self-compassion’s role in psychological well-being, says, “To break free from self-limiting beliefs, treat yourself with the same kindness you would offer a friend.”  

Think of a story you often tell yourself. Now, imagine looking at it from the outside. Is it accurate? Kind? If not, how can you rewrite it in a way that’s both true and supportive? 

What would you say to a friend with kindness?  

Is there anything holding you back from treating yourself with that same kindness? 

Because your well-being matters, please treat yourself with the kindness you gift to others.

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