We think we are made of skin and flesh and muscle and bones, but that’s not true. We are made of stories, of hope, of dust and stardust, and it is in our nature to always tell stories.
Yes, you might not be a writer, you might not be a blogger, but you are telling yourself the story of who you are, and why you are who you are, and maybe, just maybe, the story of why someone like you has to be.
For example, I like to go to the gym. That’s not the issue. But I hate having to place all sorts of items in my backpack, walk to the gym, workout, go home, take a shower…
In other words, it’s the tasks that need to be done that kind of ruin my motivation. And it’s so in most other aspects: I like to write, but I hate to edit. I love shooting videos of myself talking about life, but I hate to edit them. You get the idea.
Because of this story I tell myself — “This is just stuff that I need to do” — the work I do is usually mediocre. That is when I get myself to do the work because most times I don’t even feel like doing anything anymore.
But what if I could rewrite the story? What would I tell myself to get in the mood to do all that has to be done, even though I do not want to do it?
Well… I could understand the importance of those tasks, I could turn them into a game, I could appreciate the fact that I get to do something I love by doing something I don’t love…
In other words, I could choose to play the cards that I’ve been dealt as if they are the cards I’ve always wanted.
What story are you telling yourself about your life? Does it encourage results or excuses? Does it pull you in the direction of your dreams or does it steer you away from risk?
Why We Need an Internal Narrative
We need an internal narrative because there’s a lot of conflicting external feedback we receive. Whenever we look outward, we have no idea who we are.
For instance, recently I have moved to a new city. This means that I have to go to a different gym, where no one knows me. The funny thing is, people look kind of strange at me in a gym because I do the exercises unlike most other people.
My narrative is that I am self-taught in almost every area of my life, and I am also quite passionate about knowing what others don’t know, so when I was a beginner I’d do a lot of research on the topic of fitness. This means that I do exercises as advised by some of the most influential fitness experts around, and sadly, that’s not what most people do.
Anyway, I get some odd stares because of that, but I don’t mind because my internal narrative dictates that I am doing the right thing. I have created that narrative in order to save myself the mental pain and exhaustion that is the side-effect of having to look in the hearts and minds of others for something I can call “me.”
We need an internal narrative because we desperately seek to create order out of chaos. We seek and desire the stability of behavior, and thus we try to craft the story of who we are from all our previous experiences.
An internal narrative is essential. Without one, we wouldn’t be anything at all.
Changing the Story
I once spent three years being single. The narrative I had built for myself was debilitating to say the least: I was ugly, stupid, poor, and a bunch of other things.
Because our narratives are intricately tied to the way others perceive us, I ended up being hateful of women. This became one of those impossibly to break negative feedback loops, and it seemed like I was destined to spend the rest of my life alone.
But one day a friend of mine told me that the women who’d reject me were doing me a favor.
A favor? Seriously?
Yes. They were doing me a favor because they knew I wasn’t ready to be with them. I wasn’t in the right place mentally and emotionally. It would have done me a lot more harm to be with them than without them.
As proof of this, there’s an awful lot of people who stop taking care of themselves because they are overwhelmed by their desire to be as close to their beloved as possible.
Love is tricky like that.
Once I changed just a bit of my narrative, I could now work on myself with much more determination, which was something I couldn’t do because my story was, “I first need to find someone who’s willing to hold my hand, and then I’ll conquer the world with just one hand.”
I changed my story to, “I need to become someone who’s worthy of love.”
We often tell ourselves a narrative that is debilitating rather than empowering, and this makes it almost impossible to find success and fulfillment.
To change your story, you just have to ask yourself two questions:
1. Who Do I Want to Be?
Be honest. How often do you ask yourself this question? How often do you think about becoming someone different in a clear manner?
I’m not talking about hating yourself so much that you’d want to run away from yourself and become someone else, anyone.
No, I am talking about changing your life’s story to accommodate your dreams, goals, and ambitious.
Who do you want to be?
What are the qualities required of someone who’d have everything you want in life?
What would their life story be like?
It is important that you work on this until you understand who you want to be almost as well as you understand who you are.
2. Why Do I Want to Be That Person?
We often find it impossible to change our internal narratives because we never think of a strong enough reason to change it.
No reason to change equals no change.
There’s no motivation, no reward.
I had a reason to get in shape, learn more, earn more, and become a more sociable person. It was my narrative that I’d do my best to become the type of person worthy of love.
Without a strong enough reason to become the person you want to be, you are forever destined to spend your time in the land of “should, could, would.” It’s a terrible place to be in; a comfort zone you’d like to escape but don’t have the courage or motivation to do it.
When we find a strong enough reason to change our narrative, our should becomes a must. What we’d be happy to happen has to happen.
Choose a Story That Empowers You
Stories are difficult to change because it’s often difficult to imagine what could be when all we know is what has been.
Even though we often struggle with changing our inner story, the truth is that change is a matter of imagination. We need to imagine ourselves as someone we are proud of being, and then we have to act upon that vision.
It’s one of the toughest battles that one can find, and it’s one that never ends, but it’s the battle most worthy of our time and energy.
The greatest challenge is choosing a story that empowers us, a story that allows us to become someone who has all that we want from life.
The most fascinating stories ever written into existence are about the struggle to establish a powerful self, a self that is tied to that struggle.
Our life’s story is similar. We cannot remake ourselves into someone different without pain, rejection, and heartbreak.
The power to change our internal narrative comes from within. Without this power, we often fall into the trap of allowing someone else’s opinion of us to become our reality.
And that’s the most difficult thing about changing your story: You don’t just have to tell it — you have to live it, too.
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