The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Apr 24, 2023

Stories are arguably the most powerful things in the world. They shape our perception and therefore our reality.

  • The stories we play out in our head are our narrative.
  • The stories we believe about ourselves are our identity.
  • The stories we tell ourselves about others are the labels we give them. 

What you say about yourself, turns into what you believe about yourself, which turns into what you do and how you act, which determines who/what you become. Our identity shapes our actions, which shape or destiny.

But what if the stories you are currently telling yourself aren't taking you where you want to go?

Some labels that may be helping you achieve your goals:

  • I'm good at doing/recognizing/learning X.
  • I like working on/doing X.
  • I am xyz or working on becoming X.

Some labels that may be keeping you from you goals:

  • I can't do X (e.g. lose weight, learn math, etc.)
  • I'm not good at (math, making friends, being social, etc. etc. etc.)
  • I get nervous doing X, or in Y situations.
  • I hate it when John says X.
  • I don't like reading. Or I have a hard time learning X or Y.
  • I would change, but I can't because of (Insert ANYTHING here).

When it comes to the stories we tell ourselves, as long as you believe it's true, to a certain degree, it will be. Not because it has to be, but because it's really hard to change something you think can't be changed.

The stories of our past dictate FAR to much of our future. It’s like driving a car- It’s impossible to safely drive a car while only looking in the rear view mirror. Only seeing where you’ve been is a terrible way to figure out where to go next. And it’s the same in our lives.

HOWEVER! The truth is that you can change who you are as quickly as you can change the things you believe about yourself. 

Most people have this backwards. They think that if they do x, y, and z, THEN they'll become something. But true behavior change works exactly the opposite. You first decide who/what it is you want to become (plant the seed) and then spend your time and energy taking the actions to grow it. (watering, sunshine, fertilizer, etc.)

How many times do you have to run before you're a runner? Is twice a week? 5 times? Or do you decide you're a runner and therefore go running? (Identity always comes first, and the actions follow) It works this way with EVERY goal we pursue. We decide to plant the identity we want to grow and then the actions follow. (repeating them day after day, watering them, etc.)

It takes time, but as you nurture and protect this new identity it grows and grows until you truly believe it. Until it's part of who you are.

To change your identity all it takes is a decision and commitment. Once you know what story you want to believe about yourself, you simply need to commit and start taking action.
(Note- Action proceeds belief. Action actually usually proceeds motivation. You're much more likely to act your way into feeling, than feel your way into action.)

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's the difference between "I'm trying to quit" and "I'm a non-smoker." The first is fundamentally at odds with what the person believes about themself. They believe they are a smoker and are trying to work against "who they are."

New stories/new identities don't happen overnight and don't come without effort. But once you've made the decision and committed to spending your time and energy growing this new identity, it WILL grow. It HAS too. It's a law of nature. It can't NOT grow. It's simply a principle of nature and of the mind.

Whatever you focus on grows

In the beginning, your new identity must be carefully nurtured, and protected from the elements. It cannot be neglected or left too long without water and sunshine or it will not last. But over time, as it grows from a sapling into a tree, it will become strong and tall. Then even in the storms of life, it will not fall because it's grown into a mighty tree. It has become central to WHO you are. It's simply part of your nature now.

The power in this principle is that no matter what stories and identity we currently have, no matter how many times we've grown the same thing, no matter how strong or tall the current trees (or weeds) are, we can change. We can choose to grow new things. Because WE are the gardeners.

One last story about the power of identity-

This story is was given by Clark G. Gilbert
"I recently had a conversation with a nationally prominent educator who was inquiring about the success of BYU–Pathway. He was bright and his inquiry was sincere, but he clearly wanted a non religious response. I shared with him our retention programs and mentoring efforts. But I concluded by saying, “These are all good practices, but the real reason our students are progressing is because we teach them their divine potential. Imagine if your whole life, you were told you could never succeed. Then consider the impact of being taught that you are an actual son or daughter of God with divine possibility.” He paused, then replied simply, “That’s powerful.”'

Question 1: What story(identity) are you going to quit believing because it isn't serving you well?


Question 2: Which belief (identity) are you going to plant in its place?


We hope this story about the stories we tell ourselves has been helpful. If it has, please share it with someone who is also learning how to become the gardener of their own life.


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