Have you ever noticed how many stories we tell ourselves on a daily basis? How we fill in the gaps when things don’t make sense? How we find ways to make ourselves the victim or the hero of every situation? How we’re so concerned about our self preservation without even knowing it?
This has been becoming more and more apparent to me as of late – what I’ve told myself from a place of fear to justify playing small. I’ve started to realize just how many times I’ve stopped myself from taking a chance because of stories I made up in my head.
For example – I once had a press opportunity present itself. It came out of nowhere and would’ve been an amazing way to get our name out there. All good stuff.
However, my inner child / ego painted a different picture. It turned quickly from rainbows & butterflies to what I’d risk losing if I pursued this opportunity.
“If we don’t put our best foot forward, my company will fail.”
That’s right, folks – it went from excitement to armaggeddon in one quick thought. Absolute catastrophe. And I know it sounds crazy, but this is how the human brain works sometimes – especially when a fear response kicks in. It’s fight or flight – especially when you’re used to planning around worst case scenarios (and in my case, a former attorney).
But that wasn’t the end of it. Once I plugged the initial catastrophe into my thought process, I started building a case around it. Remember when one little thing went wrong and a client came after you? Remember when you didn’t communicate clearly in the past and felt like a fraud? Remember when you didn’t have all the answers and looked like an idiot?
Again – these were all stories as well – just how my inner child / ego had perceived what had happened. And it was only one side of the coin. And just because it happened in the past didn’t mean it was going to happen in every future situation.
Did my client actually come “after me” when I made a little mistake or was it just constructive criticism that I took to heart?
Did I communicate poorly in the past or was I just frustrated with myself for forgetting to mention one important thing, ignoring how well I communicated the rest of my message?
Did I really look like an idiot for not having all of the answers, or did I just feel that way because it triggered my perfectionist tendencies?
I realized just how much stress I had created for myself for absolutely no reason. The stories only felt real because I let them be real in my mind. I’m the one that gave them the power to affect me.
But luckily, a little self awareness went a long way, and it’s definitely possible to catch yourself in these mental habit loops before they go too far.
So the philosophical question I leave you with is this – how often do you make up stories to justify your fear?
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