Thank you for your thoughts and comments around what bugs you. It’s been really helpful to hear what gets under your skin. As promised, I’ll be writing some articles about your bugbears, with pointers on what you might do to overcome or minimise them. I’m starting this time with the theme of ‘taking respons-ability’. Let me tell you more…
Many of us have stories about who we are, what we are like, what our world is like, and how we interact with others and the world. Sadly, for many, these are often negative stories. They might include “I’m not capable”, “The world is a scary place”, “I must always be nice”, “Nobody likes me”, “I have to be liked by everyone”, “I can’t change”, “I must put others first” or “I’m too scared”.
Recognise yourself in any of this? You are not alone.
Our stories were often formed early in childhood, and we hang onto them almost unconsciously, way into our adult life. They impact everything we do. They can stop us taking new opportunities, keep us stuck in damaging relationships or inappropriate jobs, and keep us small.
The good news is, we can do something about this. If we take respons-ability.
When we limit ourselves with our stories, we are not taking full responsibility for ourselves. Once we recognise that we are keeping ourselves small with our stories, we can choose to do something about it. We can take responsibility for ourselves. We can choose our response to the situation we are in. Respons-ability.
How to overcome your ‘story’
- Your first step is to recognise that you have a story and what your story is.
- Then ask yourself whether that story is really true (it may be that it once was, but is no longer).
- Ask yourself whether your story is helpful to you.
- Then decide if there is another thought that could be at least as true and more helpful to you. (Your story is simply a thought that you have had multiple times, often for years.)
- Imagine how your life would be if you believed that new thought.
- Decide which story or thought you will choose for yourself going forwards. (It doesn’t have to yet feel fully true for you – you will have convinced yourself otherwise for many years, so this may take some time to turn round.)
- Repeat that new thought to yourself every day, multiple times, especially first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and any time you begin to default to your old story. Stick with it – even when it doesn’t feel true. Once you have repeated it many times over many days, you will start to gather evidence that it is true, if you stop sabotaging yourself with unhelpful thoughts.
- Meantime, whenever you feel pulled back to your old, unhelpful story, decide how you’d be if you chose your new thought instead. Then be that person – act, if necessary!
- Now, whenever you’re faced with a challenging situation, choose your thoughts and your response.
A ‘story’ in action
Let me give you an example.
A lady I worked with was terrified of voicing her opinion in meetings or making presentations. She felt tongue-tied, anxious and didn’t believe what she had to say was valuable. People would see her and her opinions as stupid. Her story was “I lack confidence and don’t have valid opinions.”
We then looked at what evidence she had that she lacked confidence and that her opinions weren’t valid. She found it difficult to recall more than a handful of occasions when she had actually lacked the confidence she needed (rather than just telling herself she lacked confidence). What’s more, she couldn’t think of a single occasion when her opinions had been dismissed. To be fair, she could remember few occasions when she’d actually shared her opinions.
When we thought about whether her story was helpful, she gave a resounding “No!” Telling herself she lacked confidence and didn’t have valid opinions meant she was actually contributing to (creating?) her feelings of anxiety and being tongue-tied.
She recognised that a much more helpful thought would be: “I feel calm and confident, and people like to hear my opinions.” Then she laughed. She realised that she actually was that calm and confident person deep inside when she stopped telling herself otherwise. Deep down she knew that she did have valid opinions. On the odd occasions she’d been brave enough to share them in the past, they had nearly always been respected and listened to.
When she thought about the possibility of her life if she dumped her old story and instead chose her new thought, she saw herself blossoming. She would start speaking up in meetings, taking an active part and feeling equal with her peers. In both meetings and presentations, she would feel much calmer, able to speak clearly and confidently, sharing the opinions she recognised were worth voicing. She would no longer keep herself small. Instead, she would be living fully and contributing actively.
For her, there was no contest about which thought would support her better.
This lady began repeating to herself, every day, multiple times,”I feel calm and confident, and people like to hear my opinions.” It felt strange and she squirmed at first, but she stuck with it. She especially repeated it to herself whenever she felt her old story coming back – which happened frequently in the early days.
When I saw her a few weeks later, she was glowing. She’d attended several departmental meetings and spoken up at each one. She had been listened to. On several occasions, her opinions had been acted upon and had resulted in improvements for the department. She was even giving presentations again, reminding herself before each one that she was calm and confident and that people liked to hear her opinions. And funnily enough, people did listen, had shown appreciation for what she was sharing. Her nervousness and feeling tongue-tied was almost a thing of the past.
She was taking respons-ability for herself in the situations she faced, and choosing helpful thoughts so she achieved the best possible outcome.
You are not your thoughts. You are whatever you decide to be and to think, with your wonderful personality and unique set of strengths and skills thrown in.
That’s respons-ability. Go take it!
And if you’d like some professional support with this, get in touch and we’ll set up a chat. It will be great to hear from you!