the stories we tell ourselves



~2 min read


344 words

The stories we still ourselves about ourselves are important and powerful. They set our definition of what’s possible and in that way they can limit us, or, if used to our advantage, inspire us.

The easiest stories to tell ourselves are are those we inherit. These are the stories we hear about ourselves when we are young: “…smart child…”, “…good with numbers…”, “…can’t carry a tune…”, “…little angel…”, “…will never amount to anything…”, etc.

These stories can stick with us well beyond their useful life. If they’re allowed to stick around they can limit the avenues we believe are open, let alone, worth pursuing.

Adopting a growth mindset can mitigate the influence of these stories by shifting the focus from who we are to what we do - eschewing the outcome (which may or may not be within our control) in favor of an emphasis on the process (which is controllable).

Personal aside

This is more than academic to me. A menagerie of stories I’d collected growing up helped to craft the identity I’d assumed in my mid-twenties. When I decided to leave the career I’d built to start over as an engineer I had to fight years of stories and the inertia they’d accumulated in keeping me moving in the direction I was already heading.

Before I could change directions, however, I needed to change the stories I was telling myself about who I was. They were preventing me from becoming the person I wanted to be.

Looking back, the decision should have been easy and obvious. At the time, however, I could only make it thanks to the love and support I had from my wife and parents.

This is why I can say with confidence that the stories we tell ourselves are powerful. Overcoming them requires a shift in perspective, and in my case, the support of loved ones was a necessary prerequisite for even that step. And it’s why it was one of the big lessons I took away from 2018 - the year I made the switch.

Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!