“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Henry Ford
It starts with self-talk — your own familiar voice in your head whispering things like:
- “I’m not good with numbers, how can I work in accounting?”
- “I’m not smart enough, I could never get that job.”
- “I’m a lousy cook, I could never follow that recipe.”
These are stories we tell ourselves simply because we have been carrying them for so long. We think they are facts but they are really only stories. The real fact is, even if you didn’t choose or write the original story, you can change it now.
Think of your placement in different environments and in previous relationships – in your family growing up, your jobs, your friendships, your partnerships. You remember yourself and others having different roles – the silly one; the cranky one; the kid who always lost everything; the one who was a prodigy; the one at work with the messy desk; the one who could never commit — not to a relationship, a job, or an apartment lease (this one was me). Whatever role it is you have adopted, you own it and it has become how you see yourself, your identity…your dominant story.
I became aware of one of my dominant stories when I was telling a friend that I was too disorganized to get my work done. “Oh”, my friend quickly responded, “I see you as being extremely organized in so many areas of your life. For example, the way you manage your calendar and your time. You protect your time, and you’re self-disciplined in a way that is not true for most people.” Then I remembered a supervisor who had once told me that I was one of the most organized people she knew. How can that be, I wondered, when I see myself as being so disorganized.
Our perception of ourselves can differ dramatically from the current reality and our true abilities.
If you grew up in a chaotic household full of stuff like I did, it is easy to feel disorganized. When we take these self-images into adulthood, it can become part of our identity when, in fact, it was just our response to a certain environment at a certain time. Problem is, it can hold us back in the present day and keep us stuck.
These stories can seem safe, comfortable, and familiar, but they can be hazardous to our personal growth.
These stories that we were told and that we continue to tell ourselves keep us stuck. How we see ourselves is rooted in these initial characters we played on the stage of our lives at some point. Others saw us this way, so it must be true. When we get labeled in this way, we internalize these beliefs and they become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When we feel out of control, we look for the familiar, and often that means stepping back into the character that others labeled us with. That might be comfortable in the moment but in the big game it keeps us playing small.
The tricky part is that we may never be able to see what is holding us back until we get an outside view.
That conversation with my friend was a real wake-up call for me. I realized that my dominant story did not hold true for me anymore. There may have been a time when I was disorganized but there was a lot more to that story then. I am organized, now, sometimes very organized, and I realized that my old story was holding me back.
Until we are aware of our dominant stories, we live by their rules and the restrictions they create in our minds. Once we are aware, new possibilities open up for us.
Dominant stories are so often based on outdated and limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs are just that – limiting. Our dominant stories can sabotage us without us even knowing it. They affect how we make choices and move forward in our lives – or not. Our dominant stories may have been true at a different time, with a different set of circumstances, when we were different. It does not have to hold true now.
Old stories tell us what we can’t do. New stories open us up to new possibilities.
We first have to look at things with a new lens and a new way of thinking, then we can change the language we use to be more open and positive:
- I have to vs. I want or get to
- I can’t vs. I can learn
- That’s not true vs. that’s a different perspective
Write down old stories and watch for ways they are no longer true. Rewrite your stories with what is true for you now.
Once you start to re-write your old dominant stories, new possibilities will appear.
As a coach, one of the most gratifying aspects of my role is helping my coaching clients recognize old, outdated dominant stories and then help them rewrite their stories so they can start anew. A world of new possibilities open up from there.
Schedule a call with me to hear more about how I can help you make this shift. I would love to support you as you rewrite your dominant stories and finally create the life you want and deserve.