Being Honest With Yourself - and Why Not Doing It Is Holding You Back

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Are the stories you tell yourself holding you back?

We all have stories that we tell ourselves. These stories or limiting beliefs may keep us from trying new things or keep us in our comfort zone. We may not even be consciously aware of these self-narratives because they’re so ingrained in the way we think or behave.

Examples of self-narratives include: 

  • “I don’t have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.” 
  • “I can’t go for that promotion, I don’t have enough experience.”
  • “If I get promoted, my coworkers will resent me.” 
  • “Networking is a waste of time.”
  • “I’m too old to switch careers.” 
  • “I have to attend that social function or everyone will be mad at me.”

Do any of these sound familiar? These self-narratives may ring true for many of us, but that doesn’t mean that they are grounded in actual fact.  For instance, maybe you attended one bad networking event, and now you think you’re bad at networking or that networking isn’t for you. But it’s important to remind yourself that one single experience shouldn’t leave a permanent record on your life. You’re allowed to change and improve.

Why it’s important to be honest with yourself and your narratives 

On the surface, self-narratives may appear relatively harmless. But these self-perpetuating stories can get in the way of job opportunities, personal growth, and your overall happiness. You could be self-sabotaging your success without even realizing it. 

So it’s important to look at your narratives in an objective and honest way.  

Ask yourself: 

  • How do I benefit from subscribing to these stories? 
  • What if I changed the way I talked about myself? How could my life improve for the better?

The origins of your self-narratives 

To overcome these narratives, it’s helpful to pinpoint where they stemmed from in the first place. For this exercise, you might want to find some quiet time to write in your journal. Jot down some of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back. Where do you think these limiting beliefs came from?

Here are some of the reasons we may have formed these self-narratives and why we still cling to them. 

  • Fear of change. Change can be scary. So instead of veering into the unknown, we cling to old narratives, such as “I’m not good at confrontation” or “I can’t ask for a raise.”  As a result, we don’t ever go for the promotion or ask for a raise or attend that social event. Our narratives may seem like they’re protecting us from something scary, but they’re actually preventing us from making real progress. 
  • External influence. Maybe your parents drilled into you that being perfect is best. Or your cultural upbringing taught you to have a scarcity mindset instead of an abundant one. Or maybe you grew up in a town where it was looked down upon to be different. These outside influences form a commanding voice in our head and perpetuate our false narratives.
  • Past negative experience. A high school writing teacher harshly criticized your writing. Or you attended a party where you stood alone in a corner all night. And now you’re afraid to put yourself out there. These are all understandable reasons for wanting to stay in your comfort zone. But it’s important to note that not all experiences will be negative. And there are steps you can take to feel empowered

How to overcome self-narratives that are holding you back

Now that you’ve become more aware of the narratives or false scripts that you’re telling yourself, let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to emerge from that narrative with a more authentic one. 

Rewrite your story

One way to overcome your limiting beliefs and self-narratives is to rewrite your story. In this exercise, choose a limiting belief that you may have, and try to gain clarity around it.

As an example, let’s use the common limiting belief “I’m not good at networking.”

Step 1: Write out your story explaining why you think you’re bad at networking. Don’t worry about how petty or trivial it may be. Jot it down to help understand your narrative better. Maybe you’re tired of dropping lots of money on registration fees. Maybe you’ve never gotten a job offer or professional connection through them. Maybe you feel awkward.

Step 2: Next, talk to 3-5 people you respect and trust. Ask them about their networking experiences and how they built their professional network. Maybe you’ll discover that not all networking events are equal. That you have to find the ones that are aligned with your interests or that it’s better to attend smaller, more intimate ones. Or maybe you’ll discover that your peers always follow up with people they’ve met at events, and that’s something you never bothered to do.

Step 3: Start noting any shifts in perception or clarity you may have gained from talking with your peers. Maybe you’ve been approaching networking the wrong way, and that instead of dismissing it altogether, you could get a lot more out of it. Or maybe you’ll discover that you’re not the only one who hates networking. That everyone feels the same way, but they improve their skills with time and practice. 

Step 4: With this new clarity, you can start to reframe your attitude around networking. You can tell yourself that you’re not bad at networking, that it’s just like any other skill that you can work on and develop. And that you’ll get better at networking as you go along. 

Step 5: Imagine yourself at a networking event. Write down your fears and expectations. Try to be realistic. Sure, you might imagine the worst possible outcome, but what are some other positive things that can happen? Maybe you’ll chat with at least one interesting person. Maybe you’ll exchange at least one business card. Imagine yourself feeling confident and prepared. Write down things you can do to prepare and help you feel your best at the next event. 

With time, practice, and gentleness, you can flip the script on your old narratives and gain a clearer and more honest picture of yourself, and what you’re truly capable of.

Written by JiJi Lee
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