The Stories We Tell Ourselves



A new year can feel like a fresh start, a clean slate. We dust off those dreams that fell by the wayside and away we go!

But maybe once we’ve named and claimed our sparkling visions for our future, we start to backpedal. Our fears and self-doubt pierce through like a pin to a balloon and pop!– we’re deflated. Whether it’s a plan for our health, creativity, career, relationships, finances, or fill-in-the-blank, our oomph can get replaced with thoughts like:

  • Who am I kidding? I can’t stick to that. I won’t follow through.
  • I haven’t done it yet, so why should this time be any different?
  • I shouldn’t have told anyone about it. It’s embarrassing to let myself down again.

When our inspiration gets overridden it’s usually an inside job. Our thoughts have a way of circling back to our past hurts, our perceived failures and shortcomings, our “bad” habits. We start to believe that our problems are who we are.

I recently attended a workshop* on Narrative Therapy**, a collaborative approach that sees each of us as the expert on our own life. It highlights that these “problem stories” we tell ourselves perpetuate our unhelpful beliefs about who we are and what we’re capable of (or what we’re not capable of). It invites us to view these problem stories as separate from us.

I appreciate that the Narrative approach supports us in developing and strengthening our “preferred stories.” These are the stories that focus on our past successes, what’s working, and who we’ve got in our corner, journeying with us or cheering us on. It encourages us to identify our hopes and intentions for the future and the traits and skills we possess to help us get there.

I wonder what we could create, achieve or be if we could let go of—or even just loosen our grip on—those pesky problem stories we’ve been telling ourselves. We can’t control everything in our lives but we can choose what to focus on.

Imagine the peace we’d feel if our preferred stories included knowing that we are God’s beloved children, that God is always with us, and that God has a beautiful plan for our lives.

This year I am going to do my best to keep my eyes set on preferred stories like these. Maybe you’d like to join me?


* Narrative Journeys: Navigating Our Way, facilitated by Maggie Carey of Narrative Practices Adelaide for Angela Voght’s Sage Narrative Practice and funded by the BC Responsible and Problem Gambling Program

** Developed by Michael White and David Epston