What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

Several years ago, I heard the CEO of a major corporation speak at a leadership conference. He begin his speech by telling us that he wasn’t a “gifted speaker.” He then rambled for a solid hour. Clearly, he was unprepared. It was painful.

A Woman Whispering in a Man’s Ear = Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/bobbieo, Image #216159

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/bobbieo

He had fallen victim to “The Narrator.”

Inside of each of our heads lives a storyteller. He narrates the events of our lives in real time.

But The Narrator does not merely provide play-by-play commentary. No, he specializes in color commentary—constantly offering his opinion about what everything means.

For example, The Narrator inside the CEO’s head had convinced him that he didn’t have a speaking gift (whatever that is). As a result, he didn’t bother preparing. After all, what good would it do? He didn’t have “the gift.”

If he had merely rejected The Narrator’s version and had told himself a different story, he could have experienced a different outcome.

For example, he could have said to himself, I’m not a great speaker—yet. But I can improve. I’m going to work harder to prepare. I really want to have a bigger impact on the people who hear me.

You and I can create a more empowering inner narratives by following five steps:

  1. Become aware of The Narrator. Half the battle is simply waking up and becoming conscious of the commentary running through our minds. Most people are oblivious to it. It is especially important to be alert to it whenever we experience adversity or trauma. Ask: What is the story am I telling myself right now?
  2. Evaluate the story the Narrator is telling. Many people confuse The Narrator’s voice with The Truth. But The Narrator is only offering one perspective, based on previous experiences and—too often—fear. We don’t have to accept the version of reality The Narrator is telling. Instead, we can “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Ask: Is this storyline accurate?
  3. See the story from a larger perspective. The biblical character Joseph was a man who had a dream and then unbelievable setbacks. I’m sure The Narrator was telling him, Every time something good happens, something worse follows. Get used to it!

    Instead, Joseph saw it from God’s perspective—so much so, that years later he could say to his abusive brothers, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Ask: How does God intend this situation for good?

  4. Affirm what you know is true. You can either live life based on past experiences, current feelings—or transcendent truth. This is why it is important to immerse yourself in the scriptures, to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As one of my mentors often says, “Most people doubt their beliefs and believe their doubts. Do just the opposite.” Ask: What do I know to be true?
  5. Write a new script. We don’t have to be passive spectators in our stories; we certainly don’t have to be victims. While God is ultimately sovereign, we have agency. (I heard this term for the first time from my friend, Don Miller.) In other words, our choices matter—more than we think! They can affect the outcome. Ask: How can I make the choices that create the best possible story?

When we lose the plot, we we lose our way. Life becomes meaningless. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can take control of the narrative, ask God for wisdom, and tell ourselves a different story—a better story.

Question: What disempowering stories have you told yourself? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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