Stories Part 3: The Stories I Tell Myself about Myself

“If I said no, I might always say no,” was stated by an executive trying to make a decision about a career move. He said “yes” to the new opportunity and was grateful he took the risk.

“I’m brave and I’m strong,” were the words to a song my eight-year-old daughter made up and sang out the other morning at breakfast. I asked her how she knew she was brave and strong. Her response was, “I go to dance lessons every week for four hours and it’s difficult, but I make it through.”

We all talk to ourselves. This internal dialogue is called “self-talk.” As I continue these series of blogs on stories, it seems necessary to address the internal conversation we have with our self about our self. Why is this a leadership development topic? Here is my thinking. The messages we tell our self about our self partly defines our self-perception. Our self-perception often impacts the way we engage and communicate with others. Thus, if I see myself as a confident and knowledgeable person, I will influence those around me much differently than if I view myself as foolish or incompetent.

There is obviously a spectrum of what we tell our self about our self. One extreme is arrogance. This reminds me of Muhammad Ali and the many “How Great I Am Speeches.”

How many arrogant leaders would you like to follow?

On the flip-side, seeing our self in a way that is “less-than” or even worthless has its consequences as well. This type of self-talk may lead to being more timid, reticent, or insecure. It is just about impossible to inspire people from this self-perception.

Thus, the spectrum of self-talk can go from worthless to arrogant. How do we find the right and Internal Story Spectrumhealthy voice? There are three keys to consider.

  1. Self-Awareness

It starts with self-awareness. Pause to recognize the words you are internally communicating about yourself.

  1. Check Your Story

Determine if the story you are telling yourself is accurate. This may be difficult if your internal storytelling pattern consistently leans towards one extreme or the other – arrogant or worthless. I would say that any story that says “I’m the greatest” or “I stink” is not accurate.

  1. Find the Healthy Voice

The healthy voice of a person understands his or her…

  • Unique identity
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Purpose and passions

Discovering this voice will take thoughtful reflection time.  As I examine my own self-talk, I realize my self-perception comes from my faith walk as a Christian.   My identity, strengths, and passions are motivated by my beliefs and faith. Consider your own beliefs and faith and how this impacts your self-perception.

Being a confident and mindful leader means understanding your internal story you tell yourself about yourself. Take time to pause, check your story, and find the healthy voice.