Stories: We share them, we remember them, and we hold onto them. We use them as connection points, or as a way to process information. We recall details and reminisce; maybe we even add new parts to a story each time we tell it. When we think of the stories we tell, we probably think of the stories we share with our friends, family, and coworkers. Rarely will someone think about the stories they tell themselves.
For example, what does it mean when we make a mistake? Do we tell ourselves we are incompetent and careless? Do we tell ourselves we have a lot on our plates and mistakes are part of the human experience? The stories we tell ourselves can also be called self-talk. How do we talk to ourselves, and does it matter? The answer is that it does matter because we are constantly telling ourselves stories– positive or negative ones. We may not even be aware of the stories we tell ourselves. We may repeat the same stories, as they have continued to serve and protect us.
Along with the stories we tell ourselves, what stories do we create about other people? When a friend cancels plans without notice, do we make assumptions and anticipate what they are thinking, or do we let that person tell their story? We can assume other people’s stories, but it limits us from gaining true awareness of the situation. There are repercussions of writing someone else’s story even if it is within our own self talk. It may affect us in our interactions with others or even hurt our own self-esteem.
The next time you are interpreting a situation, ask yourself the following questions: What story am I telling myself about this? Did I make up a story, or did the other person really say this? What part of the story do I get to write? How can I rewrite my part of the story if I do not like it? You may consider using the above questions as journal prompts. Journaling out these answers might help with negative self-talk and jumping to conclusions.
If you would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics, such as the one featured in this blog, and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.
Written by Liz, Mental Health Counseling Master’s Level Intern