The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The Stories That We Tell Ourselves Are A Matter Of Choice.

The Stories That We Tell Ourselves Are A Matter Of Choice. Picture of a gypsy girl fortune telling.

"All The Things She Said, Running Through My Head..."

Why The Stories We Tell Ourselves?

The stories we tell ourselves are our way of trying to find meaning in what so often feel likes a random, chaotic and meaningless universe.

As you might expect, psychologists have developed a theory about this and it is known as narrative theory - which attempts to show how people construct their identities through storytelling.

Regardless of the theories, the basic human compulsion to tell stories is as old as the human race. In practical terms we are hardwired to tell stories.

The stories we tell ourselves are emotionally driven and very largely reactive to events and situations. They are a form of self talk.

Late last evening I received a message from a business contact telling  me that a proposal I had submitted had been rejected by his client. I was annoyed because it quickly became obvious to me that he had not read the full document I sent him and he had overlooked the 3 alternative options which I gave him, and which would have caused the buyer to take us more seriously.

I was also annoyed because I had worked hard for several months to get this guy on board and, based on past experience with other products, he seemed to be very competent.

A story formed itself very quickly in my head of the utter futility of what I am doing in my business and a feeling of deep despair and discouragement.

This narrative kept me awake last night until about 4am this morning when I reminded myself of an important truth: "You are not your thoughts".

The purpose of this article is to take a practical look at ways in which we can harness and refocus the stories that we tell ourselves in ways that are most beneficial to our well being and most resourceful for achieving the most positive outcomes in our lives. 

The foundation of this is to learn how to manage and mitigate the self-limiting and self-damaging effects of unfiltered self-talk.

The first key lesson is to understand that:

    What matters is not the content of your thoughts but your relationship with your thoughts.

Living With Your Thoughts

Learning how to live with your thoughts is an important skill because:

  • The stories we tell ourselves form the backcloth and the tapestry of our lives.
  • These narratives shape and define our sense of self and how and where we see ourselves fitting into the bigger picture of the circumstances of our life.
  • The stories that we tell ourselves also form the lens through which we interpret life.
  • The effect of this is that we tend to see what we expect to see and life can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Framing Your Thoughts

This process is known as framing and is about communication and how you create meaning in your communications with others, and more importantly in your internal communication with yourself.

In terms of how we can harness and refocus our self talk framing is a critical component.

It is important because the framing process is about how you define context, make associations, establish reference points and emotional touch points all designed and positioned to convey the sense and meaning that you want to convey to others or,  in this context, yourself.

The effect of framing in your self talk matters enormously because if you change your language  - if you change what you say and how you say it - you change how you feel; and this in turn affects your results in the outcomes that you experience in your life.

Returning to the anecdote I shared above: as soon as I reminded myself that I am not my thoughts and that I have a choice about the story I told myself, I consciously made a choice to drop the whining, self-pitying story and to reframe and change the voice behind the story to a more empowering perspective of hope and positivity.

    Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

The Source Of The Stories We Tell Ourselves

There are 3 interconnected sources of the stories that we tell ourselves.

The first two are covered in: understanding your thoughts.

1. The hardware - the physiology that creates these thoughts, and this is centred on the amygdala, a major emotional centre in the limbic system. This is responsible for our flight / fight response.

These thoughts are non-rational and largely driven by survival instincts and pleasure instincts - sometimes referred to as our "animal nature".

2. The software - the conditioning from our primary caregivers and dominant adult figures in our childhood that creates these thoughts.

This is a vast subject and there are many psychological models and interventions used to address and "repair" this conditioning.

The third source and the voice for the stories that we tell ourselves is:

3. The selves - when you refer to "myself" you are not referring to one singular entity but a very complex amalgam of many different aspects of your self  sometimes referred to as the "internal family of selves" -also known as "sub-personalities".

The term "self dialogue" can be used in a general sense to describe an internal conversation within yourself between these different elements or perspectives within your mind.

The Transcendent Voice

In their unfiltered state many - if not most - of the voices that express the stories that we tell ourselves will be negative and these will be ego based and thus by definition self-serving. These are the voices that will undermine you.

There is one voice that transcends all other voices and that is the voice of the higher self.

Choose this voice.

This is the voice to listen to.

This is the voice that will empower you.

    The voice with which you choose to speak your story matters because it carries the emotional tone and energetic charge that will empower you or undermine you.

    It is a choice.

The Truth Of The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The truth of the stories we tell ourselves is subjective, it is whatever we want it to be.

  • What matters is the energy - the dominant underlying emotion - behind the story.
  • It is that energy that will be stored in our mind.
  • It is that energy that will form the lens through which we interpret the events of that story and all future similar events.
  • The stories that we tell ourselves are a matter of choice.
  • Understand and use the power of framing.
  • Choose the voice of your higher self.
  • A story in the voice of your higher self, framed with a positive energy of inspiration, creativity and power transcends the limited, self-serving voices of  your egoic self.

    It is the cumulative and compounding effect of the stories that you tell yourself that ultimately will shape your destiny.

    So choose wisely the stories that you tell yourself.

Next Article:

Who Do You Trust?

Return from "The Stories We Tell Ourselves" to: Walking The Talk

Contact me

English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


  1. The Balanced Brain - The Ultimate Route To Personal Transformation

    How To Experience The Benefits Of A Balanced Brain. Underpinning all of the belief systems and practices that offer routes to personal change, transformation and spiritual growth is the balanced brain…

    Read More

  2. How To Make Better Decisions - By Avoiding The Narrative Trap

    To Understand The Truth We Have To See The Whole Picture. One of the best ways to make better decisions is to have a deeper understanding of the many things that might stop that happening. To understa…

    Read More

  3. The Greatest Love - The Most Important Relationship You Will Ever Have

    Yet Most Will Never Know It Everyone of us has a place, in our hearts there's a space, that is home to the greatest love of all. This love transcends everything we think we know about the world of for…

    Read More

  4. Everything Is Connected And Why You Don't Feel It

    ...And Why It Matters As human beings we are skating on very thin ice with our sense of self and certainty about "how things are" and what we like to think of as reality:

    - What if everything we think…

    Read More

  5. Who Is In Charge Of Your Brain?

    How Not To Be Stupid. Who is in charge of your brain? This is not a silly questions. It matters because the outcomes that you experience in your life are determined by how you respond to the events th…

    Read More

  6. How To Be A Winner On A Very Large Scale

    The Incredible Benefits Of Selective Attention. This is not a typical article about how to be a winner. We are not going to talk about goal setting, the importance of habits, the power of focus and al…

    Read More

  7. The Metagame Approach To Life

    How To Achieve Your Biggest Objectives. The metagame approach to life is all about winning and achieving your biggest objectives by: - Understanding the bigger picture
    - Being better by doing things d…

    Read More

  8. Shantideva - The Way Of The Bodhisattva

    Walking The Path Of Compassion. Shantideva the 8th century Indian Buddhist sage is famous for his treatise "The Way of the Bodhisattva" delivered as an extended teaching to the monks of Nalanda monast…

    Read More

  9. Reframing History - Deconstruction And Discussion Not Destruction

    History is always about context, not imposing our own moral values on the past. For those of us fortunate enough to live within western democracies, we are living in an age where a vociferous and into…

    Read More

  10. Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power.

    How To Be Lived By The Tao. The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice. The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is…

    Read More

  11. How Things Really Are - The Inbuilt Design Flaws

    Chaos, Disorder And Decay Is The Natural Order Of Things. Nobody has the perfect life. We all struggle and strive to attain health, wealth and personal happiness. Yet these three big areas: our health…

    Read More

  12. Intuition Or Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Crawling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? Several months ago I was having a drink…

    Read More

  13. What Is Truth - How To Tell A Partial Truth From The Whole Truth?

    How the truth and nothing but the truth is often not the whole truth. My great aunty Flo broke her arm and died. It is true that she broke her arm in 1923. It is also true that she died in 1949. But t…

    Read More

  14. Duality And Life Beyond Your Thinking Mind

    Duality and life beyond your thinking mind focuses on the limitations of time, foreground and background, duality and "stuckness". The first aspect of duality and life beyond your thinking mind focuse…

    Read More

  15. The Conscious Mind Is Limited - Be Aware And Be Prepared

    Being aware is the first stage of being prepared. The conscious mind is limited in so many ways. There are some who would argue that there is no such thing as conscious thought and that it is represen…

    Read More

  16. Your Inner Map Of Reality - Here's Why You Think The Way You Do

    The big picture of how your inner map of reality creates your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. Your inner map of reality is based on the filters of your own ethnic, national, social, family and rel…

    Read More

  17. The Failure Of Cancel Culture - Suppression Not Engagement

    Why we need to wear our beliefs lightly and develop negative capability. Throughout history people have campaigned to fight beliefs, ideologies, and injustices that they perceived to be oppressive, di…

    Read More

  18. 4 Big Reasons Why We Get Stuck In Our Attempts At Personal Change

    Most People Spend Their Entire Life Imprisoned Within The Confines Of Their Own Thoughts. This first of the 4 big reasons why we get stuck is, in my view, the most important. The "self-help industry…

    Read More

  19. How Do I Change And Why Is It So Hard?

    We Would Rather Die Than Change, And We Usually Do In my experience, the vast majority of people who say they want to change don’t change. Most people reading this won’t change because they don’t real…

    Read More

  20. The Illusion Of A Separate Self - Windows 11 With Self Awareness!

    Beyond the content of your mind you are so much more than you think you are. When we talk of "myself" this is the conventional way of referring to our self image which is in fact the ego's constructio…

    Read More

  21. Finite And Infinite Games - Dazed, Confused & Ultimately Transcendent

    This is not an instruction manual, it is a wake up call! Over this past week I have read Professor James Carse's highly regarded "Finite And Infinite Games - A Vision Of Life As Play And Possibility"

    Read More

  22. The Gap And The Gain - How Your Brain Sabotages Your Happiness

    How Your Lizard Brain Sabotages Your Happiness We are hardwired to measure our progress in any and all areas of life where we have goals and aspirations. We can't not do it. But what we measure and ho…

    Read More

  23. How To Wake Up - 4 Simple Practices To Help You Wake Up Now

    So What Exactly Does It Mean to Wake Up - What Is "Enlightenment"? There is nothing magical, mystical or mysterious about waking up we’re actually having glimpses of enlightenment all the time. Enligh…

    Read More

  24. Situational Communication - Different Strokes For Different Folks

    Situational communication is about taking account of 3 often ignored factors about the other person. You are a situational communicator when you recognise that effective communication is not an event…

    Read More

  25. How To Influence Without Authority - 6 Key Tips

    The secret to how to influence without authority is that you get what you really want by giving other people what they really want. We live in an interconnected world and knowing how to influence with…

    Read More

  26. Change Questions To Change Your Outcomes

    Asking The Right Questions Is Critical For A Successful Change. Every time we initiate a significant change - whether in our personal life or in an organisation - we will most likely over-estimate our…

    Read More

  27. Group Culture - The Invisible Software That Rules Your Life

    Group culture is: "How we do things round here". We like to see ourselves as free agents making our own choices and living authentically but the reality is that The Matrix has many layers and we are u…

    Read More

  28. Why Getting From A to B Is Not Aways A Straight Line

    In circumstances of significant change, the progress from A to B will not be in a straight line. We run our lives largely on auto-pilot. In most circumstances your experience of getting from A to B is…

    Read More

  29. The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success - Here's How To Do It!

    To be successful in the art of persuasion you must ensure that certain things happen. To be successful in the art of persuasion you must establish a framework of what has to happen to get you to that…

    Read More

  30. The Art Of Persuasion Advanced Communication Skills - Gaining Buyin

    Create The Environment Where They Want To Buyin to Your Proposal In order to build the win-win you have to uncover what it is that the other person really wants or needs, and to do that you have to as…

    Read More

Get new posts by email:


Support This Site