Pursue What Matters
Episode 227: Owning Your Story
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
We all have stories we tell ourselves, it is the human way to always be running a monologue in our heads about ourselves, about others, and about the world at large. And you know what? Most of our stories really bite. They’re not accurate. They’re not helpful. They do not service. So join me as I explore what it means to own your story.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:25
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So owning your stories, do you know what that even means? So today, I’m excited to continue our series on self-leadership, this is all part of helping you to lead with curiosity. So when we can get curious about our experience, when we can get curious about the experience of others, we become more self-aware we become better leaders. And the first essential step of effective leadership is being able to lead ourselves. And so right now we’re in the middle of helping you to really build a secure foundation for yourself. So secure foundation is an acronym that I use that really is designed to help you be unstoppable. It’s all about helping you to really prioritize self-care. And specifically, when it comes to these foundation skills, these are growth behaviors that are designed to help you thrive in life. And so of course, FOUNDATION is an acronym that I used last time. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about facing fears. And now we’re on “O” foundation, which is to own your story. And so today, we’re going to talk about first, why owning your story is essential for growth. We’re going to talk about second, the difference between your story and reality. For most of us, there is a big difference there. And then I’m also going to share third a skill that I have found immensely helpful. In my own life, others talk about it as well. And that is the skill of the story. I’m telling myself. And so I hope that you will really consider how you can first develop awareness about the story you tell yourself and then take some ownership of that. And really a big part that we take ownership for that is we start to challenge our stories. And so when it comes to owning your story, what I’m really inviting you to do is to take complete responsibility for every aspect of your life. That is a lot harder than it might sound. So owning your story is really about this responsibility for every aspect of your life. And if you just if you were to just take a take a day, and start to get curious about the ways that you either take responsibility, shortcut, or blame others or justify, you will see pretty clearly that as humans, we are pretty darn good. shirking responsibility. And yet the most successful people take responsibility for everything they can. They take responsibility for every aspect of your life, because as an adult, ultimately, you are responsible for every aspect of your life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:57
So again, it might sound pretty straightforward, but believe me, it can be much harder to do an actual practice. And one of the reasons that’s the case is because as humans, we are master storytellers. We love devising elaborate stories about how we’ve been wronged and why we can’t take responsibility for our lives. And some of these stories may even be true. But here’s the thing, you still need to take complete responsibility for every aspect of your life. Because unless and until you do, you will be undermining your ability to lead well, and this is a much broader than just a specific leadership role. I’m talking about leading your life Well, ultimately, right if you if you don’t take responsibility for your life, you end up living in self deception, rather than self awareness and out Gosh, the self deception leads to a whole host of pain and suffering and misery, not only for you, right? Like, if it’s you, it’s just one thing and that’s not good. But you It’s you don’t you don’t leave it to yourself, that pain and that suffering and misery infects people you connect with and that you work with, that you have relationships with.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:24
And so the first step in owning your story is to banish excuses, complaints and blame. If you take a look at your behavior over a day, whether that’s the internal dialogue in your head, or your interactions with other people, most of us would be pretty shocked at how often excuses complaints and blame are showing up in our self talk in our storytelling in our head, or in our conversations, it’s a real problem. If you are still blaming others for your hard luck, you are not owning your story. If you are still making excuses for why you aren’t further ahead, or why you didn’t get that job, why you didn’t get that promotion, you are not owning your story. If you are still complaining about the fact that others don’t see your potential, your talent or your efforts, you are not owning your story. I’m going to give you some tough medicine, cut it out, instead of looking outside of yourself for why you are not getting ahead, take a look inside, get curious and get quiet. Stop pointing the finger, stop blaming others, stop complaining about how others are getting it wrong. And take a hard look in the mirror. I get it. This is painful to do. But your willingness to take this tough medicine and really get real with yourself about the stories you tell yourself. It’s a game changer, it makes all the difference in whether you’re just surviving or thriving in life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:11
So what are you missing? Get curious about what you’re not taking responsibility for? Where are your blind spots? We all have them. What are the painful truths about yourself that you do not want to own, you don’t want to acknowledge they kind of make you uncomfortable to even think about it is time to own them. If you want to move forward in your life. You’ve got to take responsibility for the stories you tell yourself and be willing to face reality. So when it comes to owning your story, another thing that’s so important is to Own your mistakes, forthrightly, none of us are perfect. It can be so painful to own our stories when we feel like we’ve made mistakes. But the reality is, we’ve all made mistakes. And we’re all always making mistakes. None of us are perfect. It’s part of the human condition. But we make our lives a whole lot messier when we avoid taking responsibility for our mistakes.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:18
So when it comes to owning mistakes, forthrightly apologize with humility, when you’ve made a mistake on it, it does not have to be a shameful thing. We are all human, we all make mistakes. Second, ask for forgiveness. It is the standard thing to do. If you’ve wronged someone make it right. It’s as simple as that. There’s no need to complicate things. We complicate things when pride and shame get in the way and we let those get in the way. But you know, this is where the golden rule can be really valuable. Do unto others, how you would have others do to you. It’s pretty good counsel that stood the test of time. Most people are generous, and they are willing to frankly forgive. And here’s the thing, even if they’re not, it’s still better for you to seek forgiveness. And then third, is own your choices. And in addition to that, we want you to own the consequences of your choices. When you make a choice, you are also signing up for the consequences and a lot of us fail to think about that. So realize that in making a choice, you are also owning those consequences. So the sooner you can accept responsibility for that reality, the sooner others can stop cleaning up after you. This reality also frees you up from resistance, denial, justification and excuses.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:51
So just think about it how much energy do you is taken up in denying reality right? Eat like we can spend a lot of energy in that. We want to own it and move on. And so again, when we think about owning your mistakes forthrightly, there are three recommendations first, apologize with humility. Second, ask for forgiveness. And third, own your choices. As part of owning your story, it’s also so important to live in the present, the past is dead, the future has not happened. You only have now and in this moment, to take responsibility for your life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:36
Second, is stop blaming others. I’ve already talked about this, stop blaming your parents, your ex, your boss, your kids, that guy that cut you off in traffic this morning. Just don’t do it. And third, remember that you are responsible for you. The sooner you understand this truth, the sooner you will live free. Now, listen, I’m not saying that you haven’t been wronged. I’m sure there have been people who have wronged you, maybe many people who have wronged you, and maybe you have some work to do around forgiveness. Perhaps you need the support of a good therapist to help you with that. What I’m focusing on here with this podcast today, is that it does you no good to cling to these stories of being wronged, in as much as these stories keep you from taking full responsibility for your life. That is really the key here. Do these experiences keep you stuck? Do they keep you feeling like a victim or feeling like a martyr? Do you use these experiences as excuses? If so, this is a big problem that will hamper your ability to grow. It’s just that simple. You know, one of the saddest things that I see is when people who have been wronged in the past, continue to cling to those painful stories and carry that pain with them into the present.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:01
Now we all have work to do from our childhood wounds. But when we hold those stories right in front of us, we bring that pain and loss and suffering into every aspect of our life. It gets in the way of fully living in the present moment. And that is a choice that you have power over right, like, you may not have had a choice of whether you were wounded. This is especially true in childhood. But right like other people will hurt you. That is That is true. But you do have a choice today, whether you continue to suffer, whether you continue to cling to those painful stories, and learn to let go of that pain learn to forgive learn to move on it you know, I don’t want to, you know, present it as something simple as something you just decide. It takes work, right? It takes effort. That’s where sometimes working with a good therapist can be really helpful. So of course, we want you to have help with that. But set that as a goal for yourself. Be intentional about abandoning excuses and abandoning this sense of victimhood. It’s so empowering to be able to let go of those stories. So we also want you to take responsibility for the stories you’re making up in your head right? As humans, we always have an inner monologue happening we’re constantly carrying on an internal monologue. Often these monologues only serve our biases, judgments, and most painful stories, because our minds have a negativity bias, It’s something that helps us to evolve right to survive, as we are more highly and sensitively cued to negative stimuli. And so the stories that we tell ourselves are very often skewed to negative stimuli. And so you got to be really careful about those stories. We often have a core belief or story and then we look for evidence that it is true in the words and the actions of those around us. And here’s what’s true about that. If you have a template in your head around negativity or about being wronged, and then you start looking for evidence of that in the world around you, you’ll always find the evidence to support your favorite belief, you just will because it’s what you’re focusing on. If you believe for instance, that others are out to get you, you will always find evidence whether it exists or not to support that belief.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:39
As humans, we are wired for story. Our brains are remarkable at stringing together a narrative, even when this requires huge narrative leaps. That’s that’s not much of a barrier to our brains. It really doesn’t matter as long as the story as long as it confirms our core beliefs that were unwanted that we’re unlovable that we’re going to be rejected. And so in this way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because we then act on the evidence. And I say that in quotes, we have just gathered from the situation at hand or the other person. And you know, usually, at that point all hell breaks loose. Because we’re not responding to the reality on the ground, we’re responding to the stories in our head. And so as a result, we end up feeling hurt, rejected, or not good enough, which is often some version of the core story we’ve been carrying around with us. And it’s usually just plain wrong. And so, you know, this happens both ways, right? Like, we pull others into our stories, and we get enlisted in others’ core stories. Have you ever had a conversation with someone and found yourself feeling absolutely confused? Or befuddled by what happened? You know, in those situations, that there’s a good chance that you became an actor in their shame story.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:06
It’s no fun to be cast into a part you didn’t know you were playing. And so you know, we don’t want you to do that to others either. And yet, when in conversation with others, we are often responding to the stories in our head about what the other one is saying, not the other person, or what the person is actually saying. So we carry on to conversations, we carry on the conversation with the person and then we carry on our conversation about what’s really happening. What is that side i that she just gave me? Or why did he just smirk? And so we’re gathering evidence to support our core stories. So again, we want to own our own stories, take responsibility for the stories, we’re telling ourselves, and then tell on yourself. So this is a great quote from Lama Rod Owens, I love it. If you don’t do your own work, you become work for somebody else. And boy, isn’t that true? It’s just Oh, gosh, it’s so true in like every aspect of life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:11
And so I want to, I want to wrap up by sharing a useful tool from Dr. Brené Brown, that I have, personally, I found so helpful, I’ve shared it with so many teams, I’ve shared it clinically, with with clients over the years in therapy. And that is to use the line the story, I’m telling myself, this is a really helpful tool that helps you to check out your story with the other person and correct misunderstandings. So right, like we often have two conversations going on. So for example, you could say the story I’m telling myself is that you’re disappointed in me, and that, you know, you don’t want me on the project anymore. And you know, then the other person has a chance to confirm that story. Or correct it. So sometimes it’s like, yeah, I’m a little disappointed. Okay, what needs to change what needs to happen? Let me you know, let’s make sure we make the changes necessary. And so sometimes this can lead to tough conversations, but wouldn’t you rather know? Right? Like, if someone’s disappointed, we need to understand that so we can be more effective. And often, what’s happening is we’re correcting the story to say, you know, the story I’m telling myself is that you’re really upset at me right now is like, oh, no, I’m not upset at all. I’m just like, I’m a little tired, because I didn’t sleep well last night, but I’m not upset at all. And so you can correct those stories. And that’s, that can be so helpful to keep us away from getting emotionally hooked.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:47
Because, you know, here’s what’s true. As humans, we are really bad mind readers, we think we’re good at it. But we’re not. And we often end up responding to our own stories, and not the person across from us. And so right, like, we’re not aware, we’re not present, we’re not building and connecting in relationship. So this tool, the story I’m telling myself can be vulnerable, right? I mean, because you’re set you’re giving someone a view of some of your core beliefs or some of your, some of your, some of your worries, some of your anxieties, and so it can be very vulnerable. But it’s also so powerful for cutting through the confusion and the shame of these stories that can absolutely derail connection in a heartbeat. These are the moments where we get emotionally hooked. And so using this tool of the story, I’m telling myself, helps us in a very real way to become unhooked to check out those stories and to really learn to respond to the reality at hand. And so today we talked about owning your story and that there is typically a gap between the stories we tell ourselves and reality it’s important to close that gap. These stories typically lead to blaming, resisting responsibility, or justifying poor choices. And finally, true connection and self-leadership are not possible until your stories are abandoned in favor of responsibility and reality. That is the truth.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:23
And so head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/227-ownyourstory. So again, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/227-ownyourstory. I hope you will connect with me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith I always have additional resources there. I’d love to connect with you there as well. If you enjoy the podcast, please consider giving us a r review on Apple or Spotify. It really helps people to find the podcast. So in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai