The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Change is hard, even when that change can lead us to a happier, healthier life. The bigger the change, the harder it can be, and support can be crucial for success. But even with support, self-sabotage can take place because of the stories we tell ourselves. We have often spent years fueling our behaviors with justifications and excuses that can leave us, and those trying to support us, frustrated.
When recovering from an eating disorder, my stories often went something like this:
I'll do it just this once, then get back on track.
Other people without eating disorders skip meals, what's the big deal?
This one behavior won't really matter.
I can't cope without using this behavior.
I'll address this behavior when I get the other ones under control, or when I'm less stressed, or when things are easier.
With each story, I gave myself permission to slip back to old behaviors. When in recovery, "tomorrow" always looks promising, it will be the day we will magically become fully committed to doing what is needed for real change. Tomorrow is full of promise, but today it all just seems too hard, so we tell ourselves stories to justify our slips and slides that can so quickly lead to a relapse.
Changing our stories takes determination because the negative self-talk can be deeply ingrained. We must continuously challenge the thoughts that support unhealthy behaviors with thoughts that support success rather than defeat. Like an overworked muscle, those self-sabotaging stories are strong and can bully and push aside the healthier stories of encouragement and determination we try to practice.
It takes commitment and consistency to make the healthier stories stronger than the unhealthy stories. It takes a willingness to practice self-evaluation and brutal honesty to understand why we fall back on the old behaviors, excuses, and justifications and see where else in our lives these patterns exist because rarely do they only exist in only one area.
The good news is the brain will believe what we tell it. It takes time and consistency for this to happen, but it will happen, making it easier to push aside the bully in our head and turn those negative stories into stories that encourage and inspire the change we want.
Whether working toward recovery, or a different type of change in your life, notice when you find yourself avoiding or procrastinating around making that change. What are the stories you are telling yourself, and how can you begin to challenge those stories? Changing the self-sabotaging thoughts can be the first step to harnessing the power to become the author of the stories you want to live.