You are what you tell yourself


That little narrative in your head, the one that thinks about self in the world, has more power over your perception of reality than you might care to admit. Some of us repeat shame stories, some repeat failure stories, some repeat fantasies, and still others repeat memories of being misunderstood or not treated as special. But whatever the narrative, it influences how you see yourself and how you choose to relate to the world–even when you are not aware of its presence.

Let me illustrate this point with two recent pieces run on National Public Radio

1. The Science of Self-Talk.  What you repeat to yourself about yourself can influence how you see yourself. This item explored how slight changes in talking about body image (from “My stomach is fat and disgusting” to “My stomach is round and bigger than I would like”) change the way individuals feel about themselves.

2. The voice in your head.  Radiolab has a couple of stories about voices in our head. The first was the voices heard in those who have Schizophrenia. While that story is very interesting, about 11 minutes in there is a second story that is more interesting to this topic: The second story is about minorities and females who do less well on standardized math testing than Caucasian males. It appears that accepting stories (e.g., girls or African Americans won’t do as well in academic settings) influence both populations to do less well on tests. When calling an IQ test a set of puzzles, African Americans will perform as well as others. Given the same set of puzzles an IQ test, they do less well. While there are many factors involved in the production and maintenance of these stereotypes, it appears that if we accept these stories, they will work on us and we will become them. What is interesting in this piece is that you don’t have to cognitively believe the story to be knocked off your game.

Preach what you want to practice

So, what stories do you repeat in your head? What stories come whether you want them to or not? What new narrative would you like to practice as a better sense of the truth. Choose a narrative that avoids all/nothing since you won’t find it believable. Ask the Lord what narrative he would like you to have for this issue. Consider these two.

1. Body image. What part of your body bothers you? Work out a more reasonable, less pejorative view of that part. Practice saying it.

2. Hurt feelings. Is there someone whose neglect has hurt you? Someone who hasn’t given you the attention you would like? Try softening the narrative in your head.

1 Comment

Filed under Identity

One response to “You are what you tell yourself

  1. karenestelle

    What was interesting and yet frightening to me was how the interaction between a parent and child is what develops into that inner voice. Interesting how that happens, but frightening that my interactions with my daughters will be a running recording in their heads for the rest of their lives.

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