We all carry stories with us that don’t always match up with reality. It’s the assumptions about what other people might be thinking. It’s our own insecurities that we unintentionally project onto others. It’s how we think we appear to others without actually knowing. But, I’ve found that there is such power in learning how to reframe narratives in your head that aren’t serving you so that you can live a freer and more connected life.
Every single person has this overarching narrative that we run through our mind telling us who we are, what we’re capable of, and what our purpose is here. Within that large narrative live hundreds of these little sub-narratives that loop in our brains and can either empower us or cause us to self-sabotage.
Ever assumed someone was mad at you when they didn’t text back as promptly as normal? What about… did you ever just presume you wouldn’t get a job because you believed you weren’t qualified or ready enough?
These are a couple common examples of the stories that live inside our heads that often aren’t true, and that stems from our belief in ourselves (or lack thereof). Brene Brown calls it “the story I’m making up,” and she says recognizing these made-up stories and speaking them out loud is the number one way to sustain relationships.
How to reframe unhelpful narratives in your head
First, let me tell you, this isn’t a one-and-done exercise, this needs to become a consistent practice in your life. Reframing thoughts, beliefs, and patterns is something you will likely do on a daily, if not hourly basis. And trust me, it’s easy to want to avoid the mindset work required to continue learning, evolving, and shifting your inner-narrative, but at some point, you’re going to realize that it’s not systems or strategies holding you back, it’s your mindset. I’m going to walk you through 4 steps that I’ve done and used to reframe my own limiting mindsets within my life (and I led a group of students through it in this coaching program recently, too!)
You’ll just need a pen and a notebook, and an open mind and approach that is ready for some positive change!
Step 1: Observe your personal pain points.
Every day we tell ourselves stories about our work, money, relationships, health, and abilities. When you think of those categories, I’d challenge you to write down the top area that you’re struggling with the most. What is something that keeps coming up for you or feels incredibly hard for you or keeps you up at night. Write down the things you’d change if you were given a magic wand and three wishes, be brutally honest here.
Take 10 to 20 minutes to acknowledge your problems and pain points and then underneath each one, brain dump all of the beliefs you hold around this area of your life. For example, let’s say you really struggle in work, and you doubt your abilities in being able to effectively communicate so much that you question if you’ll ever be able to be a good leader.
What is the story you tell yourself about why you believe you are lacking or not effective or successful in this area of life? What thoughts or words or things someone once said to you are you carrying with you that are making you believe those things? If you gently observe your thoughts and continuously ask yourself, “Why do I think that?” you will begin to uncover a narrative that has been on repeat in your life. Write down every answer as you continue going deeper into the question.
Step 2: Look for a pattern.
So often in life, there are patterns, and we’ll notice them when we actively look for them. Is there a theme in your struggles? Do you notice how one scenario tends to play out the same way every time you encounter it? Once we strip the story away, look for the pattern here. Are there patterns, behaviors, or habits that you tend to fall back on to make this story a self-fulfilling prophecy (either knowingly or unknowingly)?
Going back to the work example… Perhaps you try to communicate, but your doubt holds you back from saying what you really want to say. So, you stay quiet, and then you get anxious that you already failed. Then, you withdraw from the conversation even more because you’re fearful of confusion or criticism, and in turn, you communicate poorly because you’re making assumptions before the conversation has already begun.
What you believe becomes reality, even if it wasn’t necessarily true in the first place. It’s often our thoughts and these stories that trip us up more than the actual truth of the situation.
Step 3: Rewrite the story.
Now is the part where you get to change these thoughts, beliefs, and patterns. You are the author of your story and the stories you are telling yourself. Sometimes it takes rewriting them intentionally with a different plot twist, the positive one. Now that you’ve discovered a pattern, how can you change the story you’re telling yourself? While it takes work to shift your inner dialogue, it starts with knowing the story you are working to shift towards?
How would it feel to be wildly successful in the area you believe you are limited? What would it look like if you showed up as a version of you who excelled here? What would need to change? How would you need to carry and present yourself? Write THIS new story down. What new beliefs do you have to adopt and accept in order to see this as a possibility for your life?
Step 4: Anchor your beliefs with action.
Now, it’s time for ACTION. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, crazy big action, it can come in the form of tiny movement forward. How can you start to anchor these beliefs into reality being lived out? How can you prove to yourself that this new story is true? What is low-hanging fruit (aka, baby steps of action) that allows you to feel that dopamine of success in your re-writing?
It’s time to live into that new story of yours. To make it your own! It’s not about never hearing the negative again, it’s reframing it and catching it before it takes over and causes you to spiral. The key is to make this a daily practice. You are literally re-teaching your brain to prioritize these positive pathways of thinking, which will allow you to see challenges as opportunities rather than limitations.
Mindset isn’t a place you simply arrive at; it’s a daily choice and something you need to be an active participant in daily as you learn, grow, and evolve. You don’t just fix it and then boom, you’re cured and that’s that. The only way to minimize or delete a negative “default” or learned belief is to first admit its presence and then actively and intentionally replace it with positive, growth-oriented thoughts instead.
Ready for more actionable steps toward your best life?