The Story You Tell

Feb 17, 2016

Every day we are telling a story.


When we are alone, we’re telling a story to ourselves.

When we’re with friends and family, they hear it through our emotions.

When we’re out in public, people see it in our behavior.

When we meet someone new, we begin to curate their perception of us through the history we share and the challenges we face.

The story is told and reinforced every day by our words and our behaviors.

Our story has just as much to do with what we want out of life as it does with the history and experiences we’ve had. Of course, the story we share is often influenced by our past.


But the past does not dictate the future unless we let it.

5374200948_539b10fb1c_zMost people don’t realize they can change the story they tell without changing the story they’ve lived.

It’s impossible to change the past, but it’s entirely possible to change our story. Some people know this and still talk about their past as if not being able to change it is the reason they can’t change the story they live.

A story in life is just as much about what we are doing now as it is about what has happened to us in the past.

When I share something that points to a part of my life that I don’t enjoy, it’s not done to garner sympathy. I do it because I want to shed light on it, give those close to me a glimpse into who I was, and so I can move onto leaving it in my past by creating contrast into the new life I want to live.

It’s no longer inside my head; it’s now “out there” and I can accept it as who I was, not who I want to be.

Yet, if I keep talking about it, I’m prolonging its impact in my life.

Therefor, it’s not enough to enough to talk about what we don’t like in our life. For some people, simply coming out and admitting some of our faults is enough to get moving on the right path.


But to really take advantage, we have to tell a new story.

We can talk about the parts of our lives that we don’t like. It can help create contrast.

But what happens when we stop there? That’s all people will remember.

If you share a part of your life you’re unhappy about, not proud of, or just to give insight into why you do what you do, that’s all anyone will be able to think about. It’s the only story you’ve told them, it’s the only thing they know to attach to who you are.


Dare to share a little more.

Why not give a story about what you actually want? If you could tell someone a story of your past that is positive, filled with accomplishment, filled with self-acceptance… wouldn’t you want to?

long-railwayIf you are making change in your life, talk about that. Yes, telling us the story of your past may be important for creating context for the change, but please also talk about the story you want to live.

When you share the part of your life that you’re looking to change, the visions you have of yourself in the future, that’s the story people will begin to associate with you.

If you don’t share that part of yourself, nobody can know about it.



Perceptions are changed through your story.

For the majority of my life, I’ve been known as a shy and quiet guy. I thought about it a lot, especially over the past few years. I was recognizing the social anxiety I had welled up inside of me anytime I tried talking with someone. It was overwhelming; it felt like my entire body was going into overdrive and might shut down at any second.

It’s just who I was. It’s how people knew me as. “Why are you so quiet,” was a phrase I heard all too often.

I still talk about my shyness quite a bit. However, the story people know about me isn’t just about being a shy and quiet guy, anymore. It’s now about how I’m trying to overcome my shyness. It’s now about how I’m trying to create a better life for myself.

I assume, of course. I haven’t actually asked anyone. I only have a few examples to prove this to myself.

One example is a Christmas gift that I received in 2015. I received a gift I didn’t ask for and it was one of my favorites. It gave me the insight that what I was doing that year had an impact on the perception someone had of me. It was a book called, “Start.”

20160215_112930The book was all about trying to create an amazing life and live a brand “of awesome.” I didn’t ask for it, but the people around me who have been listening to the story I’ve been telling (not just the parts I don’t like, but the change I’m trying to make), have recognized this and began associating these new characteristics with who I am.

It had nothing to do with the book: it had everything to do with how changing my story changed the perception others had of me. More important than that, by changing my story, I’ve changed how I see myself.


Every day is an opportunity to tell a new story.

People can only see a glimpse of your story through the experiences you share and the actions you take.

smile-happiness-womanWhen you meet someone new, they have no idea who you are. They don’t know what you’ve been through. Nobody, even your closest friends and family, will ever know the full extent of your story.

When you decide to share something about yourself, make sure it’s something you want to be known for. For a long time, I had a habit of accepting what other people already knew about me: shy and quiet. I was great at living up to expectations.

However, when I began to get out more often, work on overcoming my shyness and push my comfort zone, I began to meet new people.

During a dance lesson, our instructor had everyone share the reason they became interested in dance to the partner across from them. I looked to my partner across from me, someone I had met a couple months prior, and said, “to overcome shyness.”

It seemed to catch her off guard.

The reaction I got as I told her my first experience with learning to dance made me realize that I wasn’t necessarily being associated as “shy” like I had been thinking about for over a decade. I’m the only one keeping me in a shyness mindset.

The reaction took me by surprise, so much that it didn’t even click until later that night.

People can only see the conversations and stories inside of your head if you actually tell them about it.

You can change the story you tell, simply by daring to share more about your story or refusing to accept the story of your past as the present.


Every great story has a villain.

Shyness is a part of my past, it’s my upbringing. But it’s also the reason I’ve been able to impart so much change in my life.

chess-figure-gameShyness is the villain in my story today. Shyness created the challenge.

Shyness was also an important part of my story. Shyness create conflict in my life and that conflict developed unrest. That unrest created a need for change.

Like a villain in any story, there has to be someone to overcome the villain. There has to be a hero to answer the call to adventure.

I didn’t choose to overcome shyness because I was tired of being seen as shy. I choose to overcome shyness because it holds me back from being who I really am.

I’m still a quiet individual, but I despise shyness.

There’s nothing wrong with being quiet: I admire that quality about myself. What I don’t admire is being shy, being socially inhibited and not being able to be myself. Unfortunately, these two are so closely intertwined that overcoming shyness has been difficult to work through.

I overcome shyness to become a better communicator of who I am, my visions for the future, to create an impact and to contribute to those around me. I can still overcome shyness, become a better communicator and be quiet all at the same time.


We may tell our story, but our story shapes us.

6024563700_755da30e8d_zTelling a story about who we want to be or what we want to accomplish (and not just the parts of our past that we don’t like) has a more important side effect.

By telling the positive sides of our story, we begin to change how we see ourselves. The story we tell and the quality of our life is largely impacted by what we consciously and subconsciously believe. The more we associate who we are with the type of life we want, the more our mind begins to adapt to these new desires.

One of my favorite TED speakers, Amy Cuddy, encourages us to “fake it till you become it,” through positive internal reinforcement and power-poses.

It can take time for these adaptations to take effect, which is why it’s so important to be persistent with telling the story we want to live.

If you don’t share your story with anyone, at least share a positive story with yourself. Telling a positive story inside of your mind can change how you see the world and what you believe is possible. Our minds are powerful beyond imagination. Make sure the information you feed it will help bring your story to life.

Not everyone needs to hear your story, but the story you are telling yourself should always be focused on what makes you happy, what you want to accomplish, what you believe in and what has meaning to you in life.


Every great story needs a villain.

But it also needs a hero.

Are you sharing both?



Image Credits:
(Calendar) Photo credit: DafneCholet via VisualHunt / CC BY
(Underground Light) Photo credit: BlaisOne via VisualHunt / CC BY-ND
(Smile, Railroad, Pen Writing, Black Chess, Crystal Chess) Photo via VisualHunt