Beware of the Narrative You Tell Yourself
Sometimes we get inside our own heads too much…
This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post Contributor platform.
One day at work, I was on fire. Not literally, of course, but I was flying through my to-do list accomplishing tasks. It felt good. I was giving myself a mental pat on the back for the work I had done. That’s when I noticed a typo in an email I had sent out earlier.
I quickly responded back, apologizing for the error and making sure the other person had all the correct information. But the situation wasn’t over, not by a longshot. Sure, the other person probably stopped thinking about it the second they closed their email. But in my mind, the battle had just begun.
You see, that one small mistake was what I focused on the rest of the day. I didn’t give any more thought to all the hard work I had done earlier. I was too busy criticizing myself. I had created a new narrative. This one said I was mistake-prone and aloof. That I wasn’t good at my job, and my colleagues didn’t respect me. In reality, those things aren’t true. But they seemed true in my head at that given moment.
The Inner Narrative
We are constantly writing our own narratives. You may not have a pen and paper out, and you may not be typing on a keyboard constantly. But you’re creating a narrative nonetheless.
It’s the narrative of your inner voice.
We all have it. As we go through our day, we tell ourselves things. We grade ourselves. We weigh the pros and cons. If you’re anything like me, the conversation skews negative. It’s often so easy for me to see my faults — where I don’t measure up.
We tell ourselves that things are important only to find out that they really weren’t all that significant. We tell ourselves that someone else will never let us live down that “major” mistake when they’ve probably already forgotten about it.
I’m still on the journey. I don’t have it all figured out yet. But I am starting to find some ways to change the narrative.
Get Outside Yourself
I’m not talking about an “out-of-body experience.” No, I’m talking about getting out of your own head. Get outside and notice the immaculate beauty that’s just beyond your front door. Just the other night, I looked up at the stars outside my apartment. Instantly, it was like I was a kid again — gazing in wonder at the sky above.
And I’m not really talking about “finding yourself” or some vague generalization we like to tie to experiencing nature. All I’m really saying is that there’s value in seeing the world has so much more to offer than just what’s in your head. There so much going on outside of your world. There’s pain and suffering, yes. But there’s also so much beauty.
Or maybe you like experiencing art. I love books and movies. They each have their place. One thing good art does is it helps us draw out truths. Watch a movie you’ve never seen before or pick up a new book and start reading. Give your inner narrative some new content.
Hit the Pause Button
The other day when I got home from work, I knew I needed a break. But not my usual break. Often that consists of settling down in a chair and browsing social media. No, this time I needed a break from screens. I put my phone on the charger and sat down with a book. It felt really good.
Most days when I drive into work, I have the radio on. But some days, I need quiet. On those days, I leave the radio off and I drive in silence as I gather my thoughts.
For me though, the best form of pausing is when I spend a few quiet moments in prayer. It resets my thinking and gives me peace.
I don’t know what pausing looks like for you. But I do know that we all need it. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy hustle and bustle. To move from one thing to another. But I’ve noticed that while I’m in a rush, the inner narrative is still playing. It’s not taking a break either.
So, I need to pause to change the narrative.
You’re Doing Just Fine
Let me encourage you — you’re worth it. Whatever you’re going through, you’re completely worth it. It’s so easy to tell ourselves we aren’t good enough or we’re falling behind.
But just a quick pause or a look outside can give you the true narrative…
…you’re doing just fine.
Aaron Charles is a writer and marketing account executive from Indiana. You can connect with him on Twitter, Medium or Instagram. Aaron and his wife Sarah run a Medium publication called Cooking With Sarah that documents their weekly cooking adventures. If you’d like, you can also leave him a tip to contribute to future writing.