The stories we tell ourselves

June 15, 2016

Mateus Palace, Portugal

We all tell ourselves stories. They may be true, or they may be things we want — or even need — to believe about ourselves.

Here’s one:  I have an addictive personality.

Or how about I’m not afraid to fly. I just don’t have time to travel.

I’m too old to go back to school.  Or I don’t have enough money to travel.

There’s I don’t have time to.… and fill in the blank: exercise, read, learn piano—whatever.

And no one’s interested in what I have to say.

How about I don’t know why I can’t.

Here’s what we never say:

I don’t want to.

Because the stories we tell ourselves and others? They serve the purpose of letting us off the hook so that we don’t own our behavior. So we don’t take responsibility.

They keep us from changing, evolving, doing something good for ourselves.

They keep us stuck in the status quo.

They might not even be true, those stories we tell ourselves.

What stories are you telling yourself that you might want to rewrite?

44 comments on “The stories we tell ourselves
  1. I had a patient last year who talked about falling in love with “the story” she told herself about men — the story never ended the way she had fantasied it would, unfortunately. Good thoughts about denial and avoidance Carol.

  2. Elena Peters says:

    Along the same lines, I’ve heard my husband use me as an excuse while talking to a friend on the phone. I always tell him “Don’t use me as an excuse.”

    • Oh now that’s an even different twist I hadn’t included!

    • Great point! My little brother has used his on-again-off-again love interest/disinterest as an excuse (for not achieving, for not making it home for this or that, etc., etc.) for years. He’s told us bad things about her. Now they’re attempting a real relationship and he’s afraid to bring her around because he’s set us up for not approving of her. I guess I’ll meet her at their wedding. Maybe. :/

  3. Cori says:

    Using “I don’t want to” makes us sound selfish and rude, despite it being the truth. So we have to make up stories to convince ourselves and others.

  4. Leanne says:

    this is something I’ve had to work on removing from my life – I come from a family of grand excuse givers – I’m learning that it’s okay to say “no” and leave it at that. Also I’m learning that I have more worth than I’ve given myself credit for over the years – lovely post Carol x

  5. Diane says:

    I’m afraid of people. Only people can hurt you. There. I’ve said it.

  6. Carla says:

    It’s a little different but it resonates with me in the exact same way: when I stop to saying I’m too busy and forced myself to use the words “it’s just not a priority right now”it was life changing.
    It was awkward at times no matter how gently I said them.
    It reminded me many times that when my reflex was to say “oh I can’t. I’m busy!” WAS NOT WHAT I MEANT.
    The trip or experience or a vent or time with friends really was a priority and I needed to make it clear to them through my actions.

  7. Hi Carol! It seems you and I were on a similar wave-length by writing about how stories are so prevalent and relevant in our lives. While the short type…the affirmation type can be telling…I think what they evolve to is the overall story of our lives. Things like, I’m never luck or I’m Always lucky, I never have enough money or money comes to me easily and effortlessly, men are lousy and there are no good ones left OR I have found the love of my love who I love trust and adore. Ultimately, those overall stories make up the fabric of our lives and we would do well to make sure they unfold in the way we want. ~Kathy

  8. So true! I guess we do it so we won’t hurt people and to make ourselves feel better. My husband has often used me as an excuse as well. I can definitely see falling in love with the lies we tell ourselves as well. So dangerous is that point we start to believe them.

  9. Lizzi Lewis says:

    I’ve been quite happy, in times gone by, to ‘be the excuse’, when it’s suited me and the situation to need someone to blame. I think the biggest lie I’ve told myself lately is that it doesn’t matter what I eat, but I’ve already written that. The BIGGEST and most consistent lie is probably “I’ll do it later” and then I never do.

  10. I’ve had to get a lot better at just saying no and leaving it at that. No explanations. It’s something that I’ve struggled with forever. Momma raised me to please everyone…not including myself that would be “selfish”. It’s been a hard habit to break.

  11. Learning to say no–and leaving it at that–has been one of the most liberating aspects of getting older. I still slip at times, thinking I have to explain myself, but I keep reminding myself that “‘No’ is a complete sentence.”

  12. Candy says:

    I don’t mind being the excuse at times.

  13. Barbara says:

    The older I get the easier I find it to just say no. I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings and try to be kind but, I spent a lot of time in my life trying to make others happy before myself. Not any more.

  14. GiGi Eats says:

    What I tell myself on the daily: YOU KICK ASS!

    That is a non-fiction short story 😉

  15. I am just beginning to learn that “I don’t want to” is an acceptable and truthful response. I guess we are afraid to use it for fear of what others might think. Working on getting over that crap….

  16. Such wisdom in few words. Thanks, Carol!

    I’ll be thinking on this. I tell myself all kinds of things I probably shouldn’t, stories I should change. One big one: “I just have to say this.” Each time I tell myself that (or others) it turns out to be they were things better left unsaid.

  17. one of my bigger fears is to end up stuck in a rut cycle with life. Which is why I’m always looking for ways to grow.

    Abbigayle Warner – Personal Branding Specialist – Femme Lifestyle Blog 

  18. Toni McCloe says:

    Wow! You are dead on Carol.Such a brief and accurate post. I loved it.

  19. Very true. Sometimes the stories others tell us are the ones we repeat. It is a hard habit to break.

  20. sue says:

    So true Carol. I don’t know why it is difficult to say ‘I don’t want to’ but we hide behind other excuses. Thanks for the reminder.

  21. Leslie says:

    I’ve never really thought about this. This is a great post! There is a lot I’ve been telling myself lately and it all needs to change.

  22. Jennifer says:

    My story? Too many people are relying on me, I have to live up to the expectations that my parents have/had of me… could go on and on. My first step is to recognize this problem.

  23. Very inspiring…time for me to write my story 🙂

  24. Excuses are easy to make! too many people I know fall into the trap you describe. I think I am on the opposite end of the scale with too much to do. I don’t know when to stop, and I need to because I’m creating stress unnecessarily.

  25. HI Carol,
    Well, I have my Master’s Degree. I got it since I wanted to teach college. So, why aren’t I updating my resume? I tell myself I don’t want to teach college anymore, but my family thinks I am kidding myself. So, why don’t I update my resume? I don’t know. Does that answer your question? Sorry to be vague.

  26. Elizabeth O. says:

    I guess the phrase “I don’t want to” has a negative impact on people so we choose to deny it instead and come up with a better wording or excuse. I would rather be true to myself and those around me instead of making stuff up, really.

  27. The older I get the easier I find it is to say no and just be selfish. I put others first for too long and I suffered the consequences. Now is the time for me.

  28. Yes….. We lack the importance of taking responsibility is.
    I realize that taking responsibility is important for me and the relationships that I am in. I really shows integrity.

  29. Jessica says:

    It can be so scary to be honest with yourself for some reason. I’ve been working on that for a while now and the more I do it, the easier it becomes! Thanks for the great post!

  30. Lindi Mogale says:

    it is amazing how nagative some of the stories that drive us are. and the sad part is that we are the perpetrators of these stories even to the point of hurting our chances at success

  31. Liz Jo says:

    As I’ve gotten older and had a daughter I don’t want to has become something far more used in my vocab although it usually comes out “I can’t I have my child to watch over”

    Thanks for linking up with Welcome Home Wednesdays! Live every Wednesday at 7AM CT.

    liz @ j for joiner

  32. Michelle says:

    I have a friend who, rather than saying, “I don’t want to” simply says, “It’s not my jam.” If she doesn’t like something, she says, “It’s not my jam.” Kinda takes the edge off for the user.

  33. michelle says:

    I love this so much. This resonates with me very strongly.

  34. Kim Tackett says:

    My story is that I am the responsible one…therefore I need to be the planner and doer…which of course, isn’t true (at least not all of the time).

  35. Hi Carol – so great to find you on the Inspired Blogging Group! I have to say, the stories I tell myself are probably more dangerous to my soul than those I tell others. You make some great points about excuses. Funny, I don’t generally make them with others, but tend to insult myself with mind-think I know is not true. “I don’t want to,” might be a good thing for me to practice within.

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  1. […] Many people find setting limits hard, but it must be done for our own mental health. I’ve seen a lot of delusional thinking about this. (See my related post, here.) […]

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