September 8, 2022

The stories we tell ourselves

Humans are just the most gorgeously complex, delicate, wonderful creatures.

I’m sitting in a cafe in Marylebone and it’s a gorgeous September Sunday morning — I decided to take my laptop out for a stroll as was feeling inspired and found myself a sufficiently boho chic cafe to ordered my overpriced decaf oat flat white (judge me, sure) and decided to take a perch. Sat next to me were two mid twenties women.

Now, I have near on zero ability to not listen to other peoples conversations. I think I get it from my Mum who used to actually laugh along with other tables conversations in restaurants as I shushhed ‘Muuuuuuuum, you can’t do thaaat’ , but here we are, 20 years later and I’m doing the same.

Back to the two women. One of them had just taken a big decision to quit her masters to go and study philosophy and was trying to figure out how to tell her Mum. ‘I mean, imagine telling your Mum that you’d just quit this high flying masters to go and study philosophy… it’s not going to go well’. How she knows this, I don’t know, maybe she has a Mum who wants her to do things she hates but my guess is, it’s probably not the case.

They then swiftly changed tables to go and sit by the window (maybe they were aware of my eavesdropping..) and in came, what I assume was, a newish couple. The sat at the table holding hands over their lattes, gazing into each others eyes but there was this kind of weird energy between them. Something had clearly happened because the man was trying to comfort the woman saying ‘it’s all in your mind’. At which point I decided it probably wasn’t my space to be listening in so put my headphones in and decided to focus.

These two brief encounters made me think a bit about how unbelievably mad the human mind is and how crazy it is that we all wander around all day doing the things, chatting the chat, working the work all whilst having these completely different inner narratives following us around all the time.

How mad it is that we create these, for the most part entirely fictional, stories in our heads about what we are doing, what has happened, what the other person is doing and how much time we waste ruminating on things which are. not. accurate.

How much of what we do and do not do in life is determined by these fictional stories?

From personal experience, my decision, or, more accurately, non-decision to make a change in my life all those years ago was entirely, like 100%, stalled by irrational, inaccurate and self defeating STORIES which I created in my mind.

These were the types of things I used to say to myself:

  • Everyone hates their jobs, that’s just how it is (is it?)
  • I can’t do anything else, I have no skills (oh how lovely of you to say Lucy)
  • Other people seem to have these interesting lives but that’s just not for me, I’m the academic, boring, corporate one (am I…or have I just decided for this period of my life to be that?)
  • This is just who I am, it’s my personality, I can’t change it (personality is a construct… it can be changed..)
  • I’ll never make as much money in anything else (really? is that true? Also…it seems like all these random clothes you spend your cash on are reeeally making you happy..)
  • I’m stuck here, it’s too late to make a change (Ha! right… nice way of keeping myself nice and safe…good one brain)

There is little to no truth in any of these thoughts. Like none.

That said, despite their inaccuracy, they didn’t half stop me making any form of active decision in my life.

This isn’t about changing jobs or not changing jobs.. it’s about recognising where our BS narratives are stopping us from doing all the things we really want to do in life.

Thoughts are immeasurable powerful. To quote Gandhi (who am I): Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.

Sounds deep but it’s true.

The most important step in the journey towards personal freedom is becoming aware of thought. Acknowledging the power of thought and working with it. With no awareness of how we think, we have no power to change anything. Ever.

We can force change, sure. Like we can force change jobs, or force change relationships, or force change locations, but we are still going to be followed by the same old narratives. The same self defeating stories which will continue to keep us metaphorically trapped.

Thought is the birthplace of all things.

  • What are your most regular thoughts about a decision you are trying to make at the moment?
  • Are those thoughts accurate? Do you have proof for them?
  • What might someone else think about the situation you are in?
  • When was the first time you starting thinking this thought? Is the situation you are in now the same as that time?
  • How could that previous situation be impacting how you are thinking about where you find yourself now?

Any questions, shout.

L x

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