This is the fourth post in a four-part series all about uncovering our business narratives. In case you missed the first three posts in this series, be sure to check them out here, here, and here first!
For the fourth, and final, post in the Uncovering Our Business Narratives series, I wanted to get a bit more personal and share some of my own story– my own business narratives.
I think it’s important as business owners, leaders, and human beings for us to share the “human” part of our own experiences. It makes us more approachable and real.
It’s easy to jump up on our soapbox to talk about whatever hot-button topic gets us fired up. But it’s a whole different story to get vulnerable and share openly with one another about the toxic thoughts we’ve had, mistakes we’ve made, and what we’ve done (or are doing) to work through those challenging times.
Today, I want to welcome you into my personal space for a bit to do just that. So grab your cup of coffee or tea and join me for a walk through some of the negative and damaging narratives I’ve told myself through the years – and how I’ve overcome them.
Stories I’ve Told Myself
When we’re young children, we’re so carefree. But at some point growing up, we start to tell ourselves stories about how we look, act, perform, etc. Some of these stories are good, while others are toxic and damaging.
Our stories evolve from many different areas. From the way we were raised to the stories we heard our parents telling themselves as we were growing up. They come from the backgrounds and cultures and the beliefs our families held.
Some of our stories come from our own personalities, driving our internal expectations of ourselves and the goals we have for the future.
Regardless of where our stories came from, when we hold toxic narratives about ourselves, they can seep into every area of our lives and cause a good deal of damage.
Below is my working timeline and some of the toxic narratives I’ve held about myself and told myself throughout the years about business and leadership:
As a 21-year-old first-time leader (2006):
- Why would anyone listen to what I have to say?
- There’s no way anyone will take me seriously – I’m only 21!
- I’m a young girl in a male-driven industry. I’m never going to make it.
Climbing the corporate ladder (2007-2015):
- I didn’t get the promotion that I wanted so badly. I must not be good enough.
- I have to be, act, and look a certain way to get to the top.
- I’m in a constant competition with everyone else.
Starting my own business (2015):
- I don’t know anything about starting and running a business.
- My business isn’t skyrocketing. I’m obviously doing everything wrong.
- I’ve given up my financially stable and secure corporate job to “play business.”
- This is ridiculous. No one’s going to take me seriously. I should just go get a “real job.”
Pivoting in my business (today):
- Who will even listen to me when there are already a ton of incredible leaders in the world doing what I want to do?
- If I pivot my business too much, I’ll end up with no audience at all.
- I don’t have anything new to say or add to the discussion. It’s all been said before!
The crazy thing is, I was given a lot of opportunities and moved quickly throughout my corporate career. And although my business isn’t quite the raging success I envisioned it being (yet!), I’ve learned more in the past three years than I could have in a lifetime in the corporate rat race. I’m stronger, wiser, and more capable because of this journey.
Breaking through the Narratives (again and again)
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about the narratives we tell ourselves, both in my corporate and small business journeys, is this:
New narratives will always come up.
As soon as you think you have a handle on one, another crops up. And then another.
As you push yourself to learn and grow and move to the next level, a new toxic narrative will push its way into your brain. Causing you to doubt yourself, your abilities, and/or your worthiness.
That’s the bad news. But there’s good news – I promise!
We can learn how to navigate these narratives with more confidence and authority, allowing us to move through and past them more quickly and easily.
One thing I’ve learned that has helped me tremendously is to pause, take a deep breath and then ask myself this simple question:
“Is this true?”
99 times out of 100, the answer to that question is a big, fat “NO.”
Take a look at the toxic narratives I told myself above again. Do you think the answer to any of those worries was, “Yes, this is true?”
Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t!
Oftentimes, the answer is “no,” but it’s easy to look for that confirmation bias to affirm that the answer is “yes.”
Toxic Narrative Example
Now, let’s take a look at a toxic narrative I told myself at the beginning of my small business journey in late 2015.
My Toxic Narrative: “I don’t know anything about starting and running a business.”
Pause, Breathe, + Ask: “Is this true?”
Uncovering My Truth: “No. This is not true. I may not know everything about starting and running a business. But I have many skills and abilities I can pull from and I’m capable of learning what I need to know.”
Although this narrative is seemingly innocent and more of a statement than a full-blown story, it was an untruth living in my mind (along with a few others) that was causing me to not take action – for years!
After finally pausing to ask myself whether this was true or not, I found that the answer was no, this isn’t true about me or my abilities. And that yes, there are things I didn’t know (and still don’t!), but I could learn them.
Too often, we automatically think we’re failures because we weren’t born with the immediate knowledge, skill or expertise that would make our lives easier.
Remember – doctors, professional athletes, and world-renowned musicians have spent years – even decades – of their lives dedicated to their crafts and professions.
They didn’t wake up one morning and just “know” how to perform surgery, throw the perfect touchdown pass, or flawlessly perform Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.
They studied, practiced, worked with mentors and advisors, and practiced some more.
(Obviously, there are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, these anomalies don’t happen for the great majority of us.)
There’s no need to put so much pressure on ourselves that we simply never take action or allow these limiting beliefs to hold us (and our teams) back from learning, growing and performing at our very best level.
When we allow these toxic narratives to go unchecked, we will never reach the big goals and dreams we have for ourselves or our families. Only when we can step back and take an objective look at the stories we’re filling our minds and days with can we break through them and experience the joy and fulfillment of being on the other side of the truth.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on narratives. I’d love to hear about the narratives you’ve been telling yourself and how you plan on breaking through those narratives to live fully and joyfully in the truth of who you are. Feel free to comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.