Whether we realize it or not, we all have stories we tell ourselves about who we are and why our life happens as it does. It’s a subconscious story we tell ourselves to protect ourselves from disappointment and failure. This fear of failure can hamper us from doing the work we’re capable of doing. We play small to avoid the risk of failing or falling short.
Many years ago, I worked in a corporate position. I couldn’t believe I was so fortunate. I got to “play with food and get paid for it.” I got to create, to travel, to be part of a bigger world than I’d ever experienced before. This “little farm girl from Northwest Ohio” was flying to New York, Chicago, San Francisco. I was star struck….and convinced that I would be found out. I was comfortable with the creative foods part as a test kitchen home economist because cooking is in my DNA. But being the food authority on a photo shoot? Contributing to new product development? I’d never pictured myself in that space. Could I really do that?
Fast forward two years. I was comfortable in my role. People in marketing noticed I had skills beyond my current position. I was in tune with trends and applying them to our product lines. I was no longer just this little farm girl from Northwest Ohio. I was finding the capability to do bigger things. My strategic and connecting gifts were coming to the fore – that happens naturally for me. I don’t have to try now and I didn’t then. I just didn’t realize they were strengths.
A couple people took me under their wings and positioned me for bigger opportunities while still in my current position. My role changed, even though my title didn’t. But that “little farm girl from Northwest Ohio” still was in my head. She told me I would be found out. She said I wasn’t really capable. She said I couldn’t function at that higher level, so why try.
This showed up in my self-talk and in my talk with others. I remember very clearly being coached by a marketing director to stop putting myself down when I spoke. The self-deprecating comments I made weren’t true and it wasn’t helping me grow in my career.
That was over twenty years ago; I still remember it well. In many situations that little voice is now silent. I now longer fear speaking to those with high positions. Today I know that I am capable and gifted. I’m wise enough now to pursue roles where I shine. I know it’s silly to set yourself up for failure.
I tell you this story to illustrate the point that our self-talk can build us up or tear us down. Often our self-talk is more negative than the messages and beliefs of others. What is the outcome of this? It can paralyze us and keep us from the Masterpiece work we’re called to do. It can interfere with our relationships. It can sabotage our potential and undercut our confidence to take well-reasoned risks.
How do you change your story and kick sabotage to the curb?
- Identify the self-sabotage when it happens. Know your self-talk. Once you’re aware of the pattern you have, you can find ways to overcome it.
- Reframe the lie that underlies the sabotage. The lie is rooted in an old belief or message that is not true about you today. Reframe the lie with the truth of your capability in the situation. You’re not in this place by accident. Someone saw something in you that they value. Adopt their perspective of you.
- Rewire your brain by retelling your story in a positive light. When I told myself the story that I was just a “little farm girl from Northwest Ohio”, I reinforced a narrative that wasn’t true. I am not JUST a little farm girl from Northwest Ohio, but a farm girl from Northwest Ohio that has strengths and skills that make me a respected team member. Notice I removed the words “just” and “little”. I contribute out of my experience and skills. I contribute valuable insights, some of which come from the fact that I’m a farm girl from Northwest Ohio. I did grow up on a farm in Northwest Ohio. Those things are facts. And they’ve shaped who I am in very positive ways. Own those things and allow them to help you reshape your story in a positive way.
Where do you allow negative self-talk to sabotage your potential? How have you found ways to overcome this? I’d love to hear your story.