How can I make such a claim? I’m aware of the stories because I’ve made them up myself. They think I don’t know what I’m talking about. See?
Let’s be honest, most of us are storytellers.
A conversation is happening in our head most of the day. Don Miguel Ruiz explains in The Voice of Knowledge, “We have a tendency to distort everything we perceive to make it agree with what we already believe; we “fix it” to make it agree with our lies.”
Lies might sound a bit harsh, but your perception of yourself and others is just a perception. It’s not absolute truth. We think we know what our family, friends, and even strangers think, but the simple fact of the matter is that whatever thought we hold about ourselves we project onto others.
We believe “they” think this or that because we think it ourselves.
This theme of “they’ll think this or that” became evident during several coaching sessions the past couple of weeks, and it personally hit me one day on my short trek after a workout on the track to my vehicle.
Under the afternoon sun, I’d shed a few layers and shimmied down to shorts and a tank top. No biggie. That’s usual attire. But what got me feeling it was a big deal was the half dozen workers in hardhats going about their business in the direct path of my vehicle.
As I began my trek, a quick barrage of what “those men must be thinking” also began. I ran slow. I should put my clothes back on. They heard me singing. They probably made fun of me. They think I’m totally lame because I drive a van. They probably think I have nice calves. Well, not ALL our self-judgment is self-deprecating. (They are nice calves. Thanks dad-genes.)
The point is I caught myself. And then I chuckled about the entire conversation I had with myself about what “they’re thinking”…AND that they were thinking of me at all! The ludicracy of self-centeredness struck me in that moment and I walked unhindered by thought the rest of the way.
When critical thought ceases, assumptions of outside judgment stop as well.
Ruiz lands a major point, “There is only one way to change our story, and that is by changing what we believe about ourselves.”
One thing became clear going forward: Get to the bottom of who “they” are.
1. Listen for “people think” or “they think” as red flags to pinpoint who exactly is on the mind. Is it one person? Two maybe? See their face. What is their name? This helps to get a clear picture about why their particular opinion matters, and why you believe it deserves so much attention.
2. If there really is no face behind “they,” then it’s clear this is a self-imposed judgment and “they” is really “me” – the storyteller.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Our inner world directly impacts how we view and navigate through our outer world.
To get clarity about your story, ask yourself a few questions:
- What expectations/beliefs do I have/hold for myself?
- What problems do I create for myself when I indulge these expectations/beliefs?
- How true is each one really?
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