When I was digging into the saved clips on my Kindle recently, I found the above quote from Jandy Nelson’s amazing YA novel, The Sky is Everywhere. It prompted me to think about all the stories we recite in our heads—specifically, the negative stories we tell ourselves…about ourselves.
As the quote above says, there’s never just one truth, but many. So often, the stories we believe about ourselves are based on one narrow viewpoint, and not the truth. They are versions of ourselves we inherited through opinions from friends, parents, teachers, and even strangers whose criticisms, whether intentional or not, made an impact on us, shaping what we believe about our own worthiness, creativity, artistic ability, or achievements. We file these harmful words in a negative thought archive that’s always open. Imagine a 24-hour convenience in your brain that’s always stocked with a supply of zingers, burns, and passive aggressive jibes.
When triggered, our instinct most often is to believe the negative thought about ourselves, but that’s what continues to give it the power supply it needs to hurt us. Because these thoughts come from our minds, we think they must be true. They are not. It’s important to realize that every story about is just that, a story that came from an external source.
So, what can we do to discover the real truth? How can we discover what is our own belief and what belongs to someone else?
When I hear myself say something negative to myself (and it’s taken time to even have this awareness), I’ve started to ask:
- Where did this story come from? Or, Who taught me to think this way?
- How old was I when I first heard this negative message?
- Is it really the truth?
- Why do I believe it?
I’ve found that questioning the origin of my own negative stories gives me the power to get close to it without fear so I can pull the cloak off, revealing that this big, bad thing is not part of me at all, but a wildly inaccurate story I believed for whatever reason. With the message proved false, I can begin to overwrite it with a new, more truthful story about myself.
As Jandy Nelson says in the quote above, negative thoughts gets in the way of our heads and hearts—and this keeps us from being creative or pursuing a dream or just having a sense of peace about ourselves. Our thoughts are always going to run through our minds, but we do have a choice to believe what they say or not. It takes ongoing practice, just like anything you want to learn, but you can get better at reducing those negative thoughts by investigating where they came from and deciding what is and isn’t true about yourself.