Your Story Is Not You

Written by on October 13, 2016 in Breaking Barriers

Your Story is Not You


Do you appreciate what a masterpiece your story is? I’m talking about the story you develop internally about your life. It doesn’t just tell what has happened in your life it gives meaning to the events and explains who you are, where you’ve come from and where you are going.

Our stories are the way we make sense of the world us and the role we play in the bigger picture that is our life journey.

Life is incredibly complex, there are lots of things going on in our environment and in our lives at all times, and in order to hold onto our experience, we need to make meaning out of it, and the way we do that is by structuring our lives into stories. ~James Adler

When Our Stories Become Self-Limiting

Typically we have a central story that is based on early experiences from childhood. That story is then supported by smaller stories we develop through the years.

While many of these stories are based on treasured memories, relationships and experiences, nearly everyone has at least a few that turn into beliefs that become self-limiting in nature.

These limiting stories may include themes about your rights, abilities, character, self-worth, and what you can and cannot do, and we tell them again and again until we never even think about questioning them because they become who we are.

Storytelling isn’t just how we construct our identities, stories are our identities. ~John Holmes, PhD

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in researching the power of our internal stories to affect our lives, a field known as narrative psychology. This is an area I am deeply interested in and plan to study in the future.

For now, I think the most relevant finding so far is that it is possible to change our self-limiting stories.

In order to do that we first have to identify them, and that may not be as difficult as you imagine. In fact, many of us are already painfully aware of our areas of doubt and insecurity.

The best way to uncover self-limiting beliefs is by taking the time to identify and question your stories. The first step is to begin paying attention to your self-talk, in particular areas where you experience resistance.

To see how this works, the following are a few questions designed to encourage you to explore your beliefs about yourself.

What’s Your Story?

  • How would I describe myself in 30 seconds or less?
  • Am I doing what I really want to do with my life? If not, why not?
  • When was the last time I really challenged myself?
  • What do I love most about myself?
  • What am I really, really good at? What would I like to get really, really good at?
  • What one thing have I not done that I really want to do? What’s holding me back?
  • Why don’t I do things I know I should be doing?
  • What am I pretending not to know?
  • How do I define my success?
  • What is my greatest strength? My greatest weakness?
  • How to I handle unexpected change?
  • In what way have I been my own worst enemy?
  • Right now, at this moment, what do I want most? What am I waiting for?
  • What has fear of failure stopped me from doing? How can I change that?
  • How would I describe my future in three words?

These questions are deceptively simple, but if you really take the time to thoughtfully respond you’ll find that they have the potential to reveal some surprising beliefs about yourself. If you’d like to learn more about your personal stories and how to take the next step to change or eliminate them, I encourage you to read the related articles listed below.

Related reading:
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.

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  1. ST Mastering

    I just don’t limit myself by the story people make about myself. That’s not me.I am not that.I am much more than my story.
    Thanks for this post

  2. Lan Hoang says:

    I remind myself that I’m just a canvas, and the stories around is not the canvas, it’s the movies
    Lan Hoang recently posted…Can my dog go vegan?My Profile

  3. Mark

    Wow M!

    Your twenty questions, really just cut to the chase, don’t they?LOL!

    And as I carefully considered each one, I realized just how many unanswered questions I still really have!

    And the sad part was, I was completely unaware of it!LOL!

    And even though I definitely don’t know much about narrative psychology”, it’s sounds incredibly fascinating.

    And thanks so much for helping understand, how we go about developing and reinforcing our limiting beliefs in the first place!
    Mark recently posted…How Savvy Small Business Owners Increase Their Gross Profits Simply By Adding Value To The Mix!Part TwoMy Profile

    • You are always so generous Mark, but sometimes a bit too hard on yourself. Discovering something new about yourself is something to celebrate! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, always appreciated. 🙂

  4. ikechi

    Hi Marquita

    This is indeed very thoughtful. Stories are meant to make a difference but sometimes our stories can also be limiting. So it is create that you share some thought provoking questions. Looking at each, I see that they can boost self awareness and unlock every limiting belief that has held one bound.

    Thanks for sharing. Take Care

    • Yes they can, but as a coach yourself I know I don’t need to tell you Ikechi that what we get out of an exercise like this is in direct proportion to what we put into it. The reality is most won’t make the effort, but if even a couple do, then it’s well worth the share. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Lori English

    Great article I really enjoyed this one it really is helpful to uncover questions about our particular stories that help business and personalization. Great Post.

  6. Rachel Lavern

    A family member shared a secret with me recently–one that she had held tightly by a locked heart (her worst nightmare and darkest memory). She shared how it had been unapproachable… simply impossible to discuss. On the rare occasion when she allowed her mind to go there, she said that she would wish she had a different story: one of life, not death – of joy, not pain. A story of a time when she had made the best choice, not the worst choice. Fortunately, the healing for her has started and she knows that is not going to allow that to be her story.
    Rachel Lavern recently posted…6 Blunders Female Entrepreneurs Make That Keep Them Stuck, Stressed & StrappedMy Profile

    • I’m so happy that your family member has faced her secret and is beginning the healing process. There is no question that sometimes we have to wait until we feel strong enough to face the past, but we’ll never find self-acceptance and freedom until we do. Thank you so much for sharing Rachel!

  7. I love the questions which you pose. These can certainly help one to be more introspective and allow themselves to reflect on what pieces of their story can help them to grow into all that they are meant to be.
    Dr. Elise Cohen Ho recently posted…Is Daddy Your Super Hero?My Profile

  8. Joyce Hansen

    I have found there are stories people tell about themselves that are not true but are face-saving to them. Their past is so chaotic, traumatizing or fearful to go there drags them back in. I let them tell their story because that is what they need to hear about themselves until they can create their own new chapters in their life that they do have control over. To ask the story of limiting beliefs as part of the present is a safer place to start and more forward.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…Women online – which one is yours?My Profile

    • I sincerely respect your approach Joyce, but we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. It is true that we need a starting point in order to move forward, but there is a huge difference between accepting your past and living there which is what your reference to being dragged back into the old story eludes to. There is tremendous freedom – and autonomy – in self-acceptance and it is literally impossible to be true to yourself self, let alone find inner peace if your life is based on a lie, especially if that lie is perpetrated to save face. Thank you so much for sharing and contributing to the conversation!

  9. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! Wow What a Title! Your story is not for you! If not for me? Then Who? This really drew me right in.

    And that is quite the list of questions you have there my friend! I did take some time and answered them all in my journal! This was a real eye opener for me this morning!

    Thanks for sharing
    Chery ::))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Are Negative Influences Affecting Your Online Business?My Profile

  10. emi

    Hi Marquita,
    Love this article! We all have a stories that sometimes is very painful to even think about and stepping up and sharing with the world is the biggest fear of all. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Sue Bride

    I took some time to go through your questions although I think I need to go through them in more depth.
    Do you think our stories sometimes act as a protection rather than limitations? For example, If we’ve done something we’d otherwise regret, we come up with reasons, or excuses, that make us feel better about it.
    Sue Bride recently posted…Instamate Review – Use Instagram On The Web from Your ComputerMy Profile

    • Hum, well if you want my honest answer Sue it’s that nothing good can ever come from lying to ourselves no matter what the motivation. The only way we can grow and live authentically is to accept responsibility for our actions and behaviors – toward ourselves as well as others. To live any other way is to not be true to ourselves and it will catch up to us sooner or later. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  12. I firmly believe self-awareness is crucial to success if you are an entrepreneur. You have to be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses, what you really truly want out of life, and how to set realistic expectations.

    As you state, for many, this may take guidance, coaching, and or mentoring to fully realize the full depth of the search for self and truth.

    Excellent, thought-provoking post. It was a good visit here and I should stop by more often, Marquita!
    Deborah A. Ten Brink recently posted…Unique Holiday Gift, Angel of Peace {Original Acrylic Painting}My Profile

  13. Hi Marquita, I love your questions ,these are a good start to find out about limiting beliefs and to find the true self. A good way to identify them and get aware of beliefs which may hold us back from living our own life and not the one others may want us to live. Once somebody started to realize these paradigms and release them it can be powerful and life changing .
    Thank you
    Erika Mohssen-Beyk recently posted…Tips To Improve Yourself By Changing Your ParadigmsMy Profile

  14. Lydia Brown

    This is a topic that I’ve discussed in group with clients. Many tell their story about his/her past and tie it into why they drink/use drugs. We discuss how just as much as a story has been used as the foundation of their unhappiness and road to use and abuse substances; that same story can be the very reason why a person could find gratitude as a suvivor, and/or identify a reason to break the cycle. I love your questions they have given me some ideas for myself and for content. Thanks for your awesomeness!
    Lydia Brown recently posted…4 Facts About Underage Drinking and School HealthMy Profile

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Lydia, and especially for your kind words – always appreciated. I am quite interested in your thoughts on sharing personal narratives in therapy groups. I have some experience in this regard based on my family background and so many of the people I came in contact with could never get beyond the old story they kept telling themselves – again and again – about why their lives sucked. I’m sure there is a way to help people move forward, but I never saw it and couldn’t wait to escape from that environment.

      • Lydia Brown

        Hi Marquita, the method I used in groups was first the education piece on a topic I wanted them to focus on. Then verbal or written exercise with questions to motivate the person to internalize what has been processed the past days or weeks.
        Doesn’t mean they will buy into it but once you get a few to start sharing other strong group members began as weeks go on call each other appropriately on their nonsense. The do this by reminding a member of something they shared about a feeling or a desire they had.

        When the group gets strong like that the counselor can sit back. The goal is to have the group do the work, not the counselor. Some counselors forget they are there to guide it’s not a lecture. The synergy that takes place in the group is powerful. Peers trust peers get a few to take ownership of the group that group will continue to grow even as members move on. The new learn the group conscious and it works like a miracle. Unfortunately, in my field, it’s not uncommon for counselors to be assigned to a group without any training.
        Lydia Brown recently posted…4 Facts About Underage Drinking and School HealthMy Profile

  15. Edward Thorpe

    Your post is provocative, yet practical on the same time. If we don’t know our why it’s darn near impossible to change our outcome. Your list of questions could help discover roadblocks stopping us from achieving x,y,z.

    Never been a fan of traditional psychology as It’s too self-indulgent. I’ve done some research into narrative psychology and like the concept and possibilities.

    Beautifully written article.
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…Eat This And Sleep Like A BabyMy Profile

  16. Nice tool to collect data about oneself and identify the areas that I need to work on. I have been working on myself with a similar tool in this area so that I can become aware of my own self and be a better person.This is spiritual practise to me.But I have to say that it did take me a long time to analyse myself and identify my strengths and most importantly the weakness within me due to past negative experience.I try to identify the reasons behind my actions and reactions on a daily basis as an attempt to overcome my defects.And although its a continuos and lifelong process I have been able to see postive changes in me by doing so.
    Priya Prabhu recently posted…Subtle experiment – Are tattoos good for us?My Profile

    • That’s wonderful Priya! The truth is I think this process of becoming self-aware is a lifelong journey so that you’ve made good progress so far is something to feel very good about. 🙂

  17. Suzie Cheel

    Love the questions and as I made my shift/ pivot last week I started rewriting my story and I had a 30-second one prepared for a networking event/ How would I describe my future in 3 words: Abundant, Loving, changing Thanks Marty another inspiring post xx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Discover Inner Peace Now: Listen To The Whispers Of Your HeartMy Profile

  18. Hi Marquita 🙂
    Awesome post! It is all about asking the “right” questions to help you figure out what it is that is challenging you 🙂 Very helpful!
    Joan M Harrington recently posted…How To Market and Sell Effectively Without Resorting to HypeMy Profile

  19. Dave

    Very thought-provoking questions to dig deep and determine where we are limiting ourselves in terms of growth and becoming who we would like to become.

    I do have a question, however 😉 I’m wondering whether it’s just as important to not only focus on what is holding us back, but also reflecting upon those things that are propelling us forward. I am in complete agreement that we need to work at eliminating those limiting beliefs that can plague us. But, can balancing that deep dive with complementary investigation of the things that are aiding us prove to help us along our path to penning the story of ourselves that we wish to write?

    Thought-provoking, motivating, and actionable advice as always Marty! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    • What a great question Dave! If I understand you correctly, what you are talking about is discovering the combination of beliefs, values, wants and desires that motivate us to become the person we want (were meant) to be. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) This is absolutely a great area to explore, though I have a feeling most people would require more hands-on guidance working through this end of the spectrum than identifying limiting beliefs. Here’s why I say that … I’ve found – both when I was coaching and during the few courses I’ve offered through ERL – that most people have a difficult time defining what they want in life, let alone what goals they hope to achieve. They know vaguely, but pinning it down to specifics is where many tend to struggle, and attempting to do something with that is like trying to hit a moving target. Might be a good topic for a workshop. 🙂

      • Dave

        I believe that you have very accurately interpreted my comment, Marty 😉 And, I do agree with you – that focusing on and discovering those values and beliefs that motivate us is a much more personal path that requires guidance. I think we tend to (categorically, at least) have the same types of limiting beliefs that we can address independently, as you have done so well in your post.

        I concur that a workshop would be an excellent avenue to pursue in order to dive deeper into exploring those motivating forces that help us to become who we were meant to be 🙂

        Thanks again, and have a great weekend ~ stay dry and safe ~ looks like there is some nasty weather in your neck of the woods!
        Dave recently posted…Time TravelMy Profile

        • Excellent discussion Dave, you’ve got me thinking. 🙂 Yep, they say heavy rain and thunder moving in tomorrow. I keep looking at the pine trees towering over us and wondering what it’s going to be like if we do get the heavy wind. I just want to see some snow! 🙂
          Marquita Herald recently posted…Your Story Is Not YouMy Profile

  20. Kami Guildner

    Our old stories can so keep us stuck in our old ways! If you want to make real change in your life – get to know your old stories and start creating the new ones! Great article!

  21. Reading this Marquita, I couldn’t help but see how you would love the biography training I know helped save my life. We create different ‘stories’ in different cycles in our lives and often the early 7-years cycles are mirrored in later 7-year cycles. It is much more detailed than this of course, however, once we become aware of the stories we created about our life, we are free to transform them.

    We humans are ‘meaning making machines’, and so often the stories we tell ourselves, are actually dramatizations filled with emotional embellishments of what actually happened. I love your list of questions for us to ponder and ask ourselves and I see how this kind of exploration and work is so important for all of us to do as we evolve and grow as individuals and as a species. Many thanks for this wonderful post!
    Beverley Golden recently posted…Why Do We Need Antioxidants Anyway?My Profile

  22. This blog is so right on. Sometimes the truth is frightening or painful we do make up small stories, that in time can grow, so our reality is easier to handle. It may also be an excuse for not trying. If we don’t try we won’t fail. I especially liked the questions you encourage us to explore concerning our beliefs about ourselves.

  23. Reba Linker

    You’ve compiled a list of wonderful, provocative questions, Marquita. A great way to start uncovering our own stories. The deeper are stories go, the less aware of them we are. These are terrific tools to help us become more aware. Thank you!
    Reba Linker recently posted…Stop Doing and Start Visioning!My Profile

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