First off let me say that this might be my favorite topic regarding weight loss thus far. I’ve probably heard some version of this idea before but the first time it really clicked form was when I listened to a recent podcast episode of Michael Hyatt’s show, This Is Your Life. . His podcast is wonderful if you’ve never listened to it – so inspirational and effective in all things pertaining to self improvement and leadership. The episode I am referring to today was Season 6, Episode 3: Change Your Story Change Your Life. You can find it at: http://michaelhyatt.com/season-6-episode-06-change-your-story-change-your-life-podcast.html
Today we are talking more about the noises in our head. But we’re talking specifically about the stories that we make up to summarize how we think we should feel about what has happened to us or how we think someone feels about us. Have you noticed how we have a little voice in our heads that tells us stories? It’s like a narrator. Constantly “concluding” things whether we ask it to or not. Something happens and here comes the narrator to sum it all up in one nice neat little package. Except sometimes it’s not always nice. Sometimes the summation or the’ story’ serves no purpose other than to make us feel bad about ourselves. Have you had this happen? Someone says something to you and inside your head there’s this voice that pops up and tells you how you should feel about those remarks.
But here’s the thing we need to understand and pay attention because it’s gold. We are in control of these narrations. We can make them whatever we want. We can’t control the words that come out of other people’s mouths or the actions they take. We can’t even control all of the events that happen in our lives. But we can take control of the story we tell ourselves about these statements and events.
We can make up any story we want. We are in control of our narrator.
We can change the story.
I had to sit with that statement for a while. First I had to truly believe that I was making up stories. I had to go back and analyze what people had said to me and what I had concluded from those statements. And I realized that 9 out of 10 times I was adding all kinds of insinuations and interpretations to what they were saying and I had no proof any of my assumptions were true. No proof whatsoever! I had just made up a story. And even if I had proof- so what? What good would that proof do me? Believe these negative thoughts was not serving me.
Now, if you make up a story and it leaves you feeling great and wonderful and self-empowering then by all means, keep doing that. Those stories are leaving you with increased self -confidence and therefore they are good for you. They are serving you.
But if your stories are leaving you filled with self-doubt and self pity and less self-worth then we have a problem. Because those stories are not serving you at all.
If the story doesn’t serve then we must change it. That’s the rule. And guess what? We can do that. We can change it. Because it isn’t real. It’s made up. So if it’s an imaginary story anyway, then why not make it a story that serves you?
Now let’s look at this from a weight loss perspective since that’s what we really care about. 🙂
You have to admit that we, as overeaters, are already coming from a vulnerable place when it comes to our weight. We’re super sensitive so pretty much anything anyone says about the way we look, the way we eat and the way we exercise is potential ammunition for our narrator to go crazy with. So we must train that little busybody to give us stories that are not harmful to our self-esteem.
In his podcast, Michael Hyatt quoted his daughter who said,
“Nobody thinks about you as much as you think about you.”
So true! So true! If we could just remember that rule it would solve half the problem. Every time someone says something to you regarding your weight or your diet or your appearance – make an instant choice to hear them in a positive light. No matter what it is – assume they mean no harm. And like Michael Hyatt’s daughter said – they aren’t thinking about you that much. To want to be hurtful to someone usually takes some effort so assume they don’t have that kind of time to be thinking about you so even if you initially thought it was a mean and hurtful comment – that’s your narrator talking. Squash it.
So how do we change these stories to better serve us? Basically there are four steps that the Michael Hyatt podcast breaks down for changing your story.
- Recognize that there is a narrator in your head. We have to acknowledge this simple fact that there is some body sitting there just waiting for stuff to happen to us so that she can get busy writing up a story about it and narrating back to you so that you know how you should feel. Let’s just all agree that we’re doing that.
- Write down the story. Whatever stories you’ve been telling yourself, especially the repeat ones, write it down. When it comes to weight loss, I have only a few recurring stories that my narrator keeps applying no matter what the event is or what the comment is – she always goes back to the same 3 or 4 possible stories. (She’s not very creative)
- Look at this statement and ask yourself – is this really true? Do I really believe this about myself? Sometimes simply looking at it on paper makes you burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of it. It’s ludicrous. But other times it’s not so much that it’s not true but it’s not a fact either. It’s more like a label I’ve been giving myself.
Back in 2007, I was at a job where they made us go through this social analysis program called Emergenetics. In this class we identified the types of work situations we were more prone to thrive in. These styles were cut into four pieces of a pie and color coded and usually your pie was heavily weighted in 1 or 2 styles more-so than the other two.
But what I liked the most about this exercise is that the leader was very careful to point out that the results do not mean that you can’t work well in these other categories. It’s just showing that at the end of the day you’re more likely to feel more exhausted if you had to play in that color all day versus if you were playing a role in your natural zone. In your natural zone you might leave work feeling more energized. The leader stressed that you could do a fantastic job in either category but one might take more out of you than the other. That description stuck with me every day since then at work and I think we can apply it to this topic as well.
While the stories our narrator provides sometimes have some truth to them, they might just be that this label we’ve given ourselves. It may be a situation that is more about what comes naturally to us and less about “what we can or can’t do”. Natural vs. Impossible are night and day, can we agree? So sometimes simply using a different adjective is all we need to change the story. Until I did Body Revolution last year my narrator would always say,
” I can’t do push-ups. I have no upper body strength. It’s never going to get much better than this.”
What a defeatist attitude. No Narrator! You’re wrong!
And you’ve heard the saying before:
By the end of Body Revolution I realized that just wasn’t true. It was a story I had been telling myself and I decided to flip that story once and for all. Now I say this:
“Lower body exercises come naturally to me. Upper body exercises require me to concentrate a little more and really work for it but I am just as capable as the next person of strengthening my upper body and doing those push-ups………….as evidenced in week 11 when I was able to do a full set of pinwheel push-ups – thank you very much! Bam!
4. Finally we need to write out a new story. Again with this weight loss journey I think we have a few recurring themes. Correct me if I’m wrong but after a while I think the same crap keeps popping up in our heads no matter what situation we find ourselves in – we keep summing it up the same way. So let’s re-write the ones that we identified as ludicrous or simply poorly labeled and let’s rewrite it. Again – look at that story in fine print. See it, believe in it and keep it handy until it becomes the natural story your narrator tells you.
Let’s look at a weight loss example:
I get very defensive when someone asks me if I’m on a diet or if they see me eating something and they say “oh are you on a diet”? My narrator immediately says:
“Oh, well, they can see you need to lose weight so they assume you’re eating this way to lose weight and you better not correct them because then they’ll laugh at you. And if you say you are trying to make this a permanent thing then they’ll think to themselves: “Oh, well, good luck with that! (Chuckles) Doesn’t seem to be working! But good luck with that!”
First I acknowledge that what just happened in my head is my narrator. Hello, busybody. I see you.
Next I wrote that thought down. And I looked at it and the first thing I thought was: “These people are not thinking about me that hard. They were probably in the office break room just trying to make conversation.”
Or maybe “they are thinking about themselves, not me, and they could be feeling awkward seeing me eat healthy when they are not.” Or none of the above. Who knows.
Now, I’ve acknowledge the ridiculousness of my thoughts after looking at them on paper. And now I am choosing to rewrite that story.
My New Story: “Everyone uses the word diet in so many ways, it is not a direct attack on you. So chill out. If I feel talkative, I could politely explain to them that I don’t consider it a diet in the sense of a short term thing but rather I am trying to make it my permanent diet in the sense of what I try to eat the majority of the time”
To which they will probably just nod and smile. And I can choose to leave it at that. And when my narrator starts to interpret the nod and smile further (and you know she will try), just tell her, “No.” That is not part of this story.
And then I added a little reinforcement to my story (because maybe I need a little more help to quiet the noise): “Everybody eats differently and sometimes we can learn from each other and if by sharing why I’m eating what I’m eating I might help someone make smarter choices and that’s a bonus. Meanwhile I’m going to eat the way I want and understand that eating this way today doesn’t label me forever as “perfect” and I don’t have to be afraid of being seen eating something less healthy the next day. That is my right as a non-perfect human being and a free spirit. “
And there you go, new story complete. I’ll keep it handy in my Evernote app on my phone and revisit it when I feel my narrator going back to her old ways.
Bad interpretations of the events in your life versus good interpretations of the events of your life are both stories you told yourself. So if it’s just a story anyway, why not make it a story that serves you in a healthy, empowering way? Have you ever heard the saying,
“I can do bad all by myself?”
Tell that to your narrator. We don’t need help feeling bad. We need help empowering ourselves to be better versions of ourselves every single day. And negative stories don’t help us get there. So change your story. And thank God that we have the ability to do that. The power to change your story is a gift and when used properly it could turn this weight loss journey on its head.
Here’s to you and all your new stories that serve!