The Negative Narrative

In this series of blogs I have been looking at Mindset and how it affects us, and how we can upgrade our Mindset to a much more positive one by following the techniques which I share with you.   First of all, in my blog ‘How To Shift Your Mindset’ I talked about 6 things that we need to change.  The first of these was Inner Self Talk, and I addressed that in last week’s blog, ‘Taming The Negative Self Talk’,  and I also shared a free downloadable workbook for you to use alongside the blog. 

After looking at the inner narrative last week, this week we are looking at the outer narrative  – the stories that we share with others.   

Rather than being the centre of attention, I prefer to sit on the side-lines and I confess I am an avid people watcher.  What I have noticed is that when people meet and talk, is that we have a compulsive habit of repeating negative stories about ourselves.  Until I noticed this, I was unaware of how much I did this myself, and now I am aware of it I try to catch myself and turn it around. 

We naturally build a narrative of our life, we hold in our minds a story of how our life is, and we tell this story to ourselves and when we meet our friends and family we share pieces of the story with them.  That’s natural, of course, and it is what we humans do.   The problem arises when our narrative becomes a habitually negative one.

Here are some examples of what I mean: 

  • ‘I’m always so (late/busy/stressed/fill in the blank).’
  •  ‘I’ve never been any good at (maths/cooking/dieting/exercise/……fill in the blank).’
  • ‘I have a terrible (memory/temper/boss/……fill in the blank).’
  • ‘I hate my (body/weight/boss/……fill in the blank).
  • ‘I am no good at….(fill in the blank)’

We often don’t even realise we are repeating negative stories.  We have been on auto-pilot for a long time and it feels natural and normal. Sometimes it is even like a competition, who has the worse negative narrative!

Why is this even a problem?  Well, here’s the crux of the matter: what we think, what we feel becomes our reality.  Therefore, if we keep repeating the negative stories – that is what we are perpetuating in our life. 

In last week’s blog, I explained how to change your inner negative self talk, your inner narrative, to remove the negative impact.  We can use the same technique with negative narrative. 

Here are a few tips to combat the negative narrative.

  • I would like to invite you to listen to your own narrative.  If you catch yourself saying to someone ‘I always…’ or ‘I never…’ just be aware of what you are saying.  Make a note of it. 
  • Ask yourself, is that true?    For example if you said:  ‘I’m always late.’  Are you always late or are you occasionally late? 
    • If you are sometimes on time, then you aren’t always late and the statement is not true.
    • If you believe you ARE always late, can you think of an example when you were on time?  If so, then you aren’t always late and the statement is not true.
    • If you really, truly, have always been late all your life then be aware that memory is not accurate – you might only be remembering the times you were late, but probably there were many times when you were on time.
  • If you keep repeating that you are always late your mind will believe you and it will make sure that you are always late. 
  • Rephrase.  It might be true that you ARE late, but not that you are ALWAYS late.  ‘I’m running late today.’ Is more accurate. 
  • Now that you are aware of what you are saying, make changes to disprove it.  For example, make sure you leave on time and arrive early.  Change your habits. 
  • Dwelling on the negative leads to mental health problems. Research shows that the more you think about your mistakes and problems the more likely you are to experience depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.   

It is also interesting to listen to the narrative of your friends and family as they are talking to you – listen out for their ‘I always’ or ‘I never’ – it is very insightful.

I do hope you have found this helpful.

Don’t forget I have a free downloadable workbook called Taming the Negative Inner Self Talk where you will find tips, techniques and exercises to help you turn around your negative thoughts.