We all have a narrative running through our heads constantly. I was listening to a podcast about this recently between Rich Roll and Susan David, who has a PhD in Psychology. What the “narrative” means is that we all have this subjective reality of our self-identity in how we see ourselves and how we think others see us, as well as how we see others.
For example, when you see someone you don’t know you might notice that your brain makes immediate assumptions about this person and will even create a story-line (narrative) about who that person may be, without actually knowing anything about them in reality. For an internal rather than external example, there are simple things like someone who is slightly overweight, but works out a lot, telling themselves they will never be able to shed the extra pounds, despite all the exercise they do.
When I think about this personally, it can be challenging to take a step back and observe my thought-processes without judgment. Two solid examples pop in my head, however.
- I would love to run a marathon one day, which I definitely believe I can, but I have this narrative in my head that I am not a true distance runner, even though I ran distance/ mid-D in college. I never ran high mileage and I tell myself I am injury-prone, so running more mileage would probably lead to injury. This also comes from comparing at times to others who run way more than me. How could I ever train for a marathon if I have these mindsets? First off, I don’t need to be a “true” distance runner to do well in a marathon. What even is the standard for that? And then there are always going to be people much faster than I am who run a lot more so that is no help. I love running overall but it is a real test of my resiliency the farther I go. The challenge is part of why I want this.
- I notice that I act certain ways depending on who I am with. With some I’m loose and willing to say anything, while with others I find myself holding back and internalizing things more; a bit tense and reserved. This is a narrative I tell myself of how I’ve acted in the past so I should continue to act in such a fashion. A lot of this relates to letting go of expectations of how I “should” be acting in certain situations.
Why is this stuff important? Because if you’re willing to take an honest look at the story-lines going on in your head, you might notice some that are negative and really unnecessary. Our mind is how we experience everything that happens. Even something bodily is experienced through your mind. So taking an honest look could potentially lead to some changes. Of course this is no easy task, but one I would like to take on.