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Our Stories


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I have many thoughts on the stories we tell ourselves and this short post is not all inclusive of these thoughts but what is on my mind this morning.

Mind over matter is a real thing, the placebo and nocebo effect are real and have been studied a lot over the years. So what does the placebo effect have to do with our everyday lives? We convince ourselves everyday of things that may or may not be true, and we change reality based on the stories we tell ourselves about things that happened in the past that we carry with us, or we tell a story about the rude person in line at the coffee shop this morning that cut in front of us. The story becomes our reality when in fact it may not be reality at all. 

Nassim Taleb shares a quip about how news pundits will go on the air shocked that a stock or tanked or the market soared to new levels and the pundits claim they don’t understand why the market did the what it did. Often their expert guests will use words like “this makes no sense to us Jim, none of our models predicted this type of market reaction” Taleb points out that reality is correct, the market being discussed is reality and it does make sense. But, the story, the reality, the experts were telling themselves was incorrect. In a scenario like this we see the experts puzzled and trying to get their story to fit into the actual reality that does not agree with their story. Their story must change if they want to understand why the market did what it did. While this may be a little less direct example for many of us on how our stories can impact us. Let’s look a little closer to home.

Back to the person who cut in line at the coffee shop that we now are dwelling on, raising our blood pressure and getting negative mindset over. Our story, they are rude and think they are better than us because they have a Louis Vuitton bag. Ugh. Was this person really entitled? Or did they just get a speeding ticket on the way to get coffee for the boss who just yelled at them for being late and their morning is off to a bad start, the LV bag is a nock off and while they were reading the nasty text from their boss while walking up to the cue they simply didn’t see you at the back of the line. It could be an honest mistake they were never aware of making. One story provides fodder to lament, be stressed and frustrated and ruin a good part of the day and will impact how we treat and react to others. The other story creates empathy and understanding and may help you be grateful your day is off to a better start. So what is the story? 

It would be wise for us to become aware of the stories we tell ourselves or in some cases that we have been telling ourselves for years and even decades. If they are not accurate stories, and chances are the story is only one perspective of many. If the story does not help us but hurts us then it is time to re-evaluate the story and change it. Stories are strong and powerful and used convey messages and lessons. When we consider the power of the placebo and nocebo effect and how that the placbo and nocebo effect is just a story someone told us that created a physical manifestation. We should consider the placebos we give ourselves or the nocebos and how they can change things for us. How we feel, how we act in relationships, the stress we feel physically and mentally. Like the market example above our stories can have a compounding impact over time in the quality of our life and where we end up. 

Step back and look at the stories you tell yourself. Can you change them? Are they helping you or hurting you? I was 300 pounds and out of shape and depressed a decade ago, fighting a loosing battle, loosing a little only be heavier and more depressed three months later. There was a story I told myself that enabled me to get to that point in my life and to live that cycle over and over again. A story full of shame, guilt, and being insufficient, never being enough. When I changed my story and learned to see things differently my life changed too. I lost the added 110 pounds, I became a much happier and more fulfilled person. Stress and anxiety went away, my relationships improved with the people around me, my confidence grew more and more. They story I have today is much different. I had to let the old story that wasn’t helping me go. The story had to change as part of my journey.