How to Change Your Life by Changing the Stories You Tell Yourself

Jumping Happy Woman

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” ~Norman Vincent Peale

I used to watch people on the streets and in restaurants and think that their boisterous conversations and broad smiles were evidence that they lived a life much better than mine.

I assumed that they were happier than me, smarter than me, and worth more than me. All around me was evidence that this was true: my meager bank account, my junky car, my thrift store clothes.

I would sit in my apartment and try to imagine what it would be like to be someone else.

I wondered what it would be like to be someone who could afford to go to the movies and go out to eat, someone who bought new clothes and shoes, or someone who had a good job. Even imagining this seemed too hard. I felt as if life was stacked against me.

Have you ever felt like everyone else was doing better than you? Have you ever felt like the deck was so stacked against you that you would never catch up? I understand that feeling. I had it for much of my adult life.

I was always a dreamer with big ideas and ridiculous plans, but I was unable to make those plans a reality because the story I told myself was that I wasn't enough. As long as I continued to tell myself that story, I would continue to be not enough.

The current state of your life is a direct result of the stories you tell yourself, and what you really believe is possible—not what you say is possible, but what you believe deep down in your core.

My story about not being good enough showed itself in every aspect of my life—my job, my family, my social life.

Until I was able to open my eyes and change my story, these aspects of my life were not getting better. You receive what you are telling your subconscious mind you deserve. I was telling my mind that I wasn't good enough and that's what I saw all around me.

If you change the limiting stories you tell yourself, you will be able to change your life.

I realized this one day when I was watching a Tony Robbins video on YouTube. Yes, I'd heard it plenty of times before, but for some reason on that day, at that time, it really clicked. You will learn the lessons you most need when you are ready for them, and I was finally ready.

Identifying Your Story

The first step in changing a limiting belief is identifying it.

Identifying my story about not being good enough was surprisingly difficult for me initially because I told myself that story for so long that I didn't think of it as a story at all. I thought of it as true and that was, at its heart, quite ridiculous. It took a lot of thought before I even realized that this was the story I was telling myself.

What limiting story are you telling yourself? Maybe it's that you'll never find love or that you'll never earn over a certain amount of money. Maybe it's that you are too shy to speak in public or that you are terrible at small talk. Maybe you think you'll never make a living doing what you love or that you are not smart enough to succeed.

All of these things are stories. The difference between you and the people doing the thing that you've always wanted to do is the stories you tell yourselves. Changing that story is one of the most important steps to changing your life.

Shifting Your Story

Now that you've identified your story, you have to make a new one for yourself.

For me, it was simply deciding that I was just as good as anyone else and I deserved just as much as anyone else. It's a really simple non-specific story, but it countered my previous limiting one. Think about your limiting story. How can you change that story to make it empowering?

Supporting a New Story

A new story in itself is not always enough. That story needs to be rooted in something. You have to believe it, and changing your beliefs can be the most difficult thing of all. When I decided to change my story about myself, I looked around at my life for evidence that the new story was true.

For example, I knew I had friends and family who loved me and certainly thought I was good enough to receive that love.

When I looked at my life objectively I realized that I'd actually accomplished quite a bit. I'd always done well in school. I'd written quite a large body of work that I enjoyed and liked. I always went out of my way to be kind and helpful to others. These are all things that, in my eyes, made me just as good as anyone else.

As I started to look at my situation more, I realized that one of my core problems was “the anyone else” part of my story. I was comparing myself to others, and that will lead to unhappiness most of the time.

Instead of thinking of myself as just as good as anyone else, I started to change my story again to simply say that I am good.

Can you find evidence around you that can support your new story? Does looking at that evidence make you realize that you need to make any changes to your new story?

Emotions Are Key

Supporting your new story with facts will help you believe it, but what really anchors it into your life is associating it with positive emotions.

I started meditating every morning and every evening for twenty minutes. Once my meditation was over, before I got up, I'd visualize something that is connected to my new story. Because my story was so broad, that visualization could include any number of things.

I'd imagine myself having relaxed conversations with people at a social event where I was contributing equally to the conversation. I'd imagine myself working at a job that I loved and doing really well at it.

I'd imagine these things very concretely. I'd really get into the visualization and wouldn't get up until I felt the joy that these activities would bring me deep inside.

I am a writer and am prone to imagination, so this was quite easy for me. We all have the capability to imagine, so give it a shot and see what happens.

Nothing Happens Without Action

Sitting around visualizing isn't enough to make change happen in your life. I'm a strong believer in action. That's where you really start to see the change happen.

Now that you have a new story about your life, you'll be able to see opportunities in places you've never noticed them before. You'll also have the courage to try things that you never did before.

I immediately started challenging myself. I started making a conscious effort to speak up in social situations and to express my opinion. I started asserted my needs more. I was able to see things for a more positive perspective.

I'm not saying that I am always successful. I most certainly am not. Sometimes I fall back into old habits, but I remember that simply making the effort gets me a step closer to my ideal than I was before.

Be Kind to Yourself

The physical circumstances around you won't change overnight. You won't change your story to being abundant and then suddenly have millions of dollars in your bank account the next morning. What will happen, though, is that you will recognize the opportunities that will get you there.

Don't be angry with yourself or the universe if it doesn't happen fast enough for you, or if you fail to make the changes you want all once. Taking small steps in the right direction every day will get you were you need to be. It's important to be consistent.

Don't beat yourself up if you fall back into old habits. We are often our biggest critics. Just pick yourself up and start again. It's the ability to continue moving forward that will get you to your goal.

Happy woman jumping image via Shutterstock

About Lovelyn Bettison

Lovelyn Bettison is an author and artist who helps people conquer their fears and reclaim their dreams. She has made a worksheet just for Tiny Buddha readers to help you change your limiting beliefs and start the journey of change in your life. You can get the worksheet at her website.

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  • liz

    not surprisingly, this is just what i needed to read this morning. thank you! 🙂

  • I’m glad it helped.

  • Talya Price

    This is the story of my life right now. I too have thought about what it would be like to be someone else. Someone with a progressing acting career. For the past 6 months I have thought about my life and my career. Why have i been single for 3 years? Why do I find it difficult to fit in where I am living? Why is my career going in the direction that is? Why do I feel so alone and out of place and stuck?

    I am happy to have read your article today? I feel that The Universe is always giving me signs. I know it is time for me to leave my current place of living and I have to get on with my life. I am just trying to find out how.

    Thank you for this.

  • I’m glad you found the article helpful. Sometimes it takes awhile for us to realize that it is time to make some changes in our lives, but if you are willing to recognize the signs all around you are able to make the best decision for yourself. It sounds like you are headed in a good direction.

  • Megan Laura Reimer

    I’ve always wondered about how to do this properly. I don’t want to forget my past, I believe it made me who I am. But I like changing the emotion behind it instead of the actual story.

  • Emotions are powerful. Changing the emotions you’ve attached to certain events in your past can help change the way you react to events in the present.

  • Chandhoo

    Thanks for the article…… There’s a lot of competition at the workplace and I feel low about myself not being up to the mark. Need to break the barrier of average performance and overcome fear.please suggest

  • I don’t know what type of work you do, but we are usually our own worst critics. Don’t feel low because you think of yourself as performing at an average level at work. Instead of spending time feeling low think of things you can do to improve. If you focus on the negative you’ll get more of the negative. If you instead look for a solution you’ll be surprised at what you might be able to come up with.

    If you feel like you need to improve with your work make the commitment to do so. Are there books you can read about your field that will help you perform better? Is there a course you can take that will give you the knowledge you need?

    Who are the top performers at your job? Observe them and try to figure out what they are doing that makes them excel and then start doing those things yourself. If you feel like you need more clarity about your role in the company try to talk to your boss or supervisor about it. Ask them to rank the tasks you need to perform in order of importance.

    You say you need to overcome fear, but I’m not sure what you are afraid of, Chandhoo. You might want to respond to my comment to explain that further. I understand what it is like to feel afraid and have that fear stop you from doing things that are critical to your success. Personally I’ve found that in situations like this my fears have been overblown. Maybe yours are not. It is not really possible for me to know that.

    Don’t feel low. Find some ways to improve. I hope my suggestions help.

  • ericaled

    Thank you for this. I’ve been trying to rewrite my stories for several years now and keep falling back into hold habits at certain triggers and then beating myself up for “not knowing better”. You’ve reminded me that it’s a process, and moving forward is the only way to get where I’m trying to go.

  • David Harper

    Can’t believe you’ve been single for three years …. You are Beautiful !

  • I’m glad that the post helped you. All of life is a process and as we work toward our goals it’s important to enjoy the process along the way.

  • Krista Alis Whiters

    Hi Talya, I too have had similar questions circulating in my head lately, about my personal life and the place I currently call home. It’s reassuring to know I am not alone.

    Something that is helping me is to remember what brings me joy: listening to music ( I’ve been listening to Jill Scott, Stevie Wonder, Beach House in the mornings – great way to start the day!), hiking (I went hiking on Christmas), and going to public events/places (I love improv and am going to an art museum I’ve yet to explore today). All of this is showing me how my relationship with myself contributes to my overall well-being because since I’ve started doing all of the above, I’ve been feeling a lot better.

    Thank you Lovelyn for an inspiring article!

  • I’m glad you enjoyed the article. You gave some great advice here. Your relationship with yourself is the foundation for other relationships in your life.

  • Very nice article, Lovelyn. The specific example of meditating and visualizing each day was tremendously helpful. You have great advice and I encourage you to keep up the great work.

    Your article shared a system for doing inner work to change the stories running through our heads. Makes sense. However, it would be great to hear your thoughts about “voicing” the new stories- such as what is smart to say when getting coffee with a friend? Thanks.

  • Leia

    Reading this article made me cry. I’ve been feeling so lost and sad for a while for the same reasons and you took the words out of my mouth.

    For a while now, I’ve been feeling like I’m just not as good as everyone else. Like you, it took a lot of thought for me to realize that I keep telling myself that because that message has become so ingrained in my head that I’ve come to believe it’s true. Even knowing now, though, that the idea that there’s something wrong with me and that I’m not good enough is a story I’m constructing, doesn’t make it easy to change because I still feel like that’s true deep down. I don’t know how to change my beliefs. It’s so difficult.

    It’s really affected my personal life because I keep thinking that I’m not enough, not interesting enough, not funny enough, not witty enough and because of that people won’t like me. So then when I get in social situations, I become really nervous because I’m worried that I’ll say awkward things and people will think I’m strange. I end up heavily monitoring what I do and don’t say and it just feels terrible. Then that reinforces my not feeling good enough and the cycle perpetuates. It makes me daydream and wonder how much better life would be if I were someone else many times.

    It’s strange because I used to be a really bubbly person who loved meeting new people and spending time with people. And I dread such situations.

    When I try to think about it logically, I recognize that before, when I didn’t worry so much what others thought of me, and when I just was myself and didn’t worry about what to say, I made lots of friends and was fine. I wasn’t an awkward person like I now fear and things turned out fine.

    But strangely, even though I am aware of this, it’s still so hard to change. I still feel not good enough and I still get really nervous when talking to people. I hate it.

    Any help or thoughts or advice?

    Also, thank you so much for your article. It feels so good to know that I’m not alone and that other people share some of the same challenges.

  • Arkady A.

    Awesome points made here! Almost makes you wish understanding the power of the stories we tell ourselves, and how to create more empowering ones, was taught throughout schooling. Looking forward to more posts

  • Drew

    Great piece. I just shared it with my young daughters!

  • karpo lama

    Great article, thank you! but i wounder i have work in trekking agent company as mail correspondent. whatever i have done , i have give them 100% percent but always result come out negative and its fell me bad and also i am trying to solve them lots regarding my own creativity, its even not working. Also i want to develop or increasing business in our company, this one also same result. can you please advice us

  • Salma Mansoor

    Thank you Lovelyn after Gina you just make my path to success a lot easier. You are an angel… Thank you.

  • Salma Mansoor

    May Lord give you peace of mind and a life full of joy and success.