Have you ever had a story in your head, about yourself, that you don’t know where it came from but it’s importance just seems… well… important?
I find it so curious that the story we often tell ourselves about what is truth and what isn’t truth has no actual bearing on the truth.
What is the truth anyway?
I also find it curious about the details we think we remember from a specific event compared to the details someone else remembers from the same event.
I had a friend I used to work with phone me the other day. She had bumped into two of our other former colleagues crossing the road near our old workplace. They had exchange minor pleasantries when one of the former colleagues told her that he needed to be in a meeting, so he had to go. The remaining colleague followed suit, said a goodbye, and left too.
The resulting phone call was about how upset she was that two people she had once worked with had snubbed her while crossing the road.
“Clearly people are still talking about me and what happened,” she said~
She started the call by asking me if I remembered what had been said about her when she had left our former workplace 4 years earlier. Her departure was one of those rather swift and quiet departures where there is always a level of speculation around why. However, no one was really saying anything worthwhile other than gossiping their version of what the truth may have been.
4 years later, this friend is convinced that people were still talking about her and that is the reason these two colleagues snubbed her. (Snubbed – her words – not mine!)
Can you imagine the story she is telling herself?
From 4 years ago….
Let me ask you – do you remember the details of anyone who left your workplace last year?
What about someone who left in the last six months?
What about anyone who left in the last month?
Unless you are directly involved or were directly impacted – the answer is we don’t.
Us humans, as a collective are too involved in our own lives to retain that level of details of someone else’s life. We may remember sketchy details but usually nothing specific. The caveat here is, unless you were directly involved. Every event we witness for ourselves, must pass through our own lens or filter. We overlay our own opinions and beliefs over the event. Then we generalise and delete other details depending on our personal filter. It’s why two people can witness the same car accident and give differing details to investigators.
This is what the human brain does. With more than 2 million bits of information coming at us every single day our brain needed to find a way to sift and sort through this information to save us being in a constant state of overwhelm. It distorts information. It generalises information. It deletes information.
So fast forward into the conversation where this friend felt snubbed. She had to pass the actions of the other two people through her own filter of beliefs. Her beliefs said that what had happened to her 4 years earlier in that office was so terrible that no one had forgotten it. And I’m not here to debate whether it was or wasn’t so terrible. I actually don’t know the details of why she left so suddenly. But to her this event was a trauma and still an emotional trigger to this day. Despite her use of the word “snubbed” the two former colleagues had infact stopped to say hello to her. It was brief, but by definition she was not “snubbed,” which implies ignored. They had actually stopped and spoken to her.
Your brain remembers….
Her brain was remembering the details, overlaying her beliefs aka her truth and repeating a story about herself and what it all meant about her. She also added a label to the chance meeting with former colleagues – snubbed.
I know the particularly colleague who said he had a meeting to attend. He isn’t a sociable person as a general rule anyway. He could almost be described as socially-awkward. However, it hadn’t occurred to her that he could have been genuine and did have a meeting to attend. Her story in her own head told her that because of whatever is still being said in the office (4 years later…) was the reason he didn’t wish to continue the catch up with her.
4 years later….
And yes, I do know I am banging on about 4 years later, but I want to emphasise to you how the story we tell ourselves can continue to impact your life many many years later.
She also hadn’t considered that the other colleague who had initially stopped to say hello to her, was also really busy at work and did indeed to return too.
How many stories are you telling yourself daily that are negatively impacting your life?
The story that this friend was replaying in her mind was leading to a certain level of paranoia in her life too. This was impacting her career as she was still in a similar agency as we had all once worked and connected with similar people and felt like people were out to get her.
She was also hiding. She had started a new business on the side, however because she was replaying a negative story around people talking about her, she didn’t feel safe enough to nurture her business out in the open. She didn’t tell people what she did or who she helped.
Remember this is all happening on a subconscious level too.
It’s the story we tell ourselves, how we determine these to be facts of truth (as we think they are) and how they match our self-perception that shape our beliefs about the world and about who we are. We will always hear the opinion of another person that matches our own self talk, particularly when that self talk is negative!
We just soak up other people’s negative opinions of us like water to a sponge. It often doesn’t occur to most of us not to let that negative voice in. We hear the negative opinion, it matches the negative self talk that we have going on daily, and we take it on. We let that negative voice in!
Then notice how it’s easier to discount a positive opinion someone makes about us? But that negative opinion gets let in. The positive opinion that we have done something great or achieved something worthwhile – no matter how small – gets pushed away.
Her story she was telling herself was that the event that happened to her 4 years ago was still so fresh in her mind (because her inner dialogue kept it so alive), that it must be so alive still in everyone else’s mind. It simply didn’t occur to her that everyone else had forgotten about the event. But that wasn’t her belief.
“They snubbed me”
Once she took in the information of the former colleagues not stopping longer to chat, she decided in that instant, that it meant that everyone was still talking about her at her old workplace and labelled herself “snubbed”.
The facts around that workplace are that the staff turnover in the last 4 years would mean that more than 80% of the people working there wouldn’t even know who she was and the remainder wouldn’t even remember why she left.
Why do we do it?
So why do we keep these stories alive in our own head? Even though they cause us great pain or have such a limiting impact on what we want to do?
Our stories are what help us to make sense of our world, and what we call reality. They help us to figure out where we “fit” and what keeps up safe. Where they don’t serve us is when they limit what we want for our lives and continue to bring us pain.
We’d love your comments below and ofcourse if you are finding yourself with the story in your head limiting your enjoyment of life, you can head here to find a trained Practitioner who can help you to dump the BS and live a life YOU love.