Be careful the stories you tell about yourself.
When you say it about you, people will instantly believe you.
The stories we tell about ourselves have a powerful impact on how others see us. Think back on the last time someone asked how your day has been going: What words came out of your mouth next? What about when you were casually talking about yourself to friends or colleagues? Did you say something positive or negative? Empowering or limiting?
It’s important to remember that we are in control of the story we tell about ourselves. And whenever we declare something about ourselves, the person listening instantly assumes it to be true. After all, we are the ones who said it.
I.e. say “I’m so disorganized” and now you will be thought of as someone who lacks organization.
Here are things I have heard people say about themselves. If I’m honest, I have said some of them myself. If I say these to you, consider what you would you think about me.
- I am disorganized
- I am so busy
- I’m not creative
- I’m not artistic
- I’m afraid to speak in public
- I am not an athlete
- I am not a leader
- I could never do that
- I’m just not a technical person.
- I can never keep up with everything on my list.
- I have always been a little slow to learn something new.
- I’m just not good at doing [the thing].
- I’m not a good communicator.
- I’m not the kind of person that can let that go.
- I could never change that about my personality.
Many of us do this so that we come across as humble or to show our imperfect human side.
There is a way to be humble without cutting yourself down. Let’s learn how.
If you want to present yourself in a way that comes across as positive without coming across as fake or bragging then you’ll want to talk about your limitations in a way that implies hope.
Step one is to remove “I am” from the equation. Remember, you are not equal to a limitation. You are not the makeup of them. If you have a disorganized moment it does not mean that YOU ARE disorganized. You are human and humans have moments. We also know we can learn and improve. So remove “I am” when you are talking about yourself. What does this look like?
- “I am disorganized” will turn into “That was a bit disorganized so I’m taking time to put it right”
- Turn “I am so busy.” into “I have filled my calendar this week.”
- “I’m not creative” will become “I haven’t seen the creativity of this yet.”
- “I’m not artistic”. changes to “I don’t typically choose artistic projects”
….you get the idea.
- How would you change “I’m just not a technical person.”? Here’s an option, “Technical concepts have been a challenge for me sometimes.”
Do you see how removing “I am” opens up the possibility of improvement and adds in an injection of hope?
The next step is to look for and eliminate absolutes like “always” and “never”. Absolute statements imply that you are not open to or even hopeful that things can improve for you. The truth is that no one is “always” anything, and unless you can see the future you cannot know that something is a “never”.
- So turn “I could never do that” into “I haven’t tried that before. I’m not sure I want to”
- Change “I have always been a little slow to learn something new.” into “I like to take my time learning because I like to get it right. “
- “I could never change that about my personality” becomes “I have some longstanding habits. I’m working on them”
Do you see the difference?
Now it’s your turn.
Grab a notebook and divide a sheet of paper into two columns. In the first column, write a list the things you usually say about yourself. Go back and look at them. Say each one out loud they way you would in conversation. What kind of tone comes naturally? Do you like the impression they create?
Next go back and in the second column and make adjustments. Make sure the statements are still authentic to you, but a little less declarative, and remove the absolutes. Take your time with this and come up with new things you want to say going forward. Once again, say them out loud to yourself so you can hear the natural tone of the statements.
The last step is making these changes during conversation and start to be more careful the stories you tell about yourself. Remember htat when YOU say it about you, then the person you are talking to will instantly assume it is 100% true. So, start to catch yourself using “I am” and “always” and “never” and practice replacing them in real time. Eventually it will start to become natural for you. I promise you’ll be making a better impression while still coming across as the true and humble person you are.
Remember, you are in control of what you say.
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