Last week, I discovered just what the storied chemotherapy side-effect called "chemo-brain" feels like.

Stupid. On the short bus. Intellectually disabled. Whatever you call it, it sucks.

Now that I’m emerging from the fog, I find myself reflecting on the stories we tell ourselves – the internal monologue of our lives, if you will. The stories that we carry with us wherever we go, whatever we do, and that truly define us – no matter what stories we tell to mask what we’re telling ourselves.

We all have our "stuff" – those pieces and parts of ourselves that we reallyreally don’t want anyone else to see, the "stuff" that holds our darkest selves. Most people manage their "stuff" well enough, only giving their most intimate circle any glimpse of darkness in their inner story.

Look around, and find the happy people you know – my firm conviction is that their inner and outer stories are very much the same. That’s not to say happy people are simple creatures. What I’m saying is that finding happiness – that "happily ever after" thing – is only possible if you live life authentically. Out loud, walk your talk, live your brand – pick your aphorism. To be happy, I firmly believe you must reveal, and live, your true self.

Now, I’m not recommending that you vomit out all your innermost thoughts at the next project team meeting. That’s a great way to live authentically unemployed. What I DO recommend is that you start listening to the voice in your head. Unless your shrink has given you medication to STOP the voices in your head, in which case…can I get you a glass of water? Listen to what you’re saying to yourself, and see if that might not be a source of much of your "stuff" – it’s "stuff" you’ve given yourself.

Think about the stories you’ve heard or read about people who’ve triumphed over adversity: escaping a childhood in a terrible neighborhood, surrounded by crime and drugs, to become a doctor; surviving horrific physical and emotional abuse to become an inspiring writer and speaker. For every person who has navigated past horror to success, there are countless others who did NOT make it past the bad stuff, who got stuck on the corner or who succumbed to despair.

What separates the successful from the also-rans? That internal story. They tell themselves a story that takes them where they want to go – out of the darkness, and into whatever light shines on "happy" for them.

So – what story are you telling yourself? Listen to it…and learn. And if it isn’t serving you, start telling yourself a story that does.

A highly cautionary tale is unfolding this week as Elliot Spitzer slowly turns on the roasting spit he shoved up his own glory-hole…by telling himself a story that he hid from the rest of the world. This was a BIG story, folks. Spitzer was called "Elliott Ness" for his prosecutorial zeal in going
after consumer fraud, Wall Street, the mob…and call-girl rings.

I’ve watched many people, over a number of decades now, who stridently spoke out of one side of their mouths while – thinking no one would ever notice – speaking silently to themselves a story that was in complete opposition to the story they were telling publicly.

Ladies and gentlemen…Larry Craig! Bill Clinton! Jim McGreevy! And now…Elliot Spitzer!

By the way, in the interest of fairness I did try to find a woman who had instigated a sex scandal – no soap. Must be the wiring.

Shakespeare said it in Hamlet. Twice.

[The lady] doth protest too much.

Hoist by his own petard.

Watch carefully those who rail against the actions of others – particularly if those rants include the word "moral". In my experience, the ones shouting the loudest are almost always trying to drown out an inner voice…the one that’s telling on them.

Sorry, Elliot – I thought you had a stick up your a**. Now I know it was a barbeque spit.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it..   .

The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Tagged on: