The Stories We Tell Ourselves

We all tell ourselves stories not because we like to deceive ourselves, but because it maintains our feelings of security and normalacy.  Yet at some point, we no longer feel good in that story. What then?

June 1, 2021
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness Journey podcast. This little banner is about a car ride long and features your hosts, JJ Parker, and Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years.

JJ Parker  0:20  
All right,

Melissa Albers  0:21  
here we are. Hello, podcast.

JJ Parker  0:26  
Good morning. Good afternoon. Hello.

Melissa Albers  0:28  
So I have something that I'd like to riff on with you today. I was in a coaching session earlier today. And I realized that lately, I've been using this phrase, and it's sort of an accident that I've been using it a lot. And sort of not. A lot of people go through times in their professional careers or in their lives, when they get into certain thinking patterns that aren't actually true.

JJ Parker  1:00  
On true thinking patterns,

Melissa Albers  1:03  
well, and the phrase that I use is the story. I'm telling myself. Yes. And that I love that phrase, because I think it opens up the opportunity to think about what you're thinking, without judging what you're thinking, you know, like, be more in the, you know, I'm always saying, like, be more curious, be more observational about what you're thinking rather than judging yourself and play a point we get ourselves really into a lot of sticky wickets, because we the story we're telling ourselves is something that actually isn't true, but we think it is and and we think it's going to help us if we continue down the path.

JJ Parker  1:43  
Yes, I like this. So the fancy way to phrase this is self deception.

Melissa Albers  1:48  
Right? See there? Yeah, you're so fancy all the time.

JJ Parker  1:51  
The clinical, the clinical definition of what you're talking about, right? Is is self deception, like, like you are deceiving yourself, right? Yeah. Yeah. Like you said, you're telling a story about something that's not not true.

Melissa Albers  2:07  
And I actually think that we do it with the very best of intentions. And I think we tell ourselves stories, as a way to protect ourselves. We tell ourselves a story to try to force ourselves into feeling good about something we don't feel good about. Yeah, I think there's all sorts of examples in our lives when we are in this mode of self deception. And when you say like that, those words, it's like, that sounds mean.

JJ Parker  2:34  
Well, like we always do, like, we talked about this idea, like, hey, let's talk about like self deception. And then you're you you, you know, you phrased it in the like, the stories we tell ourselves way. But what I actually did this past week, was went and researched, self decided best why and other fancy words. It's not because I'm, like, all super smart about that stuff. It's because we talked about this idea. And then I went and like did my Google research, right? Um, but what you're saying is really interesting, because like, when I was researching self deception, one of the things the articles talked about, was this idea, like, okay, you know, just to be like, simple about it. What is what is this like, we are like self deception is we are lying to ourselves, we are creating these stories. They're fictional, they're lies, like, they're straight up lies about like that, that were convincing ourselves that are true, right? So why would humans do that? Hmm. So for what purpose?

Melissa Albers  3:37  
So like, okay, all right, I'll bite. So one of the lies that I have said to myself is, I'm gonna start a diet tomorrow. Yeah, not because I need to lose a bunch of weight, but because I really need to start eating better. I really, I'm tomorrow. That's it. I'm for sure. Gonna do that. I have no intention of doing it tomorrow.

JJ Parker  3:58  
So why do you do that?

Melissa Albers  4:00  
Well, because it makes me for just a brief moment. feel better about the fact that I'm eating like, Crap feel

JJ Parker  4:07  
like you're actually eating healthy.

Melissa Albers  4:11  
Right after I swallow that last Twinkie.

JJ Parker  4:13  
Yeah, exactly. Well, so when I was reading about this, this idea that like, um, in our human sort of, like social environment, where we're socialized as a pack, Mm hmm. This idea that like, lying to other people isn't a positive trait. Yes, it would. I mean, I think we'd all agree that line is not a positive trait, that people do it a lot. Um, we should probably have a podcast. Yeah. Just online. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  4:45  
Interesting. I'll write that down.

JJ Parker  4:49  
But so people do it all the time. It's a frowned upon social activity. And the other thing that's kind of amazing is people are really good at sensing when other people Yeah, like, you know, like, like something someone says something like, nope. Beverages line. You can. Yeah. Like, we're so good at sensing it right. Yeah. So this idea, I think from like, very like primal brain wiring, way, this idea that self deception exists, because what it's actually doing is, there's a lie. You're actually convincing yourself so thoroughly, that you actually start to believe it to be true. So all your nonverbals don't show that you're lying. Are you fine? Are you tracking that? Yeah, like, yeah, like, if I just tell you a lie, you'll know online. But if I've convinced myself of that fat lie is actually true. Then when I say it, it won't look like I'm lying.

Melissa Albers  5:51  
Well on it. Let's try it that. No, no, I'm scared. Now I'm scared.

JJ Parker  6:01  
I feel like I'm gonna get that was just one. That was one of the internet theories about self deception, which I thought was actually kind of interesting. Because, like, from a survival perspective, like, Let's go deeper on that. Okay. Like that was I was just as I think I was painted that maybe in a very, like, simple, simple way. But like, if you go deeper on it, and we start thinking about things like childhood trauma, or very traumatic events, right, yeah. Yeah, a lot of the ways people will get through those things. Yeah, by repressing memories, changing the memories, right? The narrative changing, they're changing the changing it. And then they do that enough. And they are convinced of like a different reality, which allows them to move through it. Right. Yeah, that's

Melissa Albers  6:49  
so fascinating.

JJ Parker  6:50  
So for simple things, you know, we joke like about self deception. But I think like, it gets really deep. And I think there is actually a survival reason for it. Right? And it's not because we're lying, that we ate the last candy bar, it's okay, probably didn't This is much more about probably deeper. Trauma, anxiety. You know, we don't want people to see that we're worried about a thing when we actually are we don't want to be seen as weak. We don't want to be seen as vulnerable. Yeah, we don't want maybe, I mean, maybe we don't want to be seen as greedy, or petty, or all these other social things that have maybe a negative connotation. Well,

Melissa Albers  7:33  
and what you're doing is you're talking about other people's responses to you doing that, but what about your own response to me, because like, I always say, there are only two sponsoring things, there are only two sponsoring emotions for everything, love and fear. And if you're in a state of love, in other words, things are positive things are easy, things are going well. You're probably not feeling the need to tell yourself any stories other than what what is right in front of you.

JJ Parker  8:01  
I would say that this is firmly in the fear camp.

Melissa Albers  8:05  
And I would say this is firmly in the fear camp, you are fearing something fearing not being good enough, or fearing not having enough, whatever that might be. And then jumping into that defense mode. You know, we talk about this in the self awareness journey all the time. It's like the moment you have a trigger that triggers you into having these feelings. Boy, boy, lots of times we just skate right out of those feelings, because and go to that actor self because it's just too hard. In our minds, we think it's just going to be too hard to sit with this and figure this out. Yeah. And so much of that self deception sits right in there. I mean, what you're talking about is fascinating. I actually never considered it from the external perspective, I was only considering it from the internal perspective. The other thing that you've said that's interesting is you are bringing this into self deception actually can be very healthy.

JJ Parker  8:59  
In a way, in a way it might be like, like you're

Melissa Albers  9:02  
in the traumatic situations that you talked about when people are in real situations, emotional, traumatic, emotional trauma, telling themselves a story just to get through something is a coping mechanism. Yeah, it's a survival technique,

JJ Parker  9:20  
in a way. Yeah. So yeah, I would like I guess, when I was thinking about self deception, my first my first thoughts about it, or Well, it's an unhealthy thing. You should yeah, probably not do it. Or, you know, like, this idea that you're like lying to yourself to such an extent that yeah, that you believe it seems a little bit like not a healthy practice. But you're right like in some ways, it actually could be fairly useful in helping someone processor or something.

Melissa Albers  9:52  
You know, what I think is really cool. Where I'm just coming to with this whole conversation right now is self deception. feels like a natural human response. And I think the slippery slope of it being good versus bad, you know, in this context, we're like deciding, is this a positive? Or we're exploring, is this a positive or negative? I think if it is serving you, your deep cert serving you deeply, like at a core level of truth, and taking care of yourself and honoring yourself, then I think that it is a positive thing, like as we were describing, and something traumatic, for example, you're caring for yourself in a way that's helping you get through it. But if you go into that self deception mode with the intent of having it be positive, yet it's really working against you, then it's not so great.

JJ Parker  10:44  
Yeah. Yeah. i That. That is interesting that yeah, like it's a could be of mixed. Sort of a mixed kind of thing like that. Yeah. So let's talk about like, Where would self deception, so self deception and getting through trauma might might be helpful, we're actually deep would you see like self deception as like, fairly harmful to like, your, your being?

Melissa Albers  11:10  
Yeah, I think, yeah. Cuz I think like, as we're talking about that harmful experience, you know, we've said that now a couple times in the last few moments, that I think that represents probably less than 20%. Right? I think 80% sits in this other other camp, which is where you asked, Where can it be harmful? Okay. So a lot of times in my coaching conversations, this is alright, here's the belief that I'm coming from my belief says that we are 100% responsible for the world that we live in, the experiences that we have, there we are 100% responsible for them. So if I truly believe that self deception becomes a problem for me, when I am trying to blame someone else, for what's happening to me, I didn't get that promotion, that boss just didn't see who I was that boss like this other person. They didn't like me, that was a setup. I was never going to get that job anyway. You know, the culture is terrible here. And it's always been like that, and I don't belong here because of that. I am. You know, so we tell ourselves stories. We tell ourselves stories, because the idea of actually taking responsibility for all the things in our world that aren't favorable, is just too heavy. Or too hard. Yeah.

JJ Parker  12:33  
Yeah. Like, like saying, I didn't get that promotion? You know, because someone else, it's me, because it's me, right? No one wants to say that, it's easier to say that it's somebody else.

Melissa Albers  12:47  
Yeah. Yeah. Or think about relationships with your loved ones. You know, I mean, the closer we are to people, the more naturally we let them see who we are, at least I hope that's true for people. And you get in a disagreement or an argument, how often do you say, I was 100% responsible? We don't do that. We don't do that as a natural tendency, our natural tendency is to point away from us and say, You did this to me. And I didn't have anything to do with this. I was minding my own business. I was just in my own zone, and you attacked me. Mm hmm. That would be another example of some self deception going on. So I think it happens way more than we even realize.

JJ Parker  13:30  
Yeah. So I like thinking about self deception in the work context. Right? Obviously, you and I live live in the like, yeah, professional office worker sort of environment all the time. Yeah. Um, so like, my favorite self deception, at work. Is, was this was kind of funny, but is around groupthink. So here's how self deception at work plays out in a really terrible way, every single day. So let me let me get this. Hopefully, I can get this straight. So everyone who works for me who's gonna listen to this as well, JJ,

Melissa Albers  14:21  
too late, they already are saying that. I think you're

JJ Parker  14:26  
okay. Here's how it goes down. Like ever. We like like, we have a big project at work. You know, everyone works in teams, right? We get the team together. Maybe we got like, eight people in the room are trying to solve a big problem. Everyone starts putting their opinion in there. We're, we're brainstorming and working as a group, right? Yeah, we're trying to solve the problem. Yeah. Right. And the common idea is that if we get all of our smart people together into a team The solution we come up with will be the best solution.

Melissa Albers  15:04  
That seems like a logical pattern.

JJ Parker  15:07  
It seems logical. The fact is that solution is usually crap. And it would be much better if like one or two people just came up with a solution and told everybody what it is. Because

Melissa Albers  15:23  
Are you sure this isn't your introversion coming out right now?

JJ Parker  15:27  
This pod this episode is not about introversion. I declined to answer that question.

Melissa Albers  15:34  
Okay, so we're down to people in the room.

JJ Parker  15:37  
No, I just this idea that, like, the there is this, the story that people tell themselves is that, like, the sort of like, the more smart people on a problem, the better problem solving will be. But that is actually a deception like that. It's actually like, very proved that that groupthink is a real problem. And it doesn't, doesn't produce the best results. And that's not just me being an introvert. Right? That's science. Okay, fine. And there's actually a really famous studies about how group think has caused some, like very major problems, like airplanes crashing and rockets exploding and things like that. Yeah, yep. Yeah. And, and so but it's, but the thing that I think is so interesting, in our, in our professional setting is like, everyone goes into it. And it's like, everyone just starts all the sudden, like, being convinced like this brainstorm method, this is the best one and ideas are flying and, and all of a sudden, the best idea emerges. Usually, it's like the loudest voice in the room when emerges, right? Yes, I

Melissa Albers  16:50  
agree. I agree.

JJ Parker  16:51  
But when we're in that mode, and I fall for it all the time. So like, I'm not actually blaming other people. I'm like, oh, like I fall for it all the time. Like, I get excited in the group brainstorming sessions. Yeah, we've

Melissa Albers  17:04  
done that. We've definitely done that, too. Yeah,

JJ Parker  17:06  
it's like actually kind of fun energy. And for sure. And that's where I think, like this, this sort of like self deception, or the stories we tell ourselves, becomes really powerful in the way like, like, hey, this brainstorming session, super fun. We're all riffing, here we go ideas or fly in with one one sticks. And away we go. And no one really stops to think like, okay, is this the most pragmatic way about solving like this business problem? And that's like a very innocent version of self deception that I think happens every day. Yeah, and so I don't really notice,

Melissa Albers  17:48  
right, they're just taking for granted a norm. Mm hmm. That's what you're saying. It's like, they're just not thinking about it. This is just what we do. And this is how we get the greatest thing. Not questioning or challenging the norm, because it's just what they've always thought,

JJ Parker  18:01  
yep. It's what they've always thought and then, and in one way, it also just kind of like, feels good to be in that environment. Right. Right. It does, right. So. So again, we're talking about painting self deception as like positive or negative. In this way, in this example, to me, like the self deception feels good. Right? Yeah. But it doesn't actually like produce the result. We want. Right? From from a business perspective. So

Melissa Albers  18:34  
yeah, that's interesting.

JJ Parker  18:37  
I think there's a lot of probably like, similar things that happen, even our personal lives that that will be in that same kind of flavor of self deception, like, like fairly innocent, fairly lightweight, we like it, but it doesn't actually serve us in the best, like, bashing away

Melissa Albers  18:55  
our authentic us. Yeah, yeah. I totally agree with that. How about, like, let's make it a little even more personal and conversation. Like, I was just thinking, like, as you start talking about self deception in your teams and stuff, like I started thinking about, for me, what are some things that I have experienced, right, it's like, this is an interesting topic, because I get to talk with people all day, every day, where they are in their minds where they are in their hearts, you know, and, and where they are in their roles. And it's, it's, I feel so fortunate to be able to do that. Right. The thing is, I think people tell themselves stories. Because they, the the idea of something changing is really scary. And like, for example, I mean, we're being very ambiguous like but let's say we have two salespeople that work together. And they have a really healthy competition. They play off of each other, and as a result, they both do really well. They just keep going and going and going. And one day, one of the salespeople does something that the other one doesn't like very much, right. But they keep telling themselves a story that, Oh, it's okay. Because this is just what we've always done. And so the self deception in that is based on trying to keep something the same again. And yet they start to feel unwell in the relationship. You know, they don't, they don't or even their environment, when the work situation gets to a point where someone feels like it's time for them to leave. That's another really common time where you'll see some self deception is at an all time high. Because they, a lot of people feel very guilty for standing up for themselves. A lot of people feel that it's wrong to think of themselves before they think of other people, the truth of the matter is, they should be thinking of themselves first is if they honor themselves, first, they're going to be much more honoring of everyone else around them. But people will feel guilty, they're trying to leave a job, they'll start telling themselves stories about the environment is terrible. The people I'm with have changed. It doesn't feel like it used to. But the fact of the matter is, it's not the environment. It's that person, that person is no longer feeling like they fit. And they're in this mode, the story they're telling themselves as something outwardly has changed so much that I got to get out of here.

JJ Parker  21:14  
Mm hmm. Okay. So earlier, when we're kind of like preparing for this, yeah, like, we're talking about how we were each getting ready for this topic. Yeah. And I said I would, you know, research. Yeah. You said you, yeah, sat quietly and reflected. But, you know, and then and then you said, Hey, do you have a personal story about self deceptions? Like, you know, I don't know, I didn't really, you know, I mostly took notes. But you know, what, I just thought of one. Oh, I hear it. Yeah,

Melissa Albers  21:43  
for sure.

JJ Parker  21:47  
Um, okay. So I think, a prevailing self deception, or at least a story that I've told myself for a very long time. Is that, like, I'm really like, easygoing, and accommodating, like, I just go with the flow, right? And I think probably, primarily I am that. I agree. Right? Like, like, I don't know, digitus goes with the flow, right. But the more I like, for, for years, and years and years, I always just told myself, that's what I was. That's how I am. Right. And I think I told myself that so much, that it actually has caused me to be, like, overly accommodating, like, and, like, overly accommodating to the point where, like, it doesn't help me. Like it actually, like, harms harms me. Like, I put myself in these situations where it's like, like, I should be advocating for myself, but I don't. Um, and I kind of like get the short end of the stick. And then I don't complain about it. Yeah, but you feel great about it. But inside, it doesn't feel that I feel bad about it. But the story I tell myself is like, No, it's okay. It's fine. I'm easygoing. It's cool. It's no big deal. But I've noticed recently, like, since you and I've been working on the self awareness journey stuff, is that I'm actually advocating for myself, way more, I've actually caught myself telling people things like, Ah, no, I don't want you to do it that way. I want you to do it this other way. Whereas before, I probably would have been like, mad, whatever, just do it however you want. Right. And that felt safe at all in that. Yeah. And then just been nervous. Like, oh, man, there goes, I'm just, I'll just clear my calendar, so I get to do their work later.

But that's, uh, that, to me. That's an example from a story that I've told myself. Yeah. Isn't that how it's affected me?

Melissa Albers  24:00  
Yeah. Well, I mean, this whole this whole, this whole podcast is about self awareness. Right. And it's like, I love how we get to explore these topics, because we really, don't ever stop one of these pods without learning something new. We just don't. Yeah, it's just the coolest thing ever. I think for me, the story that I told myself a lot of the times is, this is gonna sound really funny. The story I told myself was I'm really not safe in this world. I always need to work harder than most. And even though I have money, some time I might not. Even though I have all this stability and security sometime I might not. So the story I told myself was I always had to work harder and smarter and harder and smarter and harder and smarter than anyone else. I knew always regardless of what my bank account look like, regardless of what my home life looked like, regardless of what my everything and and so it's served me in one way, right because I As a high performer, it serves you. But in a lot of ways, it has not served me because it caused so much anxiety in places that simply didn't need to be there. And that wasn't anybody else telling me stories. That was me telling me my story. That was nobody else saying no, you better, you better put some more money in the bank, you know, you are a business. You know, that wasn't anybody telling me stories? That was me telling me a story?

JJ Parker  25:29  
That's, that's super interesting. Yeah. Yeah. How much we're getting to know our particular episode.

Melissa Albers  25:38  
But I just I think the the thing I would be remiss if I didn't say before we finish today is that the story I tell myself is a really, really good entry point for people. If they're feeling like something doesn't feel good inside, because ultimately, if you're operating in your world, and and you don't feel good inside, it's because something in your inner being expects it to be something, and it's not matching on the outside. And, and sometimes we feel like we have to tell ourselves all of these false things, to try to gloss over the fact that we know deep inside this is not at all what we want. And I think that the story I'm telling myself is a really good entry point. And I just think people can love it. Yeah. Yeah. And

JJ Parker  26:24  
I love it. And the other thing I would add to that is, is just, I just try to observe what the stories that you tell yourself are. And once you observe one, just ask yourself, like, does this serve me? Is this still true, right? Or right? Do you want to change that story? Because, like you said, like, like, we're all the authors of our own reality. And if we want to change those stories, you have full power to be able to change those stories. They're your stories, they're just changes.

Melissa Albers  26:57  
Yeah. And and you we have these core beliefs that make us tell these stories. And again, remember, a core belief is nothing more than the same thought over and over and over again, so many times that your brain says, Oh, it must be true. So the story I'm telling myself because of this, quote, truth is, so yeah, it's interesting.

JJ Parker  27:20  
And the other thing that I just thought of, you know, it's like, people will sometimes, you know, maybe not want to change those things, right? They might say, hey, you know, I've been this way, a long time. I don't, I don't want to change this. And that's, that's okay. But just think about the, the opposite of it. Like, like, if if you do want to change it, like you can, yeah, like it's a journey. People change. Yeah, life evolves.

Melissa Albers  27:48  
Right. I have to tell you, I agree. I was in a coaching session this morning. And the guy said, right after I talked to you last time, he had been in this business relationship that was extremely challenging for 10 years. And he was constantly taking on more just to make it okay, even though he was so miserable. And he said, you know, what, I just made a decision, and I feel euphoric. He said, I feel like I'm on cloud nine. Those are the two phrases that he use, simply because in his mind, he just made a different decision. Just that. Yes, cool.

JJ Parker  28:24  
Yeah. Change your mind, change your world.

Melissa Albers  28:29  
We hope that you've enjoyed today's episode. Our mission is to help people become happier and more effective by gaining insight into their own thoughts and feelings. We'd love your support. First, share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Second, leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast safe. This helps others discover the podcast so we can reach more people. And third, sign up for our newsletter at the self awareness journey.com. This will help us communicate better with you and build our community. Thank you so much for joining us in the self awareness journey. We'll see you next week.

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Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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