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Why Do We Hold onto Unhelpful Stories?



You are washing your hands in a bathroom. You look up and there in the mirror is a reflection of you as a child, or maybe your face from 20 years ago, looking back at you. It’s not who you are today. It would be weird, right? This doesn’t happen, because our brains screenshot micro changes in our appearance every day and updates them without us knowing. If you’ve had a hair cut or grown a beard or have a bruise on your head, you are surprised the first few times you catch your reflection, and then you are not because your brain has recalibrated to a new normal or current you. It’s so subtle that we don't notice we've aged until we see a picture of ourselves a few Christmases ago. Or in my case recently, until a beauty therapist told me that my bone structure was good but my skin was…. “tablecloth too big for table”. Cheers. Been thinking a lot lately about why we hold onto fixed and unhelpful stories of ourselves and don’t update them every day in the same way as our physical selves. I’ve had conversations with incredible human beings, who for some reason have maintained narratives of themselves in the world that belong to a long past version of themselves that neither serves nor describes them. They are clients who look in the mirror and see leavability, not lovability, based on events of years gone by in spite of long successful relationships since that time. Humble and wise leaders who hold uncertainty about their capability as if they were just starting out. People who once lost money and, although wealthy, work as if the roof over their family's heads is at risk every hour that they don’t. Our brains use a massive 20% of our metabolic rate. It works its metaphorical butt off and is so depleted by the constant data streaming in that if it can possibly take short cuts, it will. Everything about it runs off the principle of prediction and emotion is the story teller. It starts to look at events or experiences and finishes the story for us - “she hasn’t responded to my email” is woven together as “it means she doesn’t value you”. It conserves energy by avoiding us having to deal with uncertainty and a data set all over again “He/she wouldn’t be attracted to someone like me”. Our brains take a thousand data sources or threads every day - nods a few milli-seconds in and dumps everything into the closest folder it already has. Like all of us, sometimes it predicts wrong. And that creates agitation which gets us ready for brain plasticity and change until the admin officer says “oh man are you sure you want to submit this, see now there’s going to be so much paper work." It's the bouncer that can't be bothered checking ID. We have the power to change the stories we tell ourselves with every experience we have, every single day of our lives in the same way our brain updates our face in the mirror. If it's not serving you, it might be time to do an update. Life is too short to miss out on the magic of who you are.


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