The power of multiple stories

Often we see things that end or things that went differently than planned, expected or hoped for, as failures.  A job or a relationship that ends, goals you did not reach in the way you planned, or goals you did not reach at all. The career path that is far from linear (I know I for many years felt that I was failing somehow, because I did not have a linear career path). Never let a story of ‘failure’ or any other dark or negative story, be the only story you tell yourself. Never believe the story of failure defines an experience or defines you!  Always look for the other stories, and tell yourself these stories as well, next to the dark and difficult story. If we only tell ourselves the dark and difficult story we start to identify with that story, that experience. And this story will shape future experiences.

Toxic positivity
Don’t get me wrong. This is not about toxic positivity, about negating or bypassing difficult situations and emotions.  The first step is always giving yourself space to feel whatever emotions comes up. Not to bottle it up, not to ignore it, but let the emotions flow through you.

So allow yourself to feel loss, grief, regret, anger or other emotions that come up. Then ask yourself what do I need right now? And give yourself what you need in that moment. Whether it is giving yourself time to mourn, or to run a bath, or to cry or….

The next step
But I don’t want you to stop there! After you have given yourself space and time to be with the challenging emotions take the next step. Consciously start looking for multiple stories, for positive stories as well. Stories about staying true to yourself even when it is difficult, stories about what you have learned, or what becomes possible now, stories of resilience, stories of success, stories of beautiful alternative routes taken, and many other stories.

Finding multiple stories
What always helps me in finding these multiple stories is this. 👉What if you assumed that this difficult thing that happened is exactly what needed to happen at that moment. What story would you tell yourself then?

🌱What is this difficult thing showing me, telling me?

🌱What can I learn?

🌱 What alternative route is opening up because this thing ended or failed?

🌱 If I assumed this was not a failure but exactly what was supposed to happen right now: what action would I take?

Don’t let the dark or difficult story become the whole story or the only story you tell yourself.  Look for your multiple stories because there is always more than one story to tell!

You are so much more than a single story!


p.s. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her 2009 TED talk – The danger of a single story- so beautifully talks about the danger of a single story on a societal and personal level. Worth watching!

This blog was also inspired by the book “The midnight library” from Matt Haig I read over the weekend.


Change your story, change your possibilities

Often we have clearly defined labels or stories about ourselves

I am this…
I am not this…

Stories about who you are and who you are not. Stories about what you can and cannot do. What you should and shouldn’t do. These stories are of course heavily influenced by cultural norms in society, your family or the organisation you work in.

Humans are wired for story
We create stories in our head about events that happen, about others and about ourselves. That is how we make sense of the world. These stories about ourselves can bring clarity.

But they have one big disadvantage
They can limit the possibilities you see for yourself. They can stand in the way of you playing bigger, making changes, finding creative solutions. Clearly defined stories or labels about ourselves create a neat tidy box for us to fit it. But they form an obstacle to branch out, to find the joy in following your curiosity and trying out new things, finding new possibilities.
For example if you work in academia and are considering to find your next job outside of academia, the way talk about yourself can make a big difference.

I am a scientist?
My clients often say: I am a scientist, I am a researcher. This way they conflate their job with their identity. This makes it really hard to envision other possibilities than working as a scientist.

Change your story
But what if instead you would say: I work as a scientist, I work as a researcher? Feel the difference it makes! How it opens things up. The latter does not confine you to the neat box of scientist/researcher. The latter just tells you about that at this moment you work as a researcher. It leaves much more room and possibility for other types of work as well.

Become aware of the language, labels and stories you use about yourself
What labels or stories about yourself can you let go of? Because they are no longer true, or because they limit your possibilities?
What new language or stories can you create? How can you rephrase or come up with a new story that gives you freedom and new opportunities?

Wishing you lots of freeing stories!