When Your Inner Story Is Completely Wrong

Mar 17, 2022

I was running in our local park one day, chugging along the trails. I'm not a speedy runner, and sometimes there's a lot of self-talk to keep myself moving. This particular day was really warm and as I made my way through the wooded path, I kept the chatter going so I'd keep going.  

Not far ahead of me, I saw a man walking. As I passed him, he suddenly started running again, blowing right past me.

Thinking nothing of it, I kept jogging until I noticed he had slowed to a walk. When I passed him again, he once again started running. Okay, I thought, this guy doesn't want to get beat by a girl. No biggie.

But then it happened a few more times and it really started to annoy me. It felt like I was working so hard to move forward and this guy really threw me off my game by zipping past whenever I caught up. Dude, I thought, either run or don't run but stop trying to show me up! It was like he had to prove a point that he could run faster than me every single time I caught up with him.

Finally, the path wound around to the parking lot. He finished just ahead of me, so I slowed to a walk and shifted my direction to my car.  Before I could get there, he stopped me, smiled broadly and said "I have to thank you! I was really struggling to run today and every time I saw you running it really motivated me to keep going. I couldn't have done it without you! Thank you so much." 


He wasn't trying to prove a point by not letting a girl beat him. He was struggling and saw my momentum as an inspiration to move himself forward. Very different than the story I was telling myself - a story peppered with words like "testosterone-filled jerk".

So often the story we tell ourselves is way different than what's actually going on. Any of these sound familiar? 

  • My client hasn’t emailed me back - I’m sure she hates the last project I did for her.

  • She hasn’t responded to my latest proposal - my pricing is way too high and she’ll never pay that.

  • My colleague read the document I wrote and sent me a note saying it’s “interesting” - that’s never good, is it??

These thoughts pop up in the empty space that’s waiting to be filled by an actual response that hasn’t happened yet. 

As humans, we tend to catastrophize what’s going on, when in reality, the client is probably just busy with other things, or our colleague really likes what we wrote but didn’t have time to send more feedback. 

That's always an opportunity to reframe things and tell the story in a way that serves us better. 

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