Are you allowing others to write your story?
Who and what shapes our personal narratives can greatly influence our progress, potential, possibilities and peace
Why do we, as women, allow others to write our stories and define whether we are competent and capable? We even allow others to shape how we see our success and our path.
It's time to stop listening to stories that don't support our personal and professional growth and wellbeing. We already have to battle our own self-talk that often opposes the great stories we should be shaping for ourselves. Those automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that occupy our minds daily can be draining and self-destructive. In light of this, it's important to consider how external narratives can further undermine our confidence and self-esteem.
Who and what is in your circle?
Being mindful of our environmental influences and their power to shape our narratives about how we see ourselves in the world is so important.
Unconsciously, we surround ourselves with people we have always had around for one reason or another. Some of our support may be absolutely just what we need, and others may not. Whom we hang out with matters, and how they influence us even more so.
I know that when I was a younger officer and even supervisor, I hung out too long with the wrong folks because I was caught in a cycle of people pleasing, wanting to fit in and FOMO (fear of missing out). While hanging out with these folks, I didn’t realize until much later how their negativity, bitterness and lackluster approaches to work influenced me, my behavior, and how I could see myself in my career advancement.
Many of our colleagues don’t always support our ambitions or understand our own personal motivations for why we are making our choices. Sure, we have shared those ideas with them. However, some will just simply not understand why. Some may openly make you feel like you’re not worthy, ready, or the right fit, and others will secretly sabotage you incrementally when you don’t even realize it is happening, some intentionally and others unknowingly.
I recall sharing with my close colleagues how I was unsure if I wanted to continue pursuing a career advancement opportunity due to some personal things I was experiencing. Within that group, a couple immediately said it was probably not good timing and that I might not be right for “that” job and that it would not be the best for me anyway. However, one reached out to me privately and simply said, “How can I help you get past the hard parts because I think you’d be great for the position.”
Now when we consider the difference in responses, there could be many factors to consider, and it does not make any of them bad people. However, I want you to consider who you want in your circle, why they support you and how they support you. I never said I did not want to pursue the opportunity. I was unsure and was obviously reaching out to get some help working through the situation to a possible solution, not a quick unthoughtful remedy that squashed some of my confidence.
Today, I quickly know when I’m hanging with the wrong people, and I have learned to allow myself to release those relationships or associations and create boundaries that protect me. For those relationships that were misaligned with my core values and involved toxic friends that I tolerated, I had to have the courage to break away from the toxicity of their poor behavior, which had also become mine.
When I refer to what is in your circle versus who is in your circle, this examines what external influences erode your opportunities due to reshaping our narratives. How many of you reshape the knowledge and information you take in to fit your convenient and comfortable expectations for yourself and for others? I find that I will catch myself listening to conversations, podcasts, television, or even reading literature that will begin to reshape my personal paradigm. Sometimes it is not destructive and carries no undertones of menacing outcomes. Still, occasionally, I will find myself with my guard down and taking in influences that do not elevate me and my journey.
As you assess your circle, I encourage you to assess those influences around you. We all get complacent in many ways, including who and what is in our circle.
Small wins can help us recalibrate our story and reshape how we see ourselves. I had a lieutenant recently preparing for a promotional process share how they could not get out of their head and felt so nervous about the upcoming process. This is not uncommon, but what they were experiencing was more deeply rooted as we explored why they had the feelings. What ultimately emerged was how they had placed so much pressure on themselves not to fail again and how they were overly concerned with what other people would think because they had taken the examination so many times and not made it on the list. Their self-confidence was diminished, and their self-esteem was dragging the ground before they even got to the examination. This led me to think about how we classify our failure and measure our success, worthiness and value based on how others qualify us in these examination processes.
The promotional examination processes are designed to help organizational leaders identify talent for succession within the agency. Still, depending on your promotional examination design, it is a snapshot of performance in a controlled environment within a 2, 4 and 6-hour timeframe. There are a number of factors that occasionally can creep into those assessments, results and selections that disrupt equitable outcomes. However, I have learned over the years through my own experiences and those of others that how you perform is usually how you have prepared most of the time for the examination process and not your potential. And if your result was that you did not make a promotional list cutoff this time, it simply means that. It does not equate to your worthiness for the promotion, your value to the organization, or your potential for the position.
I had to encourage this person more like a CMO (Chief Mindset Officer) to remind them to put their inventory of lived personal and professional experiences into context and then rethink those ANTs. I know how it feels to not get it right in those exams on multiple occasions, but I showed up repeatedly until I did. That matters too. Each small win, like showing up versus giving up, builds your confidence and begins to lower the volume on those inner voices we all battle about ourselves. Reframe your opportunities into ways to improve how you see yourself and support your badassery. I'm not sure if this is a word I can print here, but it is real talk. If we do not start shifting our own storyline to the headline and stop settling for where our story ends up, we will stay exactly where we are and how we are until we are ready to redefine our success and the path for ourselves.
Who and what shapes our personal narratives can greatly influence our progress, potential, possibilities and peace.