So often, in our quest for career development, we focus on external means of improvement. We read countless books, listen to numerous podcasts, and view a myriad of videos, and Ted Talks from our favorite leaders.
And while all that knowledge consumption is helpful for growth, we may overlook a powerful force that trumps all these inputs: our self-perception.
What prevents—and fuels—your progress is not external; it’s internal.
If you want a better career, you have to change the stories you tell yourself; here’s how:
1. First, audit your self-talk
Nothing has a greater impact on your career than the stories you tell yourself. Yet without even realizing it, many of us fall victim to an all-too-common practice of self-sabotaging talk.
Perhaps seeds of doubt were planted long ago by a well-intended teacher or parent who encouraged you to pick a “safe” career path or a by a jealous colleague who was threatened by your gifts.
Out of fear of ridicule or rejection, you tell yourself that it’s okay not to go after what you really want. You fill your head with negative stories that prevent you from learning, growing, and stretching your wings. You say things like, I’m not ____ enough, I’m not ready, or I’m just a __________ (whatever you are now), not a _________ (whatever you’d like to be).
Use your awareness to reflect on your self-talk: what stories are you telling yourself?
2. Next, experiment with a new story that aligns with your goals
Once you’ve acknowledged your negative self-talk, allow yourself to explore the positive possibilities. It’s deceptively simple, but for many, extremely difficult after years of self-defeating head chatter.
To get started, try treating yourself the way you would a trusted, supportive friend. Using self-compassion, experiment with a new story by completing the phrase, “I am…” with answers like:
It’s essential that you dig deep to ask yourself what you really want. When you have clarity around your goals, you can create a new story to support them.
3. Finally, change the way you tell your story to others
Here’s the thing: The stories you tell yourself also inform the stories you tell others about you. They can position you for success or remove you from consideration. If those stories don’t give you a fair shake, they’ll diminish your desires, and conceal and deprive others of the highest and best use of your talents.
I say this from a place of experience. For years, I told myself I wasn’t talented enough to be a professional writer. That no one would want to hire me, let alone have any interest in reading my work. I moved through my professional life on the periphery, in close proximity to creativity but never fully stepping into what I really wanted.
But when I told myself I am a writer, everything changed.
Instead of hiding from my story, I embraced it. I told other people my story, and to my surprise and delight, they responded. Sharing our stories help others know, like, and trust us. Because once you have your story, it changes everything, including how others perceive, pay, and promote you.
Words have power, and the stories we tell ourselves are the most important words we speak. Make sure that they’re positive, aligned with your goals, and mirror what you tell others.
Written by Amy Blaschka