Liliana asked herself, “What story am I telling myself these days?”

The 28-year-old brand marketing specialist posed the question early one morning while journaling, in advance of taking a walk and a shower. The self-inquiry stuck with Liliana across the day, even coming to mind during work meetings.

For as long as she could remember the second-generation Latina has been awed by the multi-dimensional power and impact of storytelling. Storytelling is the art and science of influencing others through skillful communication and personal brand; not just telling great stories, but being a great story.

Stories shape us, stick with us, and often inform–even subconsciously–the decisions we make. Stories we tell ourselves about our strengths, good character, and possibilities shape our orientation toward the day’s work and interpersonal communications. Stories about “how much we suck”…well, they have their own way of shaping things.

Current Story vs. Desired Story

For Liliana, there’s been positive stories of her family members “having each other’s back.” At the same time, her family has been a source of stress and suffering because of intense expectations, co-dependency, and shaming. There’s also been work-related stories, including moments when Liliana “hit it out of the park” with an idea or pitch, and instances when she was chastised for not being clear enough in her proposals or not specifying how the impact of a marketing campaign could be measured.

Liliana’s employer is a large chain of restaurants, and she’s based at the chain’s corporate headquarters housed in an office complex where various other companies and professionals lease space as well. As an extroverted type, Liliana often chats with these other professionals in the office complex elevators, cafe, yoga studio, and resource center, and learns the stories that impact them as well.

During a mid-afternoon coffee break, Liliana ran into Christopher, 37, a newly-married African-American CPA who also worked in the office complex. Liliana mentioned the “what story” question she’d asked herself early that morning and shared the “answer” she’d come up with and written down in her journal:

“My current story is about a young woman who’ll do almost anything to please others, including my co-workers, my family, and my fiancee.”

And then Liliana shared something else she’d written down: the story she wants to tell herself. The story she wants to live.

“I’m a confident, inter-dependent professional woman. I set and keep healthy boundaries. I’m disciplined in giving myself what I need, and in challenging others when their needs are misaligned with my own.”

“Wow,” Christopher responded. “I can definitely see you already living out that story.” He sighed. “I’m afraid to look closely at the story I might be telling myself right now.”

“Take the chance,” Liliana said. “You’re worth it.”

Christopher smiled. “I just might. But if I go into a downward spiral and screw up people’s tax returns or piss off my bride, it’ll be your fault.”

“Deal,” Liliana said, grinning as she and Christopher shook hands.  

So…what story are you telling yourself, and is it aligned with the way you want to live?