What is an internal narrative?
Our inner narrative is the story we tell ourselves about why the world is the way it is, and why our life is the way it is. It is our thoughts and our realities. It’s something that we acquire from other people, typically from our parents when we’re children.
Inner narrative can also be called “limiting beliefs” or “the lies we tell ourselves”.
I prefer the term “inner narrative” because it helps us understand what’s really going on behind the scenes.
We accidentally forget to pay our credit card and we’re charged a fine. Our inner narrative is saying, “Oh, I’m not good with money.”
Maybe her boyfriend dumped her, and she told herself, “I’m just not a lovable person.”
What’s the difference between Internal Monologue, Internal Dialogue, and Inner Narrative?
These are not the same thing!
As stated above, your inner narrative is the set of unconscious beliefs we have about ourselves that shape our present and future.
Internal dialogue is narrating or talking to yourself about what is happening in your life. Basically reacting verbally to what’s going on, but in your head.
(Even Google seems to be confused on this one!)
Although they are similar, they are not the same thing!
My Internal Narrative Story
Just recently I was interacting with some strangers on a thread on Joe Dispenza’s facebook page and I learned something that reinforced a concept that has been driving home my inner growth for a long time.
I commented that Dr. Dispenza’s voice in his meditations is highly distracting, and explained why, as a musician, I have a hard time meditating to it.
It was a seemingly innocuous belief. I’m a trained musician… thus music has a tendency to stimulate the analytical parts of my brain. When I’m not focused, I have difficulty relaxing, meditating, or sleeping to music that’s rhythmic or has the human voice.
Surprisingly, a stranger commented and said something to the effect of:
“This is what you are telling yourself based on past experiences. I believe that we need to get out of our comfort zone to grow. I wish you the best.”
Talk about a defining moment: when a random facebook commenter is objective, helpful, and positive!
I could have taken it personally, but I saw the truth in the statement. The truth was, I was TELLING MYSELF that as a musician, this didn’t work for me.
I was allowing the past to dictate my future experiences.
How can I discover my inner narrative?
Our inner narratives are buried deep and are mostly subconscious. Using the iceberg analogy, the part that sticks out of the water is our behaviors, our routines, and how we conduct ourselves in the world. Our inner narratives and beliefs are the part of the iceberg that is submerged beneath the water.
It takes a lot of work, consistency, and open-mindedness to really discover our inner narratives.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself about your internal narrative. Make sure you write them down for clarity and to draw connections later.
- What are my triggers for negative emotions?
- How do I define myself?
- What were some of the defining moments of my past?
- What are some habits that I’m trying to break?
- How do I come across to others?
- What are my expectations of myself?
- What are my expectations of others?
- What expectations do others have for me?
- What do I tell myself I’m good at?
- What do I tell myself I’m bad at?
While you’re answering these questions, see if any patterns emerge.
For example, perhaps you expect perfection out of yourself, and one defining moment as a child was when your mother came over and corrected your work while you were doing homework, and when it wasn’t perfect, grounded you for a week.
Examining our past lives as well as our failures and successes, our tendencies, and our “autopilot”, can all help us draw out these limiting beliefs.
How can I change my internal narrative/limiting beliefs?
“Our thoughts become our words, our words become our beliefs, our beliefs become our actions, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our realities.” Jen Sincero
When you want to change your reality, you have to start with the smallest thing. Start with your thoughts.
Dr. Joe Dispenza (who I mentioned earlier) early in his career as a neurobiologist and brain researcher, gave a TED talk on forming connections in the brain. This is my “go to” solution for changing my reality.
Take a watch.
In essence, first become aware and change the thoughts. And if you change them often enough, you start to wear a new path in your brain that will lead to new beliefs, new actions, new habits, and a new reality.
Our internal narrative doesn’t have to be something that wears on us like a burden. Our internal narrative is absolutely malleable!
When you examine your behaviors and thoughts, become aware, and make some effort to change these limiting beliefs, we can absolutely rewrite this inner narrative we tell ourselves for a happier, healthier, more satisfying life!