The Stories We Tell Ourselves

May 29, 2020   |    minute read

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What stories do you tell yourself about your business?

  • “People won’t pay that much for what I do.”
  • “My markets too crowded with cheap competitors.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “That job was a fluke, I don’t know if I could do that again.”
  • “People don’t value my products and services.”
  • “I can’t take on more clients because I’d have to get help in my business and I don’t know where to start.”

Maybe it’s one of those, maybe it’s something else totally different. Regardless, on some level, we all tell ourselves stories about our businesses and why we can’t succeed.

And you may not realise it, or may not like to admit it, but those stories have a huge impact on your business. More so than any marketing tactic.

Because they influence our behaviour and actions.

Our thoughts create our actions.


How The Stories We Tell Ourselves Can Bring Down A Business

Worst case scenario, the stories we tell ourselves lead to self-sabotage.

Like a photographer who was just starting out.

We’ll call her Amy (that’s not her real name). She was booked solid for the last 6 weeks of the year after launching her business 6 months previously. Amy decided to redo her pricing after watching a “photography business expert” teach that you must use cost of goods based pricing with a minimum percentage mark up so that you are instantly profitable.

So she re-did all her pricing, increasing them quite substantially.

And her business crashed. No clients for 6 months.

Not because she was charging too much, but because her prices scared the crap out of her. She started telling herself stories like:

“My photography is not good enough to be charging this.”
“I don’t have enough experience to charge this amount.”
“No-one will pay this much for a framed print.” 

And on her stories went. There were many of them.


So Amy stopped all of her marketing. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just sort of happened.

She hardly posted on social media and when she did it was mostly personal photos. She didn’t blog. She didn’t make offers. She stopped networking. She just disappeared.

This went on for 6 months.

She lost all of her momentum.

Instead of sticking to her plan of building momentum, gaining experience, getting known, having a constant stream of paid client work to blog and post about, steadily and regularly increasing her prices 10-15% every 10 shoots, she was back at ground zero.

Having to start all over again, this time with her confidence and self-belief in tatters.

Because of those stories she was telling herself.


Here’s what Author Michael Lewis has to say on stories we tell ourselves (from Tim Ferris Show #427):

“As I’ve gotten older—I would say starting in my mid-to-late 20s—I could not help but notice the effect on people of the stories they told about themselves. If you listen to people, if you just sit and listen, you’ll find that there are patterns in the way they talk about themselves.

There’s the kind of person who is always the victim in any story that they tell. Always on the receiving end of some injustice. There’s the person who’s always kind of the hero of every story they tell. There’s the smart person; they delivered the clever put down there.

There are lots of versions of this, and you’ve got to be very careful about how you tell these stories because it starts to become you. You are—in the way you craft your narrative—kind of crafting your character. And so I did at some point decide, “I am going to adopt self-consciously as my narrative, that I’m the happiest person anybody knows.”

And it is amazing how happy-inducing it is.”


Be careful of the stories we tell ourselves – they really are more powerful than any marketing tactic.



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