The Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back

This week I wanted to focus on the a topic that has been personally impacting recently. I want to focus on the stories we tell ourselves. How we limit ourselves and hold ourselves back with stories of shoulds and beliefs. And how we keep ourselves safe with these stories. 

Have you ever looked back at yourself in the past in seen how you used to falsely believe you were a certain way or were incapable to doing or behaving a certain way? For example, maybe in high school you strongly believed you belonged to a certain crowd and now realize how you were just putting yourself in a box to fit in more easily. Or how in college you identified with a trait that other people liked in you, you were the achiever or the party animal. Now you see that is just one way you can show up and be seen. 

On a smaller level, you may believe you suffer from specific limitations. Like you are not a multitasks or you are an introvert and fearful of social situations or you have to wait until this specific thing happens before you can be happy. All of these little lies keep us safe and comfortable as well as limit our potential. 

In most cases these stories are stories that were told in our childhood about our capacities, our identity, and our relationships. And in most cases, these stories are lies we continue to tell ourselves and don’t even realize we are doing it. Magically, when we decide to confront these lies, limitations and obstacles fall to the wayside and we suddenly grow exponentially! 

I will share some of my stories with you. I would love to hear yours in return. 

As a teen I believed I was undesirable. Secretly, I also narcissistically believed I was so desirable boys were intimidated by me (due to idealistic praise from my mother). Neither of these beliefs were true. Yet, I operated under the first, fearful of owning my desirability. This story, that no one desired me became a self-fulfilled prophesy. I seemed desperate for attention from boys yet standoffish and fearful. It was not until I dropped this story (both conflicting stories really) that I began to enjoy dating and meet a lot of guys that were interested in me. 

As a young adult, I secretly believed that I had to have a successful marriage by fixing my spouse. Yet, would not work on the issues I brought to the relationship, which were admittedly much less serious than my spouse’s. Though had I worked through my own codependency, I would have easily left the relationship in search of a healthier life. 

As a professional, I both believed I was small and very capable. Yet my fear was what grabbed hold. I held on to the perfectionistic side of the story, that I was not good enough to work in private practice. I felt anxious and almost paralyzed going into each session when I started. I would talk to my supervisor about my fears of not being good enough. The shoulds would return to me daily. It was not until I began seeing the humanity of imperfection that I began to let go of this story, that I had to be perfect to be a good therapist. When I began accepting that my imperfections were what made me a good therapist, that is when I began to flow as a therapist. 

Today I invite you to consider the stories you tell yourself. The black and white thinking that keeps you stuck. Or the fear stories that hold you back and keep you in the comfort zone. How are you limiting yourself?

Want to read more about the stories we tell ourselves? Read "Rising Strong" by Brene Brown! 

Interested in working with me as a therapist and you would like a free 20 minute consultation, contact me at or 240-480-0152. I work in person in Denver, CO or over secure virtual video chat for those outside of the Denver area in Colorado, DC, and Maryland. 

Kimberly Ottinger