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What story are you telling about yourself?

In a series of wellbeing columns Karen Beaven offers advice to others in HR

What’s your story? That’s the first question I ask when people tell me they’re feeling a bit lost or disillusioned with their career.

It’s a great place to start if you’re feeling stuck. Or if you keep making the same mistakes and are losing confidence. The key to getting through it and to your ability to change your situation will be in the story you have created.

Everyone has a story and it comes out in the things you say when you introduce yourself to people. It comes out (signposted with career achievements) when you go for a job interview. Your family and friends see different parts of your story – the bits you choose to share with them.

You might even have a few different versions. I’m sure you’re aware of the ‘perfect’ stories that social media allows people to create, with aspirational images that are unattainable for most people and often don’t reflect the true lifestyle of the person who has created them.

It’s in the variance between the different versions of a story, and the distance between the narrative of your story and the reality of your true self, where problems can begin.

We start to lose clarity on our true path and we disconnect with our purpose. Each story requires us to live it, and if we’re not being true to ourselves that can become exhausting and confusing. We start to second guess ourselves, imposter syndrome starts to creep in, and we can lose track of the things that really matter in our lives.

So how do you fix it? Start by thinking about the different ways that you currently share your story. This could be at work, at home, with friends, on social media... List them all.

Next think about the following questions for each scenario:

  • Who are you?
  • Who do you want to be?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What’s most important to you?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How are you going to achieve it?

You don’t have to share this with anyone so write honestly about how you are portraying yourself and telling your story in each scenario.

Next repeat the exercise but imagine going back 10 years. Think about who you were then and the different ways you shared your story. Finally imagine going 10 years into the future and doing the same thing.

What you’re looking for here are themes that remain consistent. You’ll find that some elements of your story resonate with you and feel good. You might also discover some things that don’t feel so great, probably because you were trying to be something you’re not or to fit someone else’s expectation of who you should be. Sometimes we even put ourselves in this position by trying to mirror someone we perceive to be more successful. But your own way will always be best for you.

When you have the different versions of your story laid out you can then bring together the consistent threads that make up your real narrative. You can start to decide which elements you share across different scenarios and platforms and remain true to yourself. Drop anything that no longer resonates with you.

You don’t have to share all of your story, but by working through it in this way you’ll feel more confident because you know what’s important to you. Now you need to make sure that what you do moves you closer to this.

Never be afraid to rewrite your story either. We can learn more from our mistakes than our successes, so if you feel like you’ve taken the wrong path you can always start afresh. Just come back to the questions and think about how you’re going to craft your new story around them.

Don’t be afraid to dream big. And remember: you’re the author not the reader of your story. Why not make it a page-turner?

Karen Beaven is founder of the HR Entrepreneurs Network and an IVF and fertility coach. Visit www.karenbeaven.com