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ATD Blog

Humans Are Great Storytellers

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

“I am not good enough.”
“I am not smart enough.”
“I am not funny enough.”
“I am not experienced enough.”
“I am not successful enough. “
“My car isn’t cool enough.”
“My pet rabbit doesn’t have enough followers on social media.”

The voices inside your head are often quite loud. Self-talk keeps you from believing in yourself, trusting yourself, and advocating for yourself. Negative thoughts playing on a loop affect your ability to show up fully for others. Humans are great storytellers. What are the stories you are telling yourself?

Stories are powerful. Since Homo erectus started grunting at each other, painting cave walls, and using grandiose hand gestures in front of the fire, lessons, history, and ideas have been shared via stories. Stories are the invisible strings that connect us. We all know what makes a great story: an intriguing cast of characters, a moment of tension, triumph or defeat, and some sort of takeaway. Take this framework and apply it to the stories you tell yourself.

You are the main character. Sometimes you are the protagonist, the hero who will come out on top. The antagonist could be a boss, a neighbor, an ex, an ignorant individual, the person that cut you off in traffic. These are the stories when you believe in yourself. In these stories, you know you have the ability to overcome whatever or whoever is standing in your way. At the end, you hold your head high, and you feel accomplished. When was the last time you felt like that? When was the last time you were proud of yourself?

Other times you perceive the protagonist of the story to be somebody else, maybe that person in the gym, a co-worker, someone you follow on social media, an older brother, or a younger sister. You see yourself as the antagonist in these moments. These are the stories when you are the villain and do not believe in yourself. You do not think you are ready or equipped enough to become the hero of your story. You tell yourself you will never be the protagonist, and you feel a sense of shame. When was the last time you felt like that? When was the last time you were ashamed of yourself?

Woof. That got a little dark but stick with me!


Here’s the beautiful thing: You are the one holding the pen that is writing your story. You are in control of how you perceive the other characters. You are in control of how much energy you give to each situation. And you are in control of how you think about yourself as you fall asleep each night.

Life coach and women’s empowerment speaker Stacy Nadeau loves to say, “Fact-check your inner critic.” Let’s look back at the statements at the beginning of this article.

  • Are you actually not good enough?
  • You are not smart enough—according to whom?
  • You are not funny enough? Well . . . that may be true. If you could be funnier that would be great for the rest of us, so please work on that.
  • How much more experience do you need to qualify as “enough”?
  • Is the level of success you have achieved all a fluke?

But in all seriousness, please fact-check the stories you are telling yourself.


Friend, you decide what is enough. And enough does not mean that you are settling or throwing in the towel. It means allowing yourself to take a few breaths, lower your shoulders, look around, and see that you have grown in so many ways. Are you done? No. But can you be proud of what you have already done without worrying about what you will or will not do next? Yes.

So one more time for the people in the back: humans are great storytellers. What stories are you telling yourself?

For more insights, join me during the ATD 2021 International Conference & Exposition for the session Love in Leadership: The Secret to Managing and Retaining Talent.

About the Author

James Robilotta is a professional speaker, author of Leading Imperfectly, and co-owner of the award-winning hip-hop improv comedy group, NorthCoast. With the perfect blend of humor and vulnerability, he creates spaces where audiences can engage in conversations about trust, feedback, teamwork, mutual respect, leading through resilience, and more. As a speaker and as a coach, James’ goal is to provide his audience with tangible tools to leave a lasting legacy with their lives.

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