“Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?” What if Scott Turow was right when he wrote this in Ordinary Heroes? It could be a good or a bad thing depending on the sort of stories we tell!
The stories we tell to ourselves don’t just help shape our general sense of wellbeing. They also shape our psyche.
Our psyche is how we use personality traits to think about and evaluate what is going on in the world or our immediate environment. It is how we think, learn, solve problems, remember or forget. But our psyche is not just a collection of problem solving or analytical mechanisms within us. It includes our motives and desires – the things we aspire to, desire, fear and believe are necessary for life.
If we are “the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe” that suggests we need to be careful about what stories we tell. If for no other reason than that they help shape our psyche – how we view the world and our place in it – and ultimately our confidence.
One of the key roles of leadership is to tell your own people the truth about the way things really are. That means being willing to tell your own people uncomfortable truths as well as happy messages. But leadership is ultimately about empowering your own people to confidently find their own place in the world they inhabit.
Take a piece of paper and a pen. Now write down the words that come to mind when you read the following question: ‘What is the story that leaders of the Protestant community in Northern Ireland have constantly told to their own people?’
So, where the words you wrote down mostly positive or negative? Where they life-giving and inspiring? Do they induce fear or confidence in the hearer?
Over the years there has been much talk of underachievement and low morale in the Protestant community in Northern Ireland. It is an important and complex conversation that needs to happen because it is a deeply unpleasant place to be.
But in the conversation about Protestant underachievement and low morale are we missing something obvious? If we are “the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe” what relationship is there between the stories that leadership has told its own people and the general level of wellbeing and confidence in that community?
Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope”. Over the years has this been any part of the diet fed to the Protestant community by its leaders?