Inspired Action For Imperfect Humans- S2 EP29: “The Stories We Tell Ourselves”

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

“The Stories We Tell Ourselves” Brief Summary of Show: 

When we are having conversations with others, or even when someone reacts a certain way, what stories are we telling ourselves? What subconscious or internal bias starts to come in play in these scenarios? In this Inspired Action For Imperfect Humans podcast episode, coaches Christopher Lawrence, and Kyle Kalloo discuss internal biases, using empathy to better understand those situations, and how to change those biases.

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“The Stories We Tell Ourselves” Transcript:

In North America, all of our systems are built with a white male bias. They’re all built with a white male bias, which means what constitutes a qualified candidate is developed from a post-colonial white male perspective.

[Narrator] Is the thought of being imperfect, keeping you from taking action? Welcome to Inspired Action for Imperfect Humans. Each week, we give you real life stories and thought provoking research that inspires your soul to live a more fulfilled life through your own actions. From the heart of Calgary Canada. Here are your hosts award winning coaches, Christopher Lawrence and Kyle Kalloo.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and I mean with you, welcome back to Imperfect Inspired Human Podcasts. And of course, I know when you hear imperfect, you’re thinking about my cohort, Christopher Lawrence, when you’re hearing, thinking of inspired, you’re thinking about me.

You, you’re such a piece of shit.

I got to get my jobs in when I can, I got–

You’re such a piece of shit sometimes.

You got to get your jobs in when you can. What’s interesting enough, I’m curious, Christopher, when you heard me say that, what story did you tell yourself in that moment?

The story I told myself is, here we go, how typical.

Right, how typical and you already start thinking, what am I gonna say back to him? What am I gonna get him back? If not now, later, right?


Yeah, and so, I wanted to switch it up a little bit because I think this comes up and I know it comes up a lot in my coaching sessions with clients, when we deal with certain things, as they think about their leadership, they think about their parenting, they think about their life, their relationships with people in general, there’s the term I use quite often, and those of my clients who are listening knows this. I often use expression. What story you telling yourself in that moment, right? When you start thinking about a certain way, you start responding about a certain way, by the time we’re talking, that story has already started, right? And has already happened, you’re actually going through it, and you’re really trying to pull things together, right? Is from my perspective. So I know sometimes people and I think that’s the same for you, right, Christopher? Like when you–

What story you telling yourself in that moment, right?
What story you telling yourself in that moment, right?

I think it is, yeah, it’s the same for all clients, actually, Renee Brown does, on her Netflix special, she does a really great explanation of the story I’m telling myself is. And how she knows that people have done some work on themselves. When they start to say the phrase, the story I’m telling myself, we use it with each other too, like…


I think it’s another way of saying that we’ve let our own history, our own bias get in the way of what reality is in exchange for something that we’re experiencing and the history we have, everything kind of goes through this filtering system, right? So it’s like, nobody can see the world the way it is. We just see the world the way we are.


I hate hearing myself say it too. ‘Cause sometimes we just feel right.

Yeah, or you want to feel what you’re feeling, right? And I think about, for example, going down the highway, whatever you using, highway, freeway, wherever you are in the world, think about that. You always, people, everyone knows, if you’re in the left lane, that’s the faster lane, right? That’s not for someone who’s gonna make a right turn, cross over four or five lanes to make a right turn to exit off the freeway, right? Or the highway. So think about you’re going in, they usually say it’s about 100 kilometers an hour or something like that. And someone’s behind you. And you’re like, I’m already going 100, I’m already going 105. We start telling ourselves a story that, I, like, dude, come on, what do you? Get off my ass, I’m really going fast, right? And then we might not, I don’t do this, but I know you do this. You use explicit words to describe these people behind you, right?

That’s bullshit, Kyle, and it was her fault, now…

There it is.

So, it’s actually, this is interesting. So they’ve actually done a bit of research on this with drivers, and so it’s interesting. We for some reason as human beings, default, who kind of, for lack of a better term, we see cars as body language. So when someone puts their signal on and cuts in front of us quickly, or maybe they fail to signal as an example, we will often take it as a personal affront, which is why we tend to get so pissed off. Or if somebody is like behind us and they’re like tailing us, and yeah, sometimes the person is just, being a dick, right?

Right. Sometimes that is happening, right? There’s an arrogance and entitlement. But what you don’t know is like, maybe that person is like rushing to see, their grandma in the hospital who they know is like dying.


And they’ve got like minutes or hours, and it’s like, is it safe? No, but can we have empathy for the circumstance, possibly? There’s something actually, Kyle, I know you wanted to share a story here, ’cause you were doing some purging in your house, but before you do that, there’s actually something called the ladder of inference, and I don’t know if you remember this from the insights work, but ladder of inference in our office, we will often say I’m up my ladder. And if somebody says I’m up my ladder, basically what we’re saying is, I’m so far into my own story right now that I’m having a really hard time seeing the world a different way. That’s what we mean when we say I’m up my ladder.

Or he’s got his backup, right? This thing has got his backup, yeah.

Or the person has their backups. So we will say that in our office actually is I’m up my ladder.


This is called a ladder of inference and it's a real thing.
This is called a ladder of inference and it’s a real thing.

So actually this is called a ladder of inference and it’s a real thing. So basically the first rung on the ladder is that we experience and observe data that we received from the world. Kind of like a camera with an audio piece, right? So your brain doesn’t have eyes, your body has eyes, your brain can’t touch and feel, but your body can touch and feel. So your brain is just collecting all of this data, from its external peripheral equipment. So like a computer, a CPU unit, right? A computer processing unit, I don’t know whatever CPU–

Yeah, that’s right.

But the CPU unit only has peripheral devices. It actually doesn’t, the computer doesn’t see, it doesn’t have a mouse, but you attach a mouse to it. And so the computer uses that data to process requests that you make, whether it’s typing on a keyboard or looking at a monitor and it does a bit of output through the monitor, right? Our brains are no different. So we experience data as a video or audio or whatever, and we capture data. It hears words, it observes body language and it collects information, that’s the first rung. The second rung is that our brains select data, that it feels is relevant, and then it discards data that seems irrelevant. And this is where we start to get into a bit of trouble, ’cause the data that we select is the data that we believe is going to help us with our survival. So it helps us with regulating. So we only choose the data that we believe is relevant. So if you’ve spent a lot of time in trauma or fear or anger in your life, you select the data that you believe is gonna help you regulate those situations, which means, I wanna feel safe, I need to procreate, right? So that’s basically what regulation is all about. It’s all about sustaining you, so you can procreate and regulation is not just a physiological function, it’s also an emotional function. okay, third rung is, I add meaning. So based off of the data that we’ve selected, that’s been carefully filtered through.

That’s right.

It selects data, and we add meaning to that data that we feel is reasonable according to the data that we selected, the next rung is that we start to make assumptions. So basically all data that we have now selected has holes in it. ‘Cause it’s never pure data, right? It’s never pure data, it’s got holes in it, right? There’s gaps, so what we do is we start to fill in those gaps by making assumptions. Next one rung, on the ladder, we draw conclusions. So based on those assumptions and based on what’s best for me and those that we care for, or for those things that are important to us, we start to draw conclusions. We adopt beliefs based off of those conclusions as if everyone has the same conclusions and beliefs.


That’s where we run into trouble because we start to think we’re right, they’re wrong, and therefore–

Yeah, and how can they not all see the same way? Like how did they not see this? This is common sense.


This is like, this is kind of the stuff that we, and then we start playing into that, right?

Totally, and then the last rung is that we act based off of those beliefs as if they were proven facts, and we adjust new data to fit our beliefs. So the goal is to recognize actually that you are an imperfect human being and that you may climb up your ladder very quickly like for a lot of us, think about it. Somebody is tailgating you, and then they pass you, and then they cut in front of you. You can move from experiencing and observing the bottom part of the ladder to taking action by giving somebody the finger or tailgating them back within seconds, right? This process happens super fast.

Yeah, and I think that’s a piece that people don’t miss. And like you said, sometimes when you take that pause, like the action around, how can I interrupt that, right? How can I interrupt getting up that ladder, right? And so, if you think even that moment where Christopher said, what if someone was trying to go to the hospital because of the dying grandmother, or what if someone got a call from their kids school and they actually have to go there and pick them up, right? There’s all these things can happen. And so the moment when we start playing out that story, the assumptions that Christopher was talking about, where we’re saying, oh, this guy is being an a-hole, this guy is just trying to make this not safe for me. So I’ll show him, I’m gonna hit my break, I’m gonna slow down, I’m going to do all these things, instead of in that moment, and sometimes we say question or that feeling, the story you tell yourself, by introducing something new, by just saying, what I’m experiencing right now? What I’m feeling, the assumption, the emotions I’m going through this, be just before I act. This has to happen just before the act piece of it, is saying, is what I’m experiencing or the story I’m telling myself, is it fact, or is it feelings?

Do I know–

Sorry, the best part of this, Kyle, is that it can actually happen after you act too. It’s okay to go back through and say hang on.

To bring back.

I’m not, maybe I didn’t act or react in a way that would be caring or empathetic or in line with what actually happened in the circumstance.

Yeah, and that’s a great point, and thank you for that. Like I said, if you can catch it before you act, brilliant, that’s great, fantastic, what have you. And if you can’t, there’s nothing wrong with you saying, you know what, let me do that over. ‘Cause sometimes we feel it already happened, like what’s done is done, you’ll hear that expression, right? What’s done is done. No, you can actually come back to it. And I think you’d really build a strong relationship with that person, when you come back and say, listen, I didn’t like that at all. That came out, not what I really intended. Let me do that again, right? And there isn’t anything wrong with that because when you’re asking yourself, is it fact or is it feelings, it allows you to just slow down a process even before or after it allows you to process it. And again, most times it’s just feelings. And then if you wanna be able to take it to that next level is then you have that conversation, that person, and like Christopher said earlier, rings like, oh, sometimes I hate saying it out loud because then I have to admit that was happening. However, if I know this is a feeling that I think Christopher feels a certain way about me and it’s not factual, ’cause he didn’t tell me that, I’m gonna go to him and say, listen, the story I’m telling myself when I did that, was that I think you think I’m incompetent, right? And again, I felt that, I had that assumption about it and I’m giving the other person opportunity to either say, you’re right, you are an idiot, which Christopher usually does to me, And or two, to actually–

That’s not true. Or to come back and says, no, no, no. I’m not sure where you got that impression, but here’s what really was happening. So now you get it factual, and you can continue the dialogue or have a conversation.

What’s bringing this up for you, I’m curious? ‘Cause I know you were doing some purging and you kept sending my husband and I some documents and…

I came across a folder that has all my report cards all the way back to I believe grade three or grade four.
I came across a folder that has all my report cards all the way back to I believe grade three or grade four.

Well, let’s not talk about that. But what was happening is that I was going through a lot of these documents, and people on my social media probably saw some of those pictures. So I came across a folder that has all my report cards all the way back to I believe grade three or grade four and each of them, I was reading them, right? ‘Cause I kept them, my mom kept them and I took them from her and I saw some school photos of stuff, and I was such a, you could see the energy and brightness in my face and how I was sitting and how I was dressing, and I was like, Jesus, I was wearing a suit in grade four? What is happening? He didn’t mean to picture. So obviously I got that from my mom who really wanted to make sure I presented well. Well, the story I started to tell myself when I was reading these report cards, I had a lot of things to say about, Kyle should focus more on his studies and he should not worry about what other students are doing. Stop playing business in my class. Like all these things, that teacher put that out there, even on the interview, I remember teacher told my mom because my mom came over asking me about it, And one of the teachers said, “Kyle thinks he’s a businessman. “Like he runs, he tries to run my classroom “like a business. “He has a guy over there playing his secretary. “He has another person playing his assistant, he has…” All these things were happening. And I just thought to myself, in that time, I wasn’t listening to their stories that I should not be, right? ‘Cause I could have, right? But the story I was telling myself in that moment is, I am gonna be a businessman. I am gonna do great things in business. I am gonna have those big office where I have that big desk, ’cause, oh my goodness, Christopher, you know what I used to do? I used to put my little tiny desk close to the teacher’s desk and start using his desk as my desk. And he’d be like, okay, move this, like, what is this on my desk? No, put this on your desk, right?

You just wanted a big desk.

I wanted a big desk.

The funny thing is, is that Kyle still plays off this it’s funny, you are still very, very much that little boy today living your fantasy, right? Just, you love a big white chair. You love like, Kyle, you love that corporate life and lifestyle. The funny thing is, you know when I was a little boy talk about unconscious bias and stuff. So what would come back on my report card is like, Christopher’s like the little old man of the class, he’s constantly fighting for everybody’s rights. Even the people that bullied me or picked on me, I would be fighting for their rights, right? And it’s just like, if somebody picked on them, I would intervene. So it’s kind of, like it’s funny how those things shape us, as we get older, but I never played boss, but I would always play secretary. I loved having like, when Shane and I would play, it’s like we played business. Shane is my older brother.


We’d play business.

Yeah. So Shane would be doing his business stuff, which I think in his mind was all rockstar stuff. And behind me and in front, I would have this little table set up with a chair and I would be organized with my pens and my papers. And then I’d be ready. And then I’d be set up and waiting and I’d be like, okay, now I’m gonna go ask mom to come down and do business, right? Like come play.


The Stories We Tell Ourselves
The Stories We Tell Ourselves

And so, I’ve always felt like in a while I do love my leadership skills. I love being a team lead, like I love that. I love working with people and just helping them achieve their goals and dreams and removing obstacles. I still think I’m so much better as a second in command. So that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want direct reports, what I’m saying is that, I never wanted to be the one like leading, but I’m good being the second person leading, right? And that’s why, do you remember when you came and it’s like, the story I’m telling myself is that I’m not cut out for leadership. So, Kyle, congratulations, you’ve been a business partner in this company for three months and you’re now the CEO. Do you remember that conversation?

Yeah, I do and you had said at that time, I don’t wanna lead, I don’t wanna… And it’s not that you don’t wanna lead this distinction you were trying to make there, it’s that you don’t wanna be the final voice.

That’s it.

Like, you don’t wanna be that where theoretically the buck stops so to speak, right?

Do you know why I think that is?

But however, you really do a lot of support.

This is the story I tell myself. The story I tell myself is that I think that, that kind of leader needs to be able to… ‘Cause everything we do in life, passes through emotion. We know that, everything we do in life passes through emotion. It’s just that some of us lead with emotion and some of us have emotion kind of tacked back, but you cannot bypass emotion.


That is impossible.


I lead with emotion and I don’t think that’s a problem in a lot of circumstances. And I wish we actually had more leaders that led with emotion because I think we would just have more cohesive workplaces, less us and them, less here’s the executive team and here’s everybody else, right? We’d have more heart-centered or human first leadership. But the story I tell myself is that to make some of the decisions that I know that you have had to make, I think it would be hard to be a leader in that position who leads with emotions first ’cause you won’t lose sleep at night for some of the tough things that we’ve had to do, and I will. And so I think that it’s a story that I tell myself, and it’s very interesting. Kyle, I actually have, I went and dug some digging here, just some quick digging about this topic. So another way that I like to say this is it’s something called unconscious bias. So basically it’s like, we all have biases built-in. And of course with the way the world is going right now, there’s so much unconscious bias happening. And there’s so much confirmation bias happening. We work with somebody actually, Kyle, he’s very science-based particularly in the health realm, but then when COVID hit, it was like all of a sudden he was only pulling anecdotal evidence. He was only pulling anecdotal evidence, all of his evidence was like confirmation bias. Confirmation bias being if I believe that the sky is red and then I look up at the sky and I see that during sunset, that the sky is red, confirmation bias says, see, I told you the sky is red, right? We do this a lot, if we feel the universe is out to get us that’s confirmation bias or things like, where it’s like, maybe we believe that there’s… Well, geez, I’m so scared to give a suggestion, ’cause I don’t, I’m scared of confirmation. I’m really scared of like triggering somebody, but an example of this would be like, let’s say that you believe that, aliens are on planet earth with us. And then you see someone walking down a dark alley that looks like they have antenna on their head, and maybe it’s dark or whatever, but that’s your confirmation bias, right? So it’s like, see, I told you there are aliens. And I was like, well maybe there are, but we would need to kind of see more proof of that, right? So that’s confirmation bias, I’m not saying that there are aliens and that there are not aliens on planet earth, I’m saying, if we were to undo our bias, what I’m saying is that, unless you work in that field, you probably really don’t know. So unconscious, that’s confirmation bias, unconscious bias is very similar, right? So basically it refers to, it can refer to prejudices that we have, that we’re unaware of, right? And it exists in all sorts of cases. So here’s the thing, here’s some stuff at work. This was done in the United States, but certainly in Canada and other parts of the world, we would experience this. 48% of African women and 47% of Latina women were port being mistaken for administrative or custodial staff. That’s almost half, Kyle, that’s almost half, right?

And we see that sometimes, don’t we see that with like female doctors, or even nurse? Do you mean like there’s so many of those things? Or the male doctors will say, I mean, I saw that the other day, a male doc says he’s mistaken all the time as a male nurse, people think he’s a doctor or they feel reassured by him, right? And so there’s so many things, go ahead.

Well, that’s the thing, right? Like, Harvard runs into this all the time. So, I think it’s 60, 65 or 68% of Harvard applicants are Asian. But I think it’s only eight, this one I’m drawing from memory, only 8% of their students are of Asian cohort, which is like, and that’s like, statistically that doesn’t make sense. Statistically, if that’s the amount of applicants, then you should have roughly the same amount of applicants. And I know some people are like, but it should be the right person for the position. It’s like, we run into this when, I’m just gonna put something out there. I don’t mean it to sway anybody’s political opinion, but when our prime minister said, “50% of my cabinet is gonna be female.” There was a huge uproar about that because people were saying, but it should be the right person for their job, it shouldn’t be based on their gender. And my problem with that statement is specifically this, in North America, all of our systems are built with a white male bias. They’re all built with a white male bias, which means that what constitutes a qualified candidate is developed from a post-colonial white male perspective. Here’s an example of this. Some of this actually comes from our evolution too. Did you know that the lower someone’s voice is, the more likely they are to get elected as a politician? How many high voice politicians do you know? Not many.


Less than 15% of men are over six feet in the United States, less than 15% of men are over six feet tall in the United States. But 60% of corporate CEOs are at least that height.


Unconscious bias. So the taller a man is, the more likely he is to earn more than a shorter man.


That doesn’t mean he’s more competent. And so it’s like, well, it should be based off of somebody’s competency, but it’s not.

Sometimes these stories that we're telling ourselves could get in the way of your successes, of your relationships, of all these other things, right?
Sometimes these stories that we’re telling ourselves could get in the way of your successes, of your relationships, of all these other things, right?

Yeah, we, so it’s clear that we have so much unconscious bias. And I think you guys can read a little bit more and the reason why we wanted to really make sure we chat about this today is because sometimes these stories that we’re telling ourselves could get in the way of your successes, of your relationships, of all these other things, right? And again, make no mistake. Sometimes the story we tell ourself helps us to, right? All we’re saying is just for a moment, be deliberate about being mindful about the story you tell yourself and finding out is it getting your way, or is it a part of that whole unconscious bias for you to just step back and check what’s happening and then engage the person in a conversation. Because I’ll tell you right now, if someone came at me and just said, “Listen, Kyle, the story I’m telling myself right now, “there’s no need for me to go up a ladder, “There’s no need for my back to be up. “I can easily have a conversation.” And so if someone says, I think you think I’m an idiot, I’d be like, whoa, hold on, hold on, right? Which is sometimes can happen. So what I would say to you is, think about for this week’s Imperfect Inspired Action, one thing about the story you tell yourself, right? Being mindful of that. Two, maybe to the inventory, I challenge you for one week, if not a day, be mindful of those thoughts that you have and see the path that it goes down to, is it a path of story you’re telling yourself, is it an unconscious bias? What type of bias you may be having? And have you reacted a certain way? Christopher, do you have anything to add to that?

Yeah, I would just say that, this is a really important topic and it’s more pervasive than you actually think. You might spend just one whole day questioning if everything that you’re telling yourself, everything you believe is absolute truth, or if you’re up your ladder. I’m even, as we’re talking about this, I’m thinking about all of the unconscious biases that I have now. All of the stories I tell myself now, this is unavoidable people. There’s a great book actually called, “The Undoing Project.” This is a really great book about how do you undo your biases? It is impossible to not have biases, the question is, just whether or not you’re questioning those biases. So I really, really want people to dig deep into this because I think that our world is in such a place the unconscious bias has us fighting with each other rather than banding together to work on what really matters.

[Narrator] It’s our goal to build a global community of inspired action takers. And we can only do that with your help. So if you love Inspired Action, please leave a review on your favorite podcasting app and share us on your socials. You’ve heard from us, now we want to hear from you, go to and tell us what is the inspired action you took this week. Next week on Inspired Action for Imperfect Human.

Tara looked at him and said, “John, I’m not your slave and I’m not your lackey. “I did my job, and maybe you needed to be here on time “so that you could help troubleshoot some of these issues. “And if you have a problem with it, “why don’t you deal with IT? “I am done working for you in this moment. “I’m going to leave the room, good luck.”

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