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How To Change Your Internal Narrative Even If You Suck At Staying Positive

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

It was the 2019 Indoor Nationals 600m final.

I was about to compete in arguably the best heat of my entire career up until that point (still?) and racing an event that I wasn’t very familiar with.

I still feel my heart pounding in my chest as I warmed up under the stadium stairs and glanced shakily at the intense, powerful women doing drills around me. Nine times out of ten, I find myself in these situations questioning my *entire life* as a professional runner.

Sometimes I even wish that I wasn't about to race at all. "If only I hadn't qualified for this race." I think to myself.

Yeah, I will be literally within the moment that I trained countless hours and sacrificed so much for...wishing I hadn't qualified to get there. How crazy does that sound?

Something was different about this race though and I find myself returning to it time and time again when faced with situations I'm dreading. This time I was still nervous, but the whole vibe of that nervousness carried something else with it...


Excitement to put myself on a national stage in front of thousands of eyes, against a handful of extreme talent and ya know... just see what happens?

So what was so different about this time around when I was in that oh-so-familiar situation?

Replacing Limiting Beliefs With Positive Narratives

What was different about this situation was that—at this point—I had gotten really good at changing the narrative in my head.

This isn't something I'm good at always, which is probably why the first memory that comes to me is from a race several years ago.

But I want to talk about using positive affirmations to replace limiting beliefs and quite literally change the narrative...and what that can do for your happiness and productivity.

Which is what I did here!

Changing The Narrative

In the changing the narrative example above, I had found a way to switch my usual PANIC mode into a semi-relaxed, almost joyous and excitement-filled mode.

Actually implementing this strategy might not be so simple, but on paper it is. \ All I did was tell myself that what I was feeling was something else.

In this example, I was experiencing what we know as the feeling of nervousness:

  • heart racing

  • sweaty palms

  • feeling like blood is running out of your face and arms

  • tired and yawning

  • stomach-churning

What's interesting about these biological responses to being nervous is that they're super close to the same responses we have when we're excited.

Think about a time you were really excited.

Was your mind racing a mile a minute with blood and adrenaline moving so fast through your body that you could physically feel it?

All I did to change the narrative in this situation was tell myself that what I was feeling wasn't nervousness. It was excitement!

And honestly, it worked.

I vividly remember walking to the starting line for that race with my head held high and an uncharacteristic pep in my step.

I looked at the audience instead of down anxiously at my feet.

And I ran well.

And the whole day was not as traumatic as it usually is.

Practicing Changing the Narrative in Your Day to Day

When it comes to planning your goals and journaling about your life, implementing prompts that help you change the narrative can be a game-changer, just like it was for me that day.

What I mean by using prompts to change the narrative is pretty straightforward. You can practice changing the narrative of your life every day (or every now and then when you journal) to get a clearer vision of your goals and how you're going to get there.

Start by listing out some beliefs that are limiting you.

I say that writing down stuff that's bothering you is a good idea.

Lists full of happy things or things you're grateful for are awesome to do too, but when was the last time you wrote out a list of things that you doubt about yourself? That are disappointing you? That are preventing you from being your best self?

Add a spot in your journal to write these out. Don't just stop there though!

Now it's time to change the narrative.

Across from each limiting belief, replace that thought with a positive affirmation. Physically cross out the limiting belief if it makes you feel better!

Scribble that sucker out and write a positive affirmation, a change you’ve made that’s working towards erasing that limiting belief, or anything else that crushes (or works toward crushing) that doubt.

Examples of Changing the Narrative Through Your Daily Journaling

Using a daily journal or a manifestation journal to change the internal narrative in your head is a

productive and happy person's secret weapon. Our brains are great, but sometimes you have to trick them.

It's not really a trick if you think about it.

I was excited to be in that race and I was feeling all nervous and stuff because it was something I really cared about.

Nerves and excitement happen because it's something we want to do well at. Your brain and your heart know that, they just need a little guidance to keep them from panicking.

If changing the narrative still sounds like a confusing topic to you, before I head out I'm going to give some examples of changing the narrative that I hope give you a clearer idea.

Use these examples as guidelines as you start to practice this technique in your daily life!



I can't get anything right; this is impossible.

I work really hard and haven't given up. I will find the right approach.

Why did I think I could do this?

I am courageous, confident and capable of so much!

I am not as fit or as strong as I want to be.

I am grateful for this body that allows me to do so much.

I am so lazy.

I deserve rest to recover and heal.

Tomorrow is going to be a horrible day just like all of the days are.

I can plan ahead for a productive day and get good sleep tonight to feel rested and ready.

Change the Narrative, Change Your Life

When you're feeling negative, it can be really hard to break out of the cycle.

And trust me, I know that a few positive notes in a journal do not feel like the answer.

It might not be! There's a lot that goes into feeling more positive and happy in your daily life, that's for sure.

But if something so simple as practicing changing the narrative could help at all, why not give it a try?

It doesn't have to take up too much time or effort on your part. A few minutes a day (or even a week!) to readjust your mentality and give yourself a positive pep talk can go a long way.

In my free guide to planning for running and fitness, I give 8 printable planning pages that I use all the time. Changing the narrative and creating a plan to reach your goals is part of the guide!

Grab that on your way out of this post to jump-start your journey to happiness and productivity.

One last anecdote about changing the narrative before we wrap up:

I recently stuck a note to my bedroom mirror that says, "I look fly, I look good."

You know the song. I heard it in a commercial that comes on a lot and decided to write it down because I loved dancing/singing to it whenever it came on.

Now, whenever I see it I do a little dance in my mirror and think dang, I do look good!

It seems silly, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's working.

I love the random pick-me-up throughout the day. I was really talking down on myself lately, in life stuff, and it was starting to translate to not liking what I see in the mirror.

I'm really glad I accidentally stumbled upon this small little trick because it give me such a boost!

What do you do to change the narrative in your head and bring some positivity back into your thought process? Share what you do, because it could really help somebody out.

Happy journaling!


madeline kopp blog

Hi, I'm Madeline

Welcome to Madeline Kopp— your source of inspo for finding a balance between healthy living and going after everything that you want! Here you'll find balanced, healthy lifestyle hacks that keep things simple and stylish. Learn more. x, MK
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