CONFABULATION

By: Topher Scott


I recently learned of a word that has given me a whole new perspective when it comes to conflict and self-awareness.  That word is CONFABULATION.

What a goofy sounding word, eh?

I had never even heard of it before, but in listening to a podcast with Brené Brown (a world class leader in self-understanding), her thoughts on the subject were unreal.  And it put the way I think about my interactions in a whole different light.  Specifically, the tough ones.

So what is CONFABULATION?

The dictionary definition is “the replacement of a gap in a person’s memory by a falsification that he or she believes to be true.”

Basically, it’s the voice in your head and the story that it tells you after something happens in your life.  Let’s try an example…

You are walking down the street and you see a good-looking girl (or boy) walking towards you.  As they approach, you go to make eye contact and give a smile.  But the other person doesn’t acknowledge you, puts their head down, and walks on past.

Later on, as you think about that interaction, the voice in your head starts to tell you a story.  It can be anything from “Jeez, that person was having a bad day” to “I must not be very attractive if that person doesn’t even acknowledge me.”

Another example…

Your coach hasn’t said much to you over the past couple days.  You feel like you’re playing OK, but your confidence level is wavering.  You find yourself in the locker room taping your stick when your coach walks by.  He doesn’t say anything and carries on to wherever he was going.

Now, the voice.  What’s it saying?

“Coach must not have seen me.”  Or maybe “He thinks I am no good and doesn’t even want to acknowledge me.”

We all have been there.  We tell ourselves stories to cope with certain negative experiences…but a lot of times those stories hold no truth.  But the inner voice tells us something that helps us cope with whatever anxieties that we have towards the situation.

In reality, the stories are make-believe and only concern what other people think.  And if we have a lot of stress in our lives (which most of us do) … the stories end up being very negative.

This is common, real, and a significant obstacle that many of us deal with on a consistent basis.

Our self-talk, particularly regarding what we think about what other people think of us, can cause a lot of worry.  It’s exhausting.

So…

What can we do about it?

I think there’s two major solutions to this challenge.

1. Recognize when you are telling yourself a “Make-Believe-What-Other-People-Are-Thinking-Of-Me-Type-Story.”

And then take small, small steps to better your self-talk.  With every interaction that doesn’t go as planned, recognize that things didn’t go your way first.  Then, recognize that you are telling yourself a story about SOMEONE ELSE’S thoughts.  And then tell yourself a more flattering story.

From the examples above…maybe the attractive person was overwhelmed in their thoughts, having a bad day, and wouldn’t have recognized anybody walking towards them.  Maybe your coach had to hurry to get to a meeting.  Or maybe they had to go to the bathroom!

Understand that the story you are telling yourself is FICTION and that you cannot control what other people think.  And after that recognition, begin to tell yourself stories that are a little more positive.  If that story is going to be make-believe either way…why not give it a happier spin?!

2. COMMUNICATE!

If something is bothering you…approach the person who is giving you stress.  So many times we tuck away our thoughts and feelings and convince ourselves that what certain people think of us is overwhelmingly negative.  And many times, it’s just flat out false.

If you feel like you and your coach are not on the same page…walk into their office.  Ask them questions.  That conversation may not be what you want to hear, but even if it isn’t you will hear exactly what they think.  That itself is liberating as you don’t have to wonder or tell a story…you know.

So the next time you catch that little voice in your head telling you a fictional story about what somebody else thinks about you…think of the goofy sounding word, CONFABULATION.

Recognize that you can take control of your own narrative and talk to yourself in a positive way.  I’ve started to do this and it’s helped immensely to ease my mind. And at the end of the day…who cares what other people think of us anyways.

Yes, I know, much easier said than done.  But if we take steps to slowly take that mantra to heart…I think we’ll all find much more peace within ourselves.  And that inner peace is a wonderful, wonderful thing!