How to Choose an Interpretation of Yourself That Best Serves You

Neil StraussAdvice

You are your interpretation. So change your interpretation of events and change yourself.

But the way we talk to ourselves can be cruel and insane. If someone else talked to us the way we talk to ourselves in our own heads, we’d hate them and wouldn’t want to be near them. So why do we tell ourselves these things?

Let’s break it down:

The secret to self improvement is becoming self-correcting.

Your goal should be to take a look at yourself, your relationships, and your career and choose the interpretation that best serves you.

When you decide that your interpretation is real (and then you live out of it), that is often the source of your happiness (if you do it right) or misery (if you never break the cycle).


–What interpretation of who you are do you sell to yourself and sell to other people?

–Are you selling an interpretation of your life that serves you?

–How does your interpretation serve your relationships?

–Are you serving the version that makes you feel less-than, and others miserable and unhappy?


We have interpretations of things we say about ourselves. Often, it sounds like these:

“I’m not enough.

“Everything I do is wrong.”

“I’m unlovable.”

“If they knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me.”

And then, the person who believes these things gets into a relationship.

When they get into that relationship (and already feel unlovable), they’re already 50 points down.

Now that they’re in a relationship with beliefs like these, they WILL be unlovable, needy, desperate for affirmation, and scared all the time that they’ll be dumped for someone better. It’s a cycle of jealousy, suspicion, and doubt.

Often times, people with these interpretations can’t even accept being told kind words.

What happens next for the relationship? It ends in misery.

What happens inside their head? It reinforces the distorted proof that “I’m unlovable.”

Again, it’s their distorted interpretation controlling their reality.


People create destructive interpretations early on as children before they have cognitive filters in place in their prefrontal cortex.

Perhaps a critical parent (or caretaker) was emotionally or physically absent. They made their child feel unlovable and the child internalized that. And as the child grows up, they live out that interpretation and it becomes true.

Without correction, this mindset becomes the child’s adult life.

In neuroscience, this is called the Hebbian theory. In general, it shows that “cells that fire together, wire together.” It’s about adaptation. Your entire neurology shapes around the beliefs that you adapt and interpretations you accept—and you’ll keep reinforcing these beliefs and interpretations over and over again…

….Unless you break the cycle.

The solution to breaking that cycle is that you fire some other cells together: choose an interpretation that serves you and your life. It will undo you as you unwrap your story. There will probably be tears. You will have to open up some serious parts of your brain and go in deep to clean it out.

I know it’s not easy. It took me years of deep psychological unlearning and relearning to get to this point…


At a recent book talk for The Truth, I had a reader volunteer to help demonstrate a reinterpretation of something he hated about himself.

What’s something you do all the time that you hate?

Reader: “I smoke.”

What’s something positive you get out of being a smoker?

Reader: “It allows me to hang out with other people that smoke, and some of them are really cool.”

If you have a quality about yourself that you don’t like, you need to understand the positive reasons of why you do it.

Maybe you, too, have an addiction, and you use it to medicate your anxiety. But then you have intense shame about your addiction. This shame leaves you in a self-defeating cycle and you’ll never quit.

But it’s easier to step out of your addiction when your interpretation is positive (understanding why you do it.)

Try to choose the interpretation that serves you best.

This is so important to understand and do that I’m dedicating the rest of my year to working with people who are willing to sacrifice, step up, and develop active solutions. So if you’re feeling committed to changing your own interpretation, apply to join me this August at an intensive unlike any other I’ve done before:


The August H.A.V.E. intensive is all filled up, but make sure you’re on my mailing list to find out about the second H.A.V.E. intensive I’ll be doing around New Year’s 2019.