The SFD: Analyzing & understanding the stories we tell ourselves

Welcome to the Leadership Vision Podcast, where we share our expertise in the discovery, practice, and implementation of a Strengths-Based approach to people, teams, and culture.

In our last episode, we discussed admitting to ourselves and sometimes others the story we are telling ourselves and how that simple phrase, “The story I’m telling myself is…” can really change how we show up in the world and how we interact with others.  

The SFD takes that concept further. The story I’m telling myself is a helpful practice when you’re in the moment when you’re about to act out of the story you’re telling yourself and you are able to recalibrate and act out of your values, rather than self-protection. The SFD is used after a really hard fall or disappointment. It is the path toward growth and learning after failure. 

What is a SFD?

The SFD comes from the work of Brené Brown and her Rising Strong talks about the “Shitty First Draft.” It’s what’s written after a really hard struggle or a fall, and it comes from Anne Lamott’s work. The idea is that you always have to start somewhere, so you might as well start with a first draft. It’ll be shitty.

The shitty first draft is a tool to utilize after something hard happens, when there’s a difficult fall, or if something didn’t go the way you thought it would. It’s a way to go back and understand what happened.

Oftentimes when we’re trying to understand a fall or a failure, we only see it from our limited viewpoint. The SFD allows us to analyze the stories we tell ourselves and to understand them better.

The goal is not to be the victim or the hero of our story but the author of our story.

Brené Brown

The Rising Strong Process

The SFD is the story we tell ourselves after something hard or difficult happens, or when we experience failure. You know the SFD is good if there are “bad guys” and “good guys”, and if the story is honest, raw, or possibly unshareable.  

To start the Rising Strong Process, choose a fall-down moment and write a short paragraph, 6-7 sentences, no more than a page. Write YOUR version of what happened, unedited. Don’t worry about anyone else reading your story or outside opinions. This is your perspective only. This is your SFD.

Next, ask yourself the following questions:

What are the facts and what are the assumptions in the SFD? Usually, there are way more assumptions than there are facts.   

What more do you need to know about the other people in the story? What additional information do you need? What questions or clarifications might help?

What part did you play? This is always the part that takes the most courage and practice to answer. What more do you need to understand? What more do you need to learn about yourself?

Common SFD Themes

We usually have the same SFDs pop up over and over again. Common SFD themes are: I’m not ______ enough. I’m too much. I’m annoying. I’ve disappointed people. I haven’t met people’s expectations. Look for the themes and patterns within your own SFDs. These insights give us wisdom into future relationships and interactions.

Your SFD

Create your own SFD. What are common themes? What can you learn from yourself? How can you change the story? Connect with me at

About The Leadership Vision Podcast

The Leadership Vision Podcast is a weekly show sharing our expertise in the discovery, practice, and implementation of a strengths-based approach to people, teams, and culture. We believe that knowing your Strengths is only the beginning. Our highest potential exists in the ongoing exploration of our talents. Subscribe to the Leadership Vision Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherSpotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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