We tell ourselves all kinds of stories.
Some keep us feeling safe. Some keep us playing small. Many aren’t even the stories that we’ve created ourselves, but stories that we’ve taken on—most of the time unconsciously—whether they serve us or not.
Often, we wear our stories as so many unchangeable identities, we surrender to them and accept them as facts—despite the fact that they’re making us unhappy—simply because we don’t realize that we have the power to change them, to rewrite them at will.
Where do these stories live? A good place to start is in the places where we feel ourselves lacking, where we feel that we’ll never be able to amount to anything, no matter what.
As much as we can be tempted to see these as fact—they’ve informed the way we live our life for so long, they must be the truth, right?—we can regain a tremendous amount of power over our existence by realizing that these stories are just that. Stories. And any story can be rewritten.
How often do we use words like these to justify staying unhappy:
I’m just not athletic. I never was and I never will be. I just suck at it, so why bother?
I have no self-control when it comes to food, that’s why I need to be on a strict diet!
I can’t seem to find anyone who loves me, there must be something wrong with me—that’s why I’m unlovable. I’ve always been like that and always will be.
THESE. ARE. JUST. STORIES.
Isn’t it enthralling to think that we can transform them at will? Even a little dizzying, right?
The longer we’ve clung to old stories, the harder it may be to see how we can take back control and make them different… but the more we can positively alter our life once we do!
HOW DARE I?
I have a story for you. One that I believed so ferociously that it dictated my actions for a long time.
See, in that story, I tell myself that my English is really bad. So bad, in fact, that I shouldn’t hope to work in that language, much less have the gall to let myself be heard speaking it on video. How dare I? It’s not even my first language! I have an accent! Have I no decency?
And so I spend months freaking out before networking events (thinking that people won’t be able to understand what I say), getting cold sweats before sending emails or publishing blog posts (because what if I’ve made mistakes and people call me out?), and absolutely refusing to appear on video (to the point where thinking about it makes me literally nauseous).
Now, you may be reading all this and shaking your head a bit. Although, you could also agree with it and it would be totally ok—that’s not really the point. The point is that I spent months—even years, one could argue—telling myself a story that made me really unhappy, that prevented me from taking action and, most of all, that sucked a tremendous amount of energy out of me.
And energy isn’t limitless.
Yes, it can be recharged, but when something constantly drains our energy, it’s worth addressing. Especially if it’s essentially a story that we’ve chosen to believe—whether it’s our own creation or someone else’s.
In the case of the story I told you above, I can choose to see things differently: I’m owning my voice, even if it means I’m not for everyone. I embrace my accent and my mispronunciations, as they are a part of who I am. It’s ok that I am different—I could even say it makes me distinctive! It doesn’t make what I have to say any less valid.
Once we realize that our stories are simply one lens through which we see the world, and that at any time we can switch this lens and adopt a new one, we can significantly change our outlook, and increase the ease that we can have in our daily life.
THAT DREADED C WORD
We all have stories. I have them. You have them.
Often, we’ll cling to them because they comfort us in our view of the world—regardless whether this view is what is keeping us from experiencing joy or not.
And it’s understandable: shifting our perspective implies that dreaded C word… CHANGE. Change is uncomfortable. Change requires work. Change can be very scary—and the more we resist, the scarier it becomes. Yet once we release to it, once we decide to move despite our fears, once we claim the power to rewrite our story, we get the see the world like we’ve never seen it before. New possibilities open before us, new avenues for joy.
I get to choose my story, just like you get to choose yours.
And if you’re not too sure how to go about it… well, I’m here to help!
So what stories have you been telling yourself? Are they ones that serve you? How do they make you feel inside (even if it’s something you’re not actually sharing with anyone)?
Do they keep you playing small?