Yesterday I did a workshop on Rewriting Your Story – it’s my thing right now and I have to tell you that this material is transformational at the foundational level. Sounds important, right? It is. I mean it.
We spend a lot of time exploring what our stories are in this workshop and in order to give participants a boost on finding their stories, I offer some categories of kinds of stories and some examples of my own. To be frank, this is also necessary to make this a safe space. I am asking people to think up some of the most painful stuff they’ve got going at the moment, I feel compelled to show them some painful stuff of my own.
At any rate, I offer these categories to you as a way to think about what kind of baggage you might be carrying around. One kind of self-limiting story is based largely on an event in your past. It doesn’t really matter what kind of event. It doesn’t matter how old you were. It doesn’t even, for our purposes here, matter what happened to you (which is not to say that it doesn’t matter at all what happened to you). This story, this event from the past is something that you repeat to yourself, something you return to again and again. You may see it as an explanation for how things have turned out. You have likely identified it as a turning point of some kind. It is an event that led you to some conclusion about yourself that may have seemed logical or reasonable at the time but has now become harmful to you.
The other major category of story that I see is the type that is a general idea about who you are, who you can be, what you’re capable of, maybe even what you could never do or have or know. These are trickier. Sometimes they come from a specific event, but sometimes they are a little harder to pin down. Sometimes they come from family beliefs. Sometimes they come from family roles. Sometimes they are just conclusions we have drawn at some point and just keep fueling up with new evidence.
I had a vague story like that that for all of its lack of specificity, created a great deal of trouble in my life. Somewhere along the way I got the idea that there was something wrong with me. You’re wondering what that means, but you see that’s the beauty of that belief. It can mean anything. What it definitely means is that there is something about you that is inherently bad or damaged or broken. What it also means is that every time something bad happens in your world, you know why.
And guess what? Bad things happen. So when I had pretty normal teenage angst – something was wrong with me. When I had a hard time feeling like I had “real” friends – something was wrong with me. When I struggled to feel connected to family – something was wrong with me. When I struggled to figure out what to study in college and rejected things that I loved and filled me with joy – something was wrong with me. When I struggled to figure out what to do with myself professionally – something was wrong with me. When I married young and made a mess of it from the very beginning – something was wrong with me. When I experienced a 7 year battle with infertility – oh brother was there something wrong with me. You see where I’m going with this. Anything can be evidence when we have a general crappy story about ourselves.
And sometimes we use that story to generate more evidence. If there’s something wrong with me, I can’t really let people see who I am because then they’ll know. If there’s something wrong with me, I might as well give up on big dreams, big projects, big demands because it won’t go well anyway. If there’s something wrong with me, I’d better do everything I can to make things alright for everyone and then realize how annoying and exhausting that is so I can resent them. See how that works? Now THAT’s a great shitty story. It cuts both ways. It gives explanations for why things will never be better AND it fuels the internal meltdown fires. It allows you to both keep your distance and feel the devastation of loneliness. It allows you to self-sabotage at the deepest level.
Do you have one of these, one of these horrible generic stories? Do you collect evidence for it? Do you use it to excuse yourself? Is it deeply written in your wiring even though you are starting to see it and your wise self KNOWS it’s the worst kind of b.s?
There’s work to do there. There’s work to do on that thing you’ve decided about yourself. And here’s the thing. That story? The one you’re already looking at with side eye – it’s a choice. It’s a choice you’ve made so many times it doesn’t even require you to participate any more.
So the work involves making a new choice, but that can be a really big step. So what about taking a smaller one. What about just noticing? What about just bringing that unconscious story you’re telling into the forefront? What about REALLY seeing yourself? What about deciding that MAYBE, just maybe thinking on purpose could be helpful and starting with noticing where you are today, right now, how often you have that thought, how often you retell that story, how strong and sure it feels, how ready you are to tell me that it’s a fact. Notice. That’s the first step, and even if you never take another, it will be different.
If that’s too small a step, dive into really changing things with my free mini book. It will tell you how to change that story of yours so you can watch your life change as a result. It really CAN be different.