We're conditioned to tell stories. That's what makes us human beings stand out. It's how we communicate with others. The stories we share tell others of our joys, sorrows, happiness, and pain. Our stories make us feel alive, acknowledged, and essential.
However, if we're not careful, we believe in the wrong stories we tell about ourselves. Often these stories started when we were very young and our parents shared their own stories about us. We're impressionable at a young age and the more stories we hear about ourselves, the more we adopt these stories for ourselves. Before we know it, we're living that story.
What story do you believe about yourself? How often do you catch yourself telling the same story, over and over again, whenever you're with friends, families, or even with your work colleagues? I know I've done it and I still do it, though I'm more aware of which stories serve me and are worth telling.
Why Do You Hold Onto Your Stories?
Every story you tell about yourself is a reflection of your identity. This is why you hold onto your stories. It doesn't matter if the story you're telling is demeaning, funny, or plain stupid. You hold onto it because you've been telling it for so long that it becomes your identity.
One of the hardest things to do is to let go of this identity, no matter how bad it is for you, as you fear losing yourself when you do. It's easy to become the victim. Yet, all you're doing is prolonging your pain, your self-inflicted misery as you tell everyone around you your story.
You allow your mind to go into overdrive, your thoughts swirling round and round, causing chaos within and without. In this state, you forget you're not honoring your Self. All you want to do is share your story even if it doesn't serve you. You believe it's your identity.
A few years back, at a work function, my husband at the time pulled me aside for telling a story about myself. I thought it was funny. He didn't.
It went like this: I was joking about how falling down the stairs in front of the board members or walking right past my CEO and ignoring him because I hadn't seen him was (hilariously) funny. My work colleagues thought it was just as hilarious. I was fobbing off my partial blindness aka retinitis pigmentosa as a joke and using these situations to show myself off as the clown of the office.
My husband felt there was a fine line between joking about my blindness and taking it seriously. He felt the more I shared this kind of joke, the more I would come across as the clown and not someone to be taken seriously as a valuable team member. I got his point.
And, while I still see the humor in being partially sighted, I choose the right time to share my funny stories about myself. And, I certainly make sure that I don't come across as a clown. Because that I am not!
What I did realize, many years later, was that I told this kind of story to hide behind my fear of losing my sight. I chose to tell stories out of fear. It was my way of pretending I was okay with living with a disability when in fact, I was deeply ashamed of it.
Instead, I could have shared empowering stories about myself living with partial vision. I've only learned to do that in recent years. I've now realized I can share a humorous story about losing my sight without losing my dignity or self-respect. In return, people express their admiration for me living with a disability.
The Stories You Tell
Too often, you might find yourself telling a disempowering story about yourself. You do this because it's comfortable. It's familiar. It's safe and it's your identity. That's what you've led yourself to believe anyway.
Your story shapes your life. This could be in a negative or positive way. Your stories are made up of all your failures - and your achievements. They could be made up of what makes you the amazing person you are - or what makes you the plain and dull ol' Jane (in your mind, that is!)
And, you tell these stories over and over again. They become your way of life. They are YOU, after all. Your stories make up your identity. For better or for worse.
But, when is a story good and when is a story bad? Well, if you're unhappy, battling to see any light at the end of the tunnel, and yet you insist on telling that same story then it's not serving you.
"If you keep telling the same sad small story, you will keep living the same sad small life'" - Jean Houston
Sad, scary, and so darn true! Think of yourself or someone you know who keeps going on about that one little incident that ruined your day/relationship/life and you know you're living "...the same sad small life.". Tell me now, how is that serving you?
How to Change Your Story Using the Power of NOW
You have the free will to make a choice about what story to tell about yourself. You also have the power to not listen to the stories other people tell you about yourself. When you find yourself telling a story to an audience (or to yourself), ask yourself, "Does this story serve me?"
If your answer is a resounding "No", you've got work to do. You need to change your story. I have just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now” (for the hundredth time!) It’s a book that one reads over and over again so that all of its wisdom can be absorbed and applied into one’s daily life.
I've written before about the power of living in the “moment”. It’s not easy to do especially when everything seems to be going wrong in your life. Well, life happens. But when you let these events take over and you start adopting them as your own story, you're in trouble.
When you turn a negative event into a drama and make it your identity., you're letting yourself down. All you're doing is creating more pain for yourself, even if it seems funny at the time of telling the story.
By living in the moment, you learn to understand the event for what it is and to NOT turn it into your lifelong drama. When you realize that NOW is the moment of power, you can take responsibility for the story you're going to share about that event.
Choose to make the event an empowering one, even if it was heartbreaking, devastating, or simply embarrassing at the time. Share a story of hope, of lessons learned, and make it inspiring so others can learn from you.
I find journaling a powerful way to reflect on my stories. This beautiful "The Power of Now" Journal is full of beautiful excerpts to inspire you while you contemplate and meditate on how to change your stories so they serve you.
I read a good description of the ‘Power of Now” the other day.
“You are dropping the weight of the past and the stress of the future to focus only on what’s happening right in this very moment so you can actually do something. As things happen in the current moment, you can apply the lessons you’ve learned in the past without letting them take over. As you strive towards your goals you can make future plans without getting caught up in a daydream of what “may” happen. Focus on what’s happening right now and everything else will fall into place." - Eckhart Tolle
The power of now is not letting the past and the future overwhelm you. The power of now gives you the gap you need to drop the pain and create an empowering story. The power of now doesn't allow your mind to take over, causing chaos within and without.
The power of now will serve you if you allow it to. It requires acceptance of your thoughts but then letting them go. It requires you to acknowledge that you've slipped into the unconscious instead of striving to be conscious. The power of now gives you permission to let go of the pain without fearing you'll lose your Self.
Take a deep breath and allow the power of now to awaken your consciousness. Only then are you free of the pain and fear. And, you're empowered to create the story you WANT to tell and share with others about yourself.
This post was published on April 26th, 2021, and updated on January 12th, 2022.
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