Who’s Telling Your Story?
I went through my entire life being terrified of roller coasters — until the moment I decided not to be. It both was and wasn’t as easy as that sounds. It took a huge amount of willpower to get myself on to the ride, and for the first few minutes I was clenched up in terror...but then I remembered a wonderful saying: “Fear is excitement without breath.” Once that thought was in my mind, I let go of it all and just started screaming and crying, and all of the nervous energy that had been pent up inside of me immediately transformed into pleasure and joy.
For me, this was just one small example of the ways in which we’re capable of rewriting our stories. For my whole life I would have told anyone who asked that I was a person who was scared of roller coasters, but the fact of the matter is I’m not! One simple sentence was all it took to help me rewrite that narrative about myself and change my entire experience.
Change up your narrative
Our lives are, of course, informed by our past experiences — but we also preemptively bias ourselves towards certain emotions or modes of thought thanks to the stories we tell ourselves about those experiences. We take them as fact or reality, but the truth of the matter is that “reality” is a fairly subjective thing. One person’s memory of a situation can be wildly different from that of someone else. It’s not that either person is right or wrong, it’s that as individuals we all take in different types of information; some people are more visual or verbal, some people have had experiences that incline them to be more forgiving or more demanding, and so on.
The problem isn’t the actual situations or our memories of them — it’s when we start to simply accept that those moments in our past must define us the way we’ve always believed they have.
Let me share an example.
Before I was married, I remember being at a dinner party, drunk, and sharing my frustrations with the New York dating scene. I 100% believed that I’d dated every man in the city that I could possibly date, and that the one for me just wasn’t out there. It was a narrative I created for myself, and no matter how hard I looked or tried to find Mr. Right, I just couldn’t. However, that story I was telling myself was a lie — the second I got out of that narrative, when I decided to move out of New York and stopped looking to date, was the second I met my future husband.
Start from the beginning
When we first explore rewriting our stories, it can be most transformative and helpful to go back to basics: write your autobiography. Not just the details of where or when you were born, but your primary relational details — what were your relationships with your mom, or dad, or siblings like? How did you feel in them? These early experiences can shape so much of your life without you even realizing it, to the point where we all unconsciously live out patterns that just happened to get established in our childhood.
We all have these old stories we tell ourselves — maybe it’s something like my fear of roller coasters or my doomed dating, maybe it’s that you’ve been made to believe you’re too loud, or too difficult, or too demanding, maybe it’s that you’re too shy or quiet. The magic of rewriting your story is that you get to flip that and start to see these things that have felt limiting or shameful become your superpower.
It’s not about denying your past, it’s about finding joy in it
When we rewrite our stories we’re not whitewashing our denying the hard truths from our lives. What we’re doing is acknowledging those challenges and showing ourselves how they’ve actually brought us power or been a gift in a way we previously hadn’t considered. Everything can be re-framed; we can all make space for whatever it is that makes us really us.
You can start to rewrite your story whenever you choose.
What are your re-frames? What are your stories and how can you find power in telling a new one for yourself?
Truth and memory are subjective things — we can’t live our lives trying to anticipate what other people want to hear, because we’ll inevitably fail. Today is a new opportunity for you to be the one telling your story rather than letting other people’s judgments and perceptions and expectations tell it for you.
What story will you tell?