I’ve mentioned on here before that I’ve been working to rewrite the stories I have written about myself in my head. I’m a firm believer that (generally speaking) what you think/believe becomes your reality. Obviously, there are exceptions to that, but if you think you’re going to have a bad day, it’s going to be a bad day. If you think you’re going to perform terribly on a test, you probably won’t perform as well as you could have had you walked in with confidence. (Especially if you think you’re going to perform poorly because you didn’t put in the necessary work beforehand.)
As I’ve gotten older, I realized that I was carrying all these old stories about myself. And I believed them. For years, I considered these stories to be the truth and never questioned a thing. It’s a slow process to rewrite those stories. It hasn’t been the easiest, but I have found it to be extremely valuable. I’m sharing this because as we’re starting with a fresh new year and it’s a good time to sit down and figure out if there are stories that you could be re-writing about yourself.
Here’s what I have learned about myself:
I am strong. I had always, always believed that I was unathletic and, taking it even further, incapable of ever being “strong.” Originally I started because I felt like I should be working out– and I came back from a beignet filled trip to New Orleans feeling very unhealthy. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I (!!!) ENJOYED working out. I share more about my fitness journey here.
I may not have been born with extreme muscles or a tall, athletic build, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not strong, or that I can’t work on my strength.
Realizing that I had believed this lie for pretty much my entire life made me start to question the other lies I had told myself.
I can have fun. This is something that I’m almost too embarrassed to share, but here we go. For a long time, I thought that I wasn’t that fun. One day, someone (in high school) labeled me “a wet blanket.” I can’t remember why they initially said it, but I took their word as the truth and I believed them. I let that label dictate my social life and it contributed to my already existing social anxiety. If I’m a wet blanket, then I definitely shouldn’t even bother going out to the movies or going to that birthday party or spending the night with girlfriends. Of course, if I’m not doing fun things with my friends then I’m not going to be having fun. And the lie was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I carried this label and secret shame around for a decade before realizing that it was just not true. One thing that I’ve realized the most was that having fun isn’t just what happens on Friday night. I have fun with my work. I have fun while cooking dinners every night. I have fun when I’m just sitting down with a friend for coffee. I think “fun” is something that can be implemented in every aspect of life, and it’s contagious. Other people will pick up on it and your good attitude spills over into everything you do.
I like to read. I’ve definitely mentioned this one before, but it truly BLOWS MY MIND that I used to hate reading. This is a lie that I came up with on my own and something that stemmed out of stubbornness. I hated required reading in school, and I took it to mean that I hated all reading. When I was a senior in college, I was feeling pretty lonely having just quit crew and my best friend had already graduated. So I got a library card and found myself sucked into the vortex that is Harry Potter. It was like a gateway drug for reading and once I finished the series, I never stopped reading! I wish I had discovered my love for books and reading sooner.
I’m pretty resilient. This is a little bit in line with the strength, but more about my mental strength than physical. For years I just felt… I don’t know, weak. Like I would wilt under any bit of pressure and I did, at times, like any human might. But for the most part? I would keep on keeping on. I didn’t even realize how quickly I was bouncing back from setbacks. I felt like I would wilt, but I didn’t.
One of my friends, pointed this out to me during a conversation where I was kind of putting myself down about something. She reminded me of a handful of times, most of which I hadn’t given much thought to at all, where I had been dealt a bad hand and powered through anyway. It was such an eye-opening moment because I didn’t think of myself as resilient and, yet, I had demonstrated many times over that I actually was. Just knowing that has changed how I approach situations where I’m unsure of the outcome. I know, even if the worst case scenario were to happen, I’d figure out a way to get through to the other side.
I can fail. I learned this the hard way back in college, but it’s something that I still struggled with. Once I realized that failing wasn’t the end of the world, I was able to take more risks than I would have when I was still afraid of failing. Failing isn’t great and it doesn’t feel good while you’re going through it, but the world keeps turning. And often, you come out the other side even stronger than before with new, valuable knowledge. Knowing that I might fail held me back in so many ways. It’s crazy to think of all the things I’ve done over the past two years now that I have given myself “permission” to fail (or rather, acceptance that failure is okay). I took risks with my business, I went on blind dates, I tried new classes. I might have nerves or specific fears about doing something, but the stress I would have had about specifically failing is alleviated if not completely gone.
When I think about how I thought about myself for so many years, it makes me really sad. That voice in my head telling me all those lies took away memories, experiences, and personal growth.
One major thing that I’ve been working on, in addition to re-writing those stories, is to prevent future ones from happening. A few of these old lies were planted from one moment in time (like that one person calling me a wet blanket) and they grew from that tiny seed to full-blown “truths.” I’m trying my best to get a grip on that. Meditation has really helped as it’s given me space from my own thoughts, and just the awareness that I could be doing it. If I find myself thinking the same negative things over the course of a week, I try to nip it in the bud and trace back to why that voice is saying it and correcting the thoughts right then and there. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to fix the story when you’re still on the first page than when an entire book has been written.
Curious to know if you’ve also found false narratives that you’ve created for yourself… and how you went about rewriting it.