Personal

Things I’ve Learned About Myself

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.

Carly A. Heitlinger

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.

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62 Comments

Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

I started humming Rewrite The Stars from The Greatest Showman partway through reading this haha. // Similar to how you described fixing the story when you’re still on the first page, a metaphor I like is: if you’re in a hole, don’t keep digging. // This was such a powerful post. I think I’m going to have to spend some time with myself and figure out how I want to rewrite my story. I used to be really confident and sure of what I wanted, but I’ve been feeling a bit lost these few months post-grad, and over time my self-confidence has shrunken. I feel like I’ve lost my energy and am just rolling with the punches instead of carving out my own path. So thank you for this, and I’ll be giving it a try! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

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Irene Tjia

I can SO relate to what you wrote here!

For years I believed the labels that were put on me (e.g., being “too serious”, not athletic, not a good driver). I let these labels dictate my behavior and so, indeed, these became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’ve been working on breaking free from these labels – just doing my own thing and knowing that I’m more than the label people put on you. Feels really liberating!

xx Irene | http://www.clubcoconutti.com

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Hope Cuxeva

Wow Carly! Honestly thank you for writing this post. As an 18 year old college student, I find myself doubting myself and having these negative “stories” about myself all the time. So thank you for giving me a new perspective on the way I think!

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Jenn Record

this post is inspiring me to consider how I might rewrite my false narratives. I think I’ll start with my health, too! Thanks for the inspiration!

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Taylor

CARLY !! This. Post.
Thank you for putting these words out into the universe, because I have struggled with this for so long. Your journey with working out is actually the first time I ever realized that I had a narrative in my own head that said “I’m not athletic, I don’t like working out”. From there I have paid more and more attention to these kinds of thoughts. I had a realization soon after, that one of the biggest scars I secretly carried around was this thought that I was intrinsically a negative person; a “negative Nancy” who sucks fun out of things. And why was this branded on my soul? Because one day some careless person in high school thought they’d help me out by giving me some advice I didn’t ask for, by telling me I should fix how negative I am. One moment, and I accepted it as truth for YEARS. You are the first person I’ve ever heard talk about a similar story, and I feel so inspired to take time to pay attention to the other automatic lies I believe about myself unconsciously. Thank you so much.

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Allie N.

This is so insightful! I’ve definitely experienced some of this recently, and I didn’t realize it until you put it into words. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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Sarah

Similar to your “wet blanket” problem, I had someone in freshman year tell me that I “just wasn’t that likeable” and I believed this for almost a decade. I didn’t invest in friendships because I thought people couldn’t like me really. It took getting married and wondering who I would invite for me to sit down and realise that I had actually built relationships with peers, coworkers, neighbours over the years and many of these had turned into friendships. I now am more proactively reaching out and catching up regularly with people. My social circle, and confidence, keeps growing 🙂

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Alyssa K Gianino

This is one of my favorite posts you’ve ever written. We are the same age and I feel like I didn’t start convincing myself of these things until the last 5 years. I was so confident until I became an “adult” and I felt like it all was thrown out the window. I am excited to make a list of things I want to reinvent! Thank yoU!

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Chelsey

Oh Carly this speaks to my perfectionist, “boring” person heart so much!!! I totally agree that what we think of ourselves is what we become, and it totally influences the way we see the world! I battle with feeling like I’m a very unfun person, so if someone can’t go to lunch or come visit for a weekend I assume it is because I’m boring and they just don’t want to even though that more than likely isn’t the case. I’ve been trying Danika Brysha’s practice of writing your own future biography to try and speak who/what I want to become into existence and I think it is really helping! Also, man is failing not like the hardest thing in the world?!

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Lindsay

I connect very much with this post. My while life I’ve struggled with self perception. Similarly I have also always been afraid to fail, and I’m so hard on myself for any mistake. I used to not even do things I like to do like wear a certain outfit or do a sport. I’m working on it, and I’m proud to say I tried a new sport, skiing, the first time last weekend, which I never would have done a few years ago for fear of failure. These types of posts and your blog really inspire me.

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Taylor

I absolutely love this, Carly. I can relate to several of these so well. This is something that I definitely need to work on myself and rewrite my own personal narrative. I know that I am one of the main things holding me back most days. Thanks for sharing this!
Taylor | http://www.livingtaylored.com

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Libby

So, my dream is to be a physician, and since starting college, I have been on quite the journey to get there. Before college, I planned that I would go straight into med school after undergrad. I did not do very well my freshman year, and many an advisor, and professor told me I didn’t have what it takes for medical school. This was crushing….But, it is my dream, so I stayed a biology major, and kept taking the classes I needed. Throughout college, I improved my study habits and grades, and learned A LOT about what works for me in the process. I realized that it was not a good move to apply for med school while still in undergrad, and this really bothered me because it was not what I had planned. I was feeling defeated, and then took the MCAT….and did very average, which was again crushing. After graduation, I started to work as a medical scribe in a gap year, and again, was not thrilled about this gap year. I ended up scribing for 2 years, and taking the MCAT again, but did not improve much. I felt very defeated, and had zero self confidence because all of my scribe friends were getting interviews and acceptances to schools. It was hard to be happy for them. I think since freshman year of college, and professors saying I was not smart enough for this really took me down. So last spring, I decided that I was going to go for a master’s that was going to help strengthen my application. I applied to a lot of schools, and was accepted to every program. I decided on Rutgers. Last semester I got a 4.0, and it felt so good to think back at undergrad, and tell myself, I AM smart enough. It took almost 7 years now to get here, but I have finally gained the confidence, and know that I can do this and achieve my dream!!!

Thanks so much for sharing, Carly! I really admire who you have become!

xoxo Libby
https://premedwearspearls.blogspot.com

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Courtney

Thank you, Carly, for sharing your story, and thank you Libby for sharing your story as well.
I can relate to your story, Libby. I was told by my partner in life that, “maybe you’re not meant to go to law school and become a lawyer.” Performing less than average on the LSAT was a humbling experience. Having the person you hoped would believe in you and find out he doesn’t is a heart breaking experience. It took me a while to stop giving a fu*k what other people thought of my journey, but now I’m owning MY journey and letting the people that I meet know. Since owning my story, I have gotten ALL positive feedback from women telling me to take the LSAT again and keep trying. Problems are inevitable. How we pick ourselves up, dust the shit off, and solve our problems is what makes my life happy and beautiful. I wish you all love and patience in your journey.

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Natalie

I totally relate! Someone said to me once “I wouldn’t consider you to be a particularly ‘fun’ person” and it stuck! I identify so much with this and with the idea of talking yourself through lies that you’ve led yourself to believe. Thanks for this, Carly!

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Hannah

Carly,
I had never really considered these thoughts before, but I think you’re completely right. You have me wondering what kind of things that I need to re-write.
Great post!
xo,
Hannah

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Kristen

This is quite possibly my favorite post ever. I am pregnant with my first (a girl!) and reading an interesting parenting book about how to break the cycle of bad parenting habits passed down by our parents. I have talked to my mom about it so much (she gave me the book!) because she feels like there were “mistakes” she made as a parent that she always told herself “she couldn’t help making because she’s just like her own mother.” But that’s a lie we tell ourselves, just like these you outline here. Thanks so much for this post, Carly!

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Sarah B

This is really good stuff. It’s crazy how an off-handed comment about another person can stick with them for so long–a good reminder to be kind to others!

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Annie

Love this! I think we have similar personalities and I can so relate to the wet blanket comment. I’ve never been the life of the party and I have been insecure about it my entire life.. which became a cycle of me convincing myself I needed to be more fun so I go out but then get so anxious when I’m out that I can’t have fun! I ended up struggling with alcohol because it felt like the only way I could escape the anxiety and “be fun.” I finally had to realize that everyone has different ideas of what’s fun. My people love me for me!

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Zoe

Thanks for sharing these, Carly! I especially love the one about being/not being fun. There have been times in my life when I have felt boring/not fun (and a couple people have even told me that I am boring). But you know what? Fun is a mindset and I’m glad we’ve both found it! I think you’ve also shared an important lesson in not letting others define you. Great read!

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katherine

This has been the best realization for me, and probably one of the most important things I’ve realized throughout my college career (I just graduated a semester early). I’ve phrased it as “you don’t have to be the version of yourself that you thought you were.” It can be as simple as “I’m not the kind of girl who is good at curling hair” (ok, so practice!) or “I am not one for taking chances or going off path” (I’m leaning more into uncertainty with my future now). Thank you for pointing out how POWERFUL it is when we start questioning the stories about ourselves that we have always told!

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Elizabeth

Carly….. YES. This is so good!

Every year, I work through a goal-setting book called Power Sheets. Part of the prep-work, which is a pretty deep and detailed dive into WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT, is “Breaking the Identity Box.” The instructions are literally this practice – what do you believe about yourself because of what you’ve always been told or always felt about yourself, and how can you flip it on its head. If you feel week, challenge yourself to try new workout classes. Change the way you define strength. If you feel like you aren’t fun, redefine what fun means for you. It’s so powerful!! I continue to think that I may not be able to ever find my person and, by association, I may not be worthy of being loved. THIS IS JUST NOT TRUE. This is part of what society has forced on me, what social media comparison has lead me to believe. Instead – I remember that love can come from anywhere. I remind myself that there is not a deadline on finding my person. We have control over our thoughts, but it takes practice. Brava, Carly!

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Kimfrom3 peanuts

Great posy Carly and very brave too. I spend a lot of time working with clients on these kinds of issues. it is good to be figuring these thing out in early adulthood and making them better. I admire your transparency too as it will surely help others. A guiding quote of mine is “Be careful what you say to yourself for you create your own reality.” In fact, it is in the power point I am using in my talk about marriage tonight as it relates to how we see our partners and our relationships too.

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nessa

What a post. -yes-
. . . . not being a writer I am having a hard time finding the words to affirm and agree with what you wrote.

This one is a keeper.

We grow. We mature. We evolve. We can add a depth and richness to our character and personality.

We are -not- stagnate.

Thank you for writing this thought provoking piece.

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Ali Koch

Thank you for sharing! Damn sometimes you really make me think Carly. I can so relate to the “wet blanket” teasing [which was never funny] that haunted me for a bit. I’m so grateful for your personal posts <3

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Elizabeth

I really enjoyed this post! It definitely inspired me to reflect on what stories I have told me about myself in my head, and how I can rewrite them. I can identify with the “not being fun” story–something I’ve worked on changing throughout my 20s, and I agree, fun is what you make of it on a day to day basis. Thanks for writing this post!

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Claire

I really like your perspective on this. It’s important to reflect and understand that you can’t trust every thought that comes to you. Love the inspiration!

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Cassandra

People will never know how much one comment can stick with you over time. Like so many here, I have wrestled with certain labels that I’ve placed on myself. I’ve found that the best way for me to address these labels is to challenge them. I’m not a fun person? Well, I’m going to try some a new experience or say yes to that invitation and push myself outside of my comfort zone. I know now that I can be whoever I want to be. You can never control how other people view you either, so it’s been important for me to learn to let go of that. Good luck to you on your journey!

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Alexandria

Wow I am relating to this post a little too hard. Especially with the idea of not being fun; people in high school and even college would tell me that I am boring or come off like I think I’m better than everyone when in reality I just am introverted when in situations where I’m uncomfortable (cue: going away from home for the first time for college). And I kind of allowed people to treat me poorly because I allowed myself to be labeled like that when in reality I have neither of those traits!

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Gillian

This was a really great post, Carly! I’ve been thinking about this lately too. I think my number one lie I tell myself is that I’m not confident. I may not be as confident as others but when I know what I’m doing, I definitely am.

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Mel

LONG time reader here. This post made me cry– SO powerful to really think through what narratives you carry around with you and what is really true and what isn’t. This has really inspired me to think about what stories I have about myself. Thank you so much for sharing!

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Gretchen

In high school, some friends told me that they stopped inviting me to things because I appeared to be too focused on school and never said yes when they did invite me. Holy moly, that bothered me for a LONG time. I finally have realized that I’m quite introverted and feel most comfortable in small, familiar groups (or alone, for that matter), so I probably did say no often. Additionally, hearing that I was too focused school eventually helped me find better balance between academics and social.

I graduate college in May (!!!) and it’s exciting to look back at how much I’ve grown and changed since I was a sophomore in high school not getting invited to parties.

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Jessica Alvarez

I really love this post <3! Definitely relate to the “I am strong.” I’ve been working out regularly for almost three years, and I still find myself imagining my body as a completely unathletic (I mean, ZERO muscles) 12 year old. But I used to visualize myself as that all the time. Now I *sometimes* imagine myself as muscular and capable! Getting there 🙂

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Jody Whitfield

OMG Carly you are literally telling my life story with this post! You are definitely SO resilient (long time reader right here :)) and all the other things mentioned! I’ve been working SUPER hard on mindfulness, and accepting that I am not my thoughts, and it’s true, you really can catch yourself starting these non truths of not being “enough”. I’m so proud of you!

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Andie

Carly have you ever gone through a season of difficulty or a particular area that you weren’t ever able to conquer? If so what was your inspiration for getting that experience? I love the idea of rewriting stories or lies we’ve told ourselves—awesome post!

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Allison Hackett

wow carly i love this. i’ve so been ruled by this throughout my life and it wasn’t until a few years ago that i took the control back slowly. thanks for sharing and being raw with us.
Allie
modbroadco.com

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Bailey Carver

Thank you so much for sharing this! It is so crazy because I was just reflecting on this same idea, and you just gave it the best wording. I used to tell myself that I wasn’t resilient or strong enough when things went wrong. I took a lot of time over the past year to rewrite that story for myself and it’s just so funny because after a really tough week this week I am still walking away thinking wow I got through all that and I am excited for the next day and next problem I have to tackle.
Thanks for sharing today Carly!

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Mimi

Wow, This post is ringing so true for me right now! We have the same agenda for re-writing our thoughts and what we think is our truths. I just started Oprah and Deepaks meditation series and really love it. And believe it or not, today I went to a hypnotherapist to work on a phobia I recently developed. It is such strong evidence of how the mind really does write so much of our reality. So interesting, and I love hearing other peoples journey. Keep up the amazing work!

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Erin

Wow, thank you SO much for sharing. Blown away at your post because I am currently working on all the lies I’ve told myself after so many years that I’ve made myself believe! Similar to you, I find it so sad and I can’t believe all the time I’ve wasted believing these lies and the impact they’ve made. I’m very thankful I’ve realized this and am working through it. I thought I was alone in struggling with this so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing!

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Erin

Oh my gosh, I relate so hard to the “wet blanket” comment. I dont think anyone has ever used those exact words on me but I’ve definitely gotten “no personality” and similar. It affected me for a long time too… sometimes it still does, like when I’m in a situation where I’m meeting a lot of new people and I worry that’s what they must think of me.

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Rachel

Loved your post and your honesty, Carly! Brené Brown is an amazing writer and psych researcher and if you’ve never read “Thr Gifts of Imperfection” I think you’d love it!! Goes in line with a lot of what you said here 🙂

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Victoria

Wow this post resonated with me so much! I have always been called a “fun sucker” and that I don’t have many friends. I have carried these assumptions with me for years and it has definitely affected my self confidence. You have inspired me to re-write these stories!! Thank you!

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Selena

When someone would talk to me about an idea they had (work related), and I asked them questions about potential problems that might happened/what they would do to fix it I was told I was being too negative. In the beginning, I was very good about telling people that just because I don’t jump up and down immediately after someone tells me a great idea doesn’t mean I’m negative. I was just trying to be realistic. Somewhere along they way I lost that, and started to believe I really was a negative person. Then I found the Enneagram (praise the Lord)! This helped me understand my motivation behind the choices I make and eventually I became proud of the fact that I try to help people think practically about something because that is how I show them I care about them and where they are headed. It’s been difficult to rewrite the “I am negative” story, but I’m getting better!

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Dee

This post really crystallized some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately. I doo this all too often and I’m realizing how much hard work it is to rewrite those stories. One thing I noticed I do is I take how I feel in a situation and generalize it, then it becomes my sorry. For example, “my body hurts right now” turns into “I am always in pain and therefore can’t do anything”. This has followed me around for years and, like you, I am working hard to change it. One thing I am doing is actively confronting fears and stories about myself. So this year I am working towards running a 5k (because someone once said I couldn’t) and I’m also going indoor rock climbing to confront my fear of heights. I don’t think I’m going to snuggle up to spiders anytime soon (another fear) but this at least makes me feel I can take on and change something tangible. Last year’s fear was camping and it ended up being one of the best things I did all year.

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Erin

This post is so inspiring! Thank you for this – I’m encouraged to write my own “lies I’ve told myself” to get them out of my head and out of my life!

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Tracy

Ouch, this was very eye-opening especially about the labels that people gave me which, stuck with me.

I’ve read this post now 3 times. Hard but must make some changes.

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Mary

Thank you for an insightful post about aging and getting to know yourself. The fun vs wet blanket section reasonates with me. It’s so deeply embarrassing for me to discuss as well, my situation was a bit different.

I kid you not when I tell you I used to pretend to be serious. Sort of stoic, rude, French-girl, I couldn’t give a flip type of serious. Mid-high school I wanted an image change – I felt juvinile, giddy and goofy. Socially I was overly excitable, but still a serious student. I was told by a (good, close) friend that it was an unattractive quality I should change. So I set out to be outwardly smart, serious, seductive. I focused a little under a decade to being philosophical, quiet, moody, mysterious – my personality, attire, relationships, majors, jobs… everything was chosen to keep up my stoic appearance. I would try not to laugh or smile, to not care, I never had fun, I was NY pessimistic… all to live up to my goal of ultimately being more attractive.

Around 25 I slowly gave up the schict and started to be myself. Silly, excitable, joyful, colorful! Not serious, nor stoic! Life became beautiful, I’m now 30, with a husband and friends, amazing career. I enjoy everyday smiling at puppies, laughing at memes, goofing about the roomba, wearing uncool clothes and just loving life. 30 is powerful, enjoy it.

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A Girl, A Style

Carly, I absolutely loved this and related so much. I actually relate so much to all those labels – put on me by others or by myself – and to be honest I’m still trying to outgrow them. But thank you so much for giving me such food for thought; often our actions are because of things we believe about ourselves (true or not), and it’s up to us to rewrite those stories.

Briony xx

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Allison

I cannot even begin to describe how much this post resonates with me. We all tell ourselves these untrue ‘stories’ about who we are / who we can be and then let them become our reality. I love how you are focused on rewriting your stories. The genuine confidence this post exudes is incredible. This is inspiring.

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Allison

I cannot even begin to describe how much this post resonates with me. We all tell ourselves these untrue ‘stories’ about who we are / who we can be and then let them become our reality. I love how you are are focused on rewriting her stories. The genuine confidence this post exudes is incredible. It is inspiring!

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