How does your story shape your life?
Have you ever stopped to notice how your inner narratives impact how you feel? How you see yourself? The choices you make? The success you achieve? Have you taken time to shape and craft the story you tell others; whether it is in a social gathering, or at an interview for a new job?
You and I Are Naturally Born Storytellers
We have a natural capacity and need to tell stories and to understand, as well as be understood by others. It is both a way to connect, as much as it is part of our evolution and our cultural heritage. Our stories are central to how we see and understand ourselves, the world we live in and how we connect with others.
Simply said, our stories define us. To know someone well is to know their story — the trials and turning points, the experiences that have shaped their life and personality, the challenges that have tested them, etc. When we want someone to know us, we share stories that are important to us; stories from our childhoods and our families, school years and first loves, events that have shaped us and experiences we have found exhilarating or difficult. We build stories of who we are as we do things together, walk beside each other and invite people in to witness our worst and best moments.
What Is Your Story?
I don’t mean the “where do you work, what is your education or position or how many children do you have?” story — although that can be interesting as well. I am inviting you to look deeper. What is the story you have been telling yourself to overcome obstacles and be successful? How can that story serve and support you as you move forward to the next transition in your life? Or do you have a story you have been using as your reason and excuse for staying where you are, avoiding discomfort, uncertainty or the unknown and thus not allowing yourself to grow?
Do you have a story you keep telling yourself that is holding you back from being who you truly long to be or doing what you yearn to do? Look deep and listen. Only you know! Is there a whisper of impatience? Do you find yourself wanting something different? Do you find yourself listing up all the valid and good reasons for not moving forward?
How Does Your Story Shape You?
We all have our internal stories that shape how we see ourselves, good and bad. These stories have huge impact on our behavior and how we present ourselves to the world. Stop for a moment and listen. What do you keep telling yourself again or again? Does your inner narrative make you feel strong and empowered? If yes: great! If not: pay attention to what you are telling yourself. Choose a new perspective, change the words and create a more compelling story. Decide to see yourself in a different light. It helps to add some compassion for your struggles as well. When you change the way you see yourself by adding new words to your narrative, you are creating a new story. Practice making stories that are empowering you to step up and face your challenges. Creating and telling a story that resonates with our heart and soul helps us believe in ourselves. The way we tell stories are important to how we feel and how we are perceived. The words we use are not insignificant!
If you could choose between living each day with a story that drags you down and become that truth through the many repetitions, or with a story that is equally true and makes you feel good about yourself and your life; what would your choice be? The answer is obvious, yet we often live with the repetitive, self-limiting version. Sometimes a reframe is all that is needed. Other times we need to dig deeper.
When I use the word “story”, I do not mean telling a tale or making up something that is untruthful. Nor is it “something we make up to make a bad situation look good”. It is not about altering the facts, but deciding how we want to view them. Through the choice of consciously deciding how we want to look at our life and the events that caused us to alter course we can create a more effective narrative that supports the way we see yourself and our world.
The Power of Your Story
Let me tell you why I find the power of story and inner narratives so important: some years back a series of events happened that had a deep impact on me on all levels and brought me to a standstill emotionally, physically and mentally. The world as I knew it was no longer. I found myself thrown into an abyss where all I could do was to take one moment at a time. I became scared of everything and nothing. It felt like I was almost afraid to breathe. If I could keep myself very still, the world might still be ok. I felt myself frozen in a situation where I might handle it ok if I could focus only on the here and now, but if I had to deal with all the normal everyday things, it became too much.
My life was turned upside down. I was no longer able to function at the level I was used to. I was no longer the “me” I was used to being. Nothing was as it used to be. Quite simply, both brain and body went on strike saying “can’t do this anymore!”. For as long as I could, I had tried to ignore the many signals that I needed to slow down and make better choices until there was no other way than to listen, stop and make different choices. It took me years to break the pattern of overworking, stretching too far, doing too much and get used to a new way of working and living.
During this time my self-esteem and confidence took severe hits. Stopping up and slowing down felt counterintuitive to who I was and how I saw myself. I was scared all the time but unable to do anything about it. The fear was sneaky. It lurked underneath, draining me, making me tired, whispering perfectly valid reasons in my ears for not facing my fears, giving me sound reason for why everything was as it was. It felt like I was stuck in a waiting place. It was not until I started to take notice of my inner narrative and the stories I was telling myself that I started to question what was going on. I heard how I talked about myself to others and noticed how sick I was of the way I told it.
Shifting Your Story
With that new awareness, a shift started to happen. I noticed what I kept repeating to myself and to others. I noticed how it made me feel. The stories were true, but there are many ways to tell a story and mine was far from compelling. It was a listing up of facts that lacked life, pride and joy. It was only a fraction of the whole. Instead of living my life fully I had become a victim of circumstance, and what made it even worse was that I strongly believed that this was not supposed to happen. Working as a coach I was “supposed to know better”. This sent me into another loop until I started noticing my narratives again, my thoughts around it and the feelings and emotional state they sent me into.
The real shift came when I, on a continual basis, started asking myself what story I wanted to live. What did I want to be true for me? Who did I want to be? How did I want to face my fears? And what could I let go of? I slowly started to dream again, to feel joy, to believe in myself and to see a way forward.
Each moment is a new beginning. Each day is an opportunity to grow, to learn and to reach a little further into who we are and the difference each of us makes in the world.
If the story you are telling yourself is not working then it is time to take a good look at it. You have the power to write and rewrite your story until it aligns with who you want to be. Create a story that empowers you to be your best self. You — and only you — have the power and ability to create your story.
So, how will your story shape your life? What do you keep repeating? Notice how that serves you or not, and then make a choice that makes you feel alive. Even one tiny thing is an important first step!
Did you find this useful? If so, please share or leave a comment about what changed for you. I would love to hear from you!