Let’s take a moment to think about the stories we tell about ourselves. Over the next few days, pay attention to (and even write down) the comments you make or the thoughts you have that help to define who you are. Small phrases like, “I have a sweet tooth,” or “my sister is the runner in the family,” may seem insignificant when you look at them individually. Yet if we step back and view these supposed character traits all together, you may be amazed at the story you have created.
In the Beginning…
These stories start to layer upon us early in childhood, and can even begin when someone pays us (or someone else) a compliment: “You’re such a fast runner!” “You sure can eat a lot!”
Pretty soon, the comments work their way into our subconscious, and eventually become part of our own narrative. We build upon these thoughts and begin to add our own: “I’m a work-a-holic,” “I’m too impatient for yoga”.
Cheerleaders and Negative Nancys
Once you start to listen, you’ll see that these stories can be both positive and negative. While some phrases help to motivate us, “Swimming is my passion,” others can keep us from pursuing activities “I’d never have the stamina to run a marathon.” The negative stories can cause us to create unhealthy patterns, because once we tell ourselves a story, we will find events or actions that confirm that story. What’s important is to differentiate the positive stories from the negative stories, and to understand that these narratives are not static. Let’s confirm the positive stories instead. We all have the power to be the writers and editors of our own stories.
Rewriting Your Story
It is our responsibility and our gift to define the meaning of our own experiences. Consider someone who has a parent who is an avid runner. While one person might think “I’ll never live up to their marathon success,” another person could believe “I hit the genetic jackpot and will be a great marathon runner!” And of course there could be infinite stories in between these two readings.
While you reflect on the stories you think or tell about yourself, try to think about where those stories originated. Was it out of a place of fear or incompetence?
Documenting this practice in a journal can be especially effective. When you catch yourself making a negative statement, be sure to write it down. This will help you view your current story with an objective eye. You may begin to see themes or patterns. Be sure to keep track of the positive stories as well. In her book, Loving What Is, Byron Katie suggests asking the following four questions about each of the stories:
- Is it true?
- Can I, absolutely, know that it’s true?
- How do I react when I think that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought?
Now it’s time to create a reasonable new statement that can help you to move towards your goals. With time and effort, this practice will become easier. Don’t forget to utilize the support of your T School friends and coaches!