One of the things that adds tremendous stress to one’s life is the stories he tells himself and the impact they have on the quality of life. I knew a woman who was in her 70s and within an hour of meeting anyone she had informed them that her mother died when she was ten years old. Now it was true that her mother did die when she was young, but what purpose does it serve to educate random people as to that fact? What need is she fulfilling? Marilyn used this story to rationalize various developmental issues she had not dealt with. She did not feel she had a role model for femininity. (Television, movies, friends?). She believed she did not know how to be in an intimate relationship. She felt awkward about relationships in general. Thus the story, why am I not in a relationship – my mother died when I was ten. Why have I done this or not done that? My mother died when I was ten. And so it goes.
Most people have stories they tell themselves. I have hard lots of them. I need to keep the job I have that I hate because I can’t make this much money anywhere else. (Result: misery and stress) My parents taught me to be humble, never toot my own horn or say what I can bring to the table. (Hence: no career advancement.) I must stay in this abusive relationship because who else would want me. (Result: low self-esteem and misery.) These stories either increase or deflate energy. Your story expands or depletes your self-opinion and confidence.
Stories can keep you hooked into anxiety provoking positions. Example: I always get nervous around people; I am awkward, shy, introverted, backward, not good enough, not that smart, etc. I am Italian, Jewish, Albanian, European, a daughter of the American Revolution – you name it. People use these labels to identify themselves and the labels conversely create limitation and with limitation comes stress. Each label carries a meaning, or it wouldn’t be used at all. We provide the story to define who we are and then we are trapped by it.
When the woman who lost her mother at ten tells her story, she is explaining why she hasn’t grown beyond the challenges of her early life. She has convinced herself that she cannot move beyond the stilted image she has created of herself. And, yet, in her life she became strong as she learned to navigate life without the nurturing influence of a mother. She really doesn’t need to keep telling the story.
When we tell “our” story, it is important to note if it has become a prison, a safe haven, an excuse, or a jumping off place. Just because you were born an orphan and spent years in foster home and orphanages (like Wayne Dyer) does not mean you are any less equipped to manage life than someone who grew up in a “Father knows Best” family, or the Waltons. Living within various cultural, ethnic, locational, stories can squeeze us to follow traditions and cultural patterns that are not right or a bad fit for who we want to be. If we confine ourselves within the story, we may not have room (space) to explore new, creative possibilities.
Consider the stories of your life. How do you feel about them? Do they serve you? Is it time to let go or look at them from another point of view? Possibly resolve them – rewrite a story or create a new one. Are there challenges and difficulties you have blamed on external conditions or other people when what you are dealing with is just a story that needs revision.
Have there been opportunities you lost because you were attached to a story that precluded taking advantage of them. Observe your stories. You speak them all the time, to others and to yourself. It could be a “poor me” narrative that has been there a long time and has repeatedly gotten in the way of living a joy-filled life. Oh, wouldn’t you just know that I would get a traffic ticket, house fire, released from a job, lose a friend etc. (Name the pain.) This victim narrative keeps you small, miserable and anxiously waiting for the next shoe to drop.
When you catch yourself in “story-mode,” step back and ask yourself if this yarn you’ve been telling yourself is making your life better or worse? Is it increasing or diminishing your happiness? Is it blaming someone else for your circumstances? If the answer is yes, the story is generating angst, self-doubt, and stress, and it needs to go. You are the one that can change it, revise it, eliminate it, and move on. As you master each story, you will find it easier to live without drama and judgment. You will be able to look for potential in each circumstance and be willing to address it as a matter of growth.
With each step, you become calm and peace grows.
Jean Walters is the author of: Be Outrageous: Do the impossible - Others have and You Can too! - Set Yourself Free: Live the Life YOU were Meant to Live! Speaker, Akashic Record Reader, Life Coach - you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314 991 8439