Getting Past Your Story
Our experiences are like the sand a child uses to build a castle or the words a writer uses to compose a book. Though we aren’t always aware of it, the truth is that we create all of our own situations. It’s empowering to realize that you are the player, composer, singer, artist, instrumentalist and performer of your life story. Your story doesn’t need to hold you back – like a child building a sand castle, you can keep making the changes you want.
That’s a powerful thing to think about, isn’t it? Your life doesn’t happen to you – you happen to it. You can take your story and learn from it. Seen from this perspective, the goal of life is to grow and change. A way to understand this idea is to picture yourself watching a film that is your life. What does it look like? Do you find it interesting? What gets in your way? What can you do to change it?
Your “story” is both accurate and inaccurate. Freedom and growth come from being able to acknowledge that there are parts that have limited you in work, love and play … but it doesn’t have to be so. Owning our choices allows us to make changes.
And remember, change itself brings anxiety. We have to learn to ride the anxiety, like a wave that eventually spills over and subsides into peaceful waters. We all experience this – I know that I do. I remember that the first time I stood in front of a group to give a speech, I felt overwhelming anxiety. Now I give talks to groups all the time. Yes, I still feel a hint of anxiety but I ride it, knowing it will be gone within the first 30 – 60 seconds. Learning to tolerate the anxiety allows us to transcend it and go on and do wonderful and exciting things in our lives!
Talking to Yourself
Are you aware of the internal dialogue that undermines your self-esteem? What you hear inside your head shapes your perception of your self-worth.
For instance, good parents know that for healthy self-esteem and acceptance, children need positive and loving feedback. If all they get is cold criticism, they feel unworthy. The same is true when you talk to yourself.
What are the words you use to describe yourself?
Are you gentle with yourself when you make mistakes?
Do you consider something that you’ve done “good enough” or are you always pushing for perfection?
Do you approve or disapprove of yourself?
Are you tolerant?
Do you accept yourself?
Do you like the relationship you have with yourself?
Write down the answers to those questions in your journal … and be honest! Don’t edit yourself. The goal of this exercise is to create awareness of your self-talk so that you can learn to recognize it as the conditioned voice in your head – not “the truth” about you. So, with that in mind, just write down your thoughts and feelings, the ones running through your mind like a ticker tape (not the thoughts you think you should have).
If you don’t really approve of yourself because you drink too much, would you like to change? If you feel that you are unattractive because you are seriously overweight, is that okay with you or would you like to work on losing weight to get healthier and look better?
Now, take a few minutes to think about the answers you’ve written down. Were you aware that you thought and felt this way about yourself? Where did these feelings come from? Are they true?
The self-talk that goes on all day, every day, doesn’t have to define you. It comes from experiences you have had and what you have been told about yourself — but these thoughts are not who you are. You can determine what your truth is … and work to live it. Restructuring the psychological highways of your mind in this way creates wisdom. With that comes an increased ability to tolerate stress and anxiety. The goal of looking inward is to shake up your mental relationships in order to reshape the structure of your life in a way that will be infinitely richer and more satisfying.