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The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Who we are on the inside, our personality, hopes, dreams, and relationship to the outer world are all subject to change. This might be a little difficult to wrap our heads around, because ultimately we’re always the same person deep down, right? Well, yes and no. Life brings with it a variety of challenges, successes and lessons, and as we navigate these experiences they can have both positive and negative consequences on the personality we call “self.” For some, life has been used as an opportunity to grow, learn and develop into more confident, competent human beings, ready to take on anything. For others, life has been a difficult, painful journey that has left us anxiety ridden, bitter or closed off to human connection. Usually we fall somewhere in between.

We are not the physical pains of our body or the judgements we make towards self or others. I am not, at my core, the writing that even sprawls onto these pages. This is simply a current expression of who I choose to show up as today. I could just as easily show up tomorrow as someone very different given the right circumstances. Who I “am” will continue to evolve and change form over the years. At the end of the day, this being in whom I play in this lifetime… she exists in this moment as a vehicle for something greater to express itself, to experience itself, to know itself.

As humans, we tend to grasp onto our experiences as identity. When we listen to people talk, we can often hear where people so desperately grasp a story, it might as well still be playing (and in someways, because the story is still being given the attention, it is). The story might keep up the idea that we are the selfless martyr, the innocent victim, the perfect mother, the faithful counselor, the bad guy, the timely hero, etc. Sometimes there are more subtle reasons for telling a story… Connection, manipulation, excitement, insecurity, humor, boredom, lack of awareness, etc. Once the story stops though, who is left? Who is underneath the stories of who we tell ourselves we are? And what happens when we begin to tell the stories differently?

The moment we begin to have awareness around why we tell a story is a very huge moment. This is where who we think we are, “self,” can begin to be observed from an outsider’s perspective (still self, but detached). With practice, the first person narrative is able to be seen through the third person, unattached and unbiased, and most importantly with the use of a deep love and curiosity. We can learn to hold space for ourselves as, like a friend helping a friend, we gently remove the story from the tight grip of “self” and begin to tenderly unravel it. As we release the grasp on these stories, we learn how the narratives serve to hold together either a holistic or limited understanding of reality. Through conscious awareness we can rewrite the script to include more insight, compassion and honesty, and to increase our effectiveness as transformational human beings.

The dramas we personally may have played into over the years does not represent the being we currently are in this moment. We may have learned from those experiences, and the person we are today may act differently because of the lessons, but we no longer need to continue to replay the script on something that happened a decade ago. Of course, with intention, we may return to a story if there is still something there for us to review or heal, or to utilize the story as a source of passing on of important lessons and information for those who need inspiration or a new perspective.

With this, I hope to make clear, there is a time and a place for our stories. We must be aware of why the story is being told, our intention, and the need of who we are speaking it to. Too often, when wanting to help people work through issues, we are quick to jump to “this one time I went through something similar…” where we then embark on a story that takes us away from the individual in front of us. Our role as friends, family members and counselors is to help people to tap into their own wisdom, intuition and guidance, to dismantle the belief systems we have collectively inherited, and to discover new, more creative and loving ways of living together in this world.

How do your personal narratives work in your life? Do you find yourself repeating the same stories over and over again to make meaning and build importance out of your life? Have you discovered how to take a step back and disassociate with your thoughts to see them more clearly?  In what ways can you improve on how you tell yourself and others your stories, to be more present and aware of why the story is being told in the first place?

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