I believe it was Carlos Castaneda that once said, if you don’t have a story, you have nothing to live up to. We all have a story that we tell ourselves. A story of where we come from, who we are, what we are capable of, how lovable or worthy we are, our likes and dislikes and where we want our lives to end up. Our story shapes our lives and the life of the culture we live in. But what if we could change that story, or what if we didn’t have one at all?
Most of my life I have had a story of not being good enough. It’s a story common to my generation and society at large. Corporations and brands bombard us with images every day that confirm this belief – that we need to be prettier, smarter, better, stronger in order to be enough, and we can do this through buying more. We’re told that we live in a finite world, and that if we’re not enough, more money or a new outfit can help fix that. As most of us learn, it doesn’t work this way.
The stories we tell ourselves are really just a set of beliefs, handed down by our parents, our teachers, our friends and the ‘tribe’ at large. Sometimes they start when we are young. We get picked last for a sports team as a child and we decide that we are terrible at sport. It just isn’t our forte, and we don’t have good hand-eye coordination (or fitness, or strength or tactical skills). Our parents might say they weren’t good at it either, and so we decide that if they weren’t good at it we never will be either, and so the story is continued throughout our life.
Sometimes we write them as adults. We write a story about the opposite sex and their role in relationships. Men aren’t trustworthy. I’m too fat/unattractive/broke for someone to love me. Women are too needy. I can’t be happy being single.
Often the stories go deeper. That we aren’t lovable. That we aren’t smart enough or beautiful enough. That there will never be enough money. The reasons behind how they develop vary, but inevitably the story is the same. They reflect the limitations we place on our lives.
What if they weren’t true though? Life the way we tell it and life the way it actually is are often two different things. What if we learnt to change the stories we told ourselves and recognise them for what they are? Stories. Our lives are shaped around the narratives we tell ourselves, some of which were true when we formed them but rarely carrying through to the present day.
In any given moment we have the power to choose a new story for ourselves. To believe that we are enough. To know that we are lovable, always. To know that every problem in our lives can be seen from a different perspective, empowering us with the potential to change our lives.
They say you can’t hide your secret thoughts, because they show up as your life. You can change them though. You are not your past, your habits, your job, your faults or your struggles. You are only the person you choose to be in each present moment, and your life is only the story you are choosing to write.
What story are you writing?