“You don’t know me.”
“You don’t know my story.”
“You don’t know what I’ve been through.”
I’m not buying it.
As humans, we love a good story. That’s why we read novels, get swept up into our favourite Netflix series characters, or find fascination in history. It’s also why we ask our friends to recount their latest trip overseas or their week gone by. Shit…it’s why we share our daily activities on Instagram. Human beings connect through stories.
You have a story. I have a story. Our stories are valid, they were indeed real (mostly) and of course… they had an impact. Once the moment is gone though, the story only exists for as long as we tell it; to ourselves, and to those we encounter each day.
Like anything, we are in the power of choice; we get to choose the stories we tell ourselves and the ones we seek our identity from.
There is an insidious side to our storytelling: the stories that help us buy further into our diagnosees, the stories that give us the justifications we’re seeking to victimise ourself, or the stories about someone else based on their appearance alone. Like anything, stories can create joy and they can lead to suffering. Like anything, we are in the power of choice; we get to choose the stories we tell ourselves and the ones we seek our identity from.
When it comes to unsavoury storytelling, and I mean the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves, most of us identify with our story because it justifies our crappy behaviour and/or excuses to not move on. We lean into our shitty stories for comfort, for understanding and for reasons to stay stuck. If this is the case for you don’t fret, you aren’t a bad person, but you are giving your power away.
“I’m anxious”. “I’ve got cancer”. “I was assaulted”. These are all exceptionally unfortunate truths. No one should need to go through these things, but the reality is that people experience challenge and trauma every day. This is being human.
“I can’t work again because I’ve got anxiety”, “My life is over now, there’s no point eating healthy food because I have cancer anyway”, “I’m damaged goods now because I was assaulted”. These are the stories that have been built around the unfortunate truth. There’s no actual reality in them. They’re constructed beliefs. I want to point out here that all of these examples have been run (or are still being run) by either myself or my friends and family.
“I’m learning coping tools, and am using strategies to ease back into work because I was diagnosed with anxiety, but I am not anxiety. I’m going in my timing, but I’m getting there”. “Even if I don’t know how long I have left I want to do my best to feel as healthy as I can whilst I’m here so I can spend time with my family”. “I’m working with professionals in the health sector and the spiritual sector to help me process trauma surrounding the assault that happened to me”. These are truths (admittedly with a positive viewpoint); they’re actions a person is taking despite what happened or is happening to them, to move forward. They’re empowering stories based in reality. They aren’t mental associations or assumptions surrounding a factual truth that happened in the past.
I want to pull out one of the examples and take a deep dive here.
What if you have anxiety and you are housebound? Maybe indeed you aren’t able to work right now. The suffering comes when you decide to identify with the diagnoses of anxiety so that, in essence, you willingly become victim to it, hand your power to it and create the assumption (based on the story playing in your mind) that you couldn’t therefore possibly ever work, or create, again. That shit is comfortable. That shit is certain. Having anxiety and throwing your hands in the air is easier than having anxiety and shifting the story to live into the possibility of a life managing it, or working past it. Because that isn’t certain. That requires us to unsubscribe from being the victims of our story. That shit feels scary to us.
Ditching the Story
I invite you now to put the phone down for a second, or look away from the computer screen (no excuses, if you have time to read this then you have 2 minutes to do something for yourself today). Simply ponder what the stories are that you’re telling yourself. Write them down. Look at them. What identities have you created based off these stories? Are they serving you or harming you? Simply, do they give you inner power, or do they take it away from you (your gut reaction will tell you here).
If the story no longer serves you, know that it simply isn’t true. You aren’t damaged goods, hope is not all lost, etc. Yes, you may be facing that circumstance, or more commonly, you faced that circumstance in the past, but now it’s time to ditch the story in the awareness that it is indeed just that. Come into your moment as it is right now. Place one hand on your heart, the other on your belly and breath into your hands. You are here right now. Your power is here right now, not in the story that takes you back again and again.
One of my Many Stories (Read this if You Want a Great Story)
I’d love to share with you one of the stories that I told myself, and one that still comes back up in certain situations, where I have to pull myself back into my body and out of my head. My mind will bring up the story, that’s completely from the past and not valid now, and attempt to take my power with it.
As a young gay man living in a rural town, I dealt with a typical level of verbal bullying, and one hotspot for this was the local town pub. Typically a hyper-masculine environment, there were moments when I would be walking past someone I “kind of” knew (small-town people can relate here- you sort of know of people without actually knowing them) and they would say something hurtful. I remember one evening someone decided to stop me and start verbally abusing me about my homosexuality as I walked by the bar. I was young, I was vulnerable, and it was traumatic for me. To this day that story comes up when I’m standing at the door of my local town pub (or any pub for that matter). Most times, I take a breath in and remind myself that that isn’t my story; that I don’t have ‘a story’. “That moment isn’t real anymore”. I have to become aware and present in the here and now, and in that space, I reclaim my power and show up however I want to. The alternative would be to live into the story again and then feel somehow ‘less than’; to take that low vibe energy into the pub and become a 19-year-old boy scared as shit all over again. I’d be using the story to victimise myself, and to give me a reason to feel hopeless, and scared of those around me.
Who are you?
Without your stories, without your past experiences and the connotations associated with them, who are you?
You’re a blank slate baby. Right here, right now, without the bullshit of the stories of the past (whether immediate or historical) telling you who you are and what you could be, you are just you, here chilling and reading.
You are in choice. You are in power. You get to decide in every moment whether or not the story serves or hinders; whether you listen and whether you recognise that the story is just thoughts which mean nothing until you identify with them. The past quite literally doesn’t exist in anywhere but your head. So ditch the story and take one little step towards reclaiming your power.
Every time, that first step is to become aware. Once you are aware of the story that you’re running you can ditch it, reshape it, or reclaim it. You can say “Hey…this story is coming up again…oh sweet I’ve just realised that, so now I can let it go” and quite literally visualise it evaporating out of your body. More powerful still is to reframe the thought, identifying what you learnt and how you grew from the experience, leaning into the belief that everything happens for a reason. Once you’ve caught that initial thought you can remind yourself that you are in power and that you get to decide how you respond to your surroundings, every time.
When you own that you are in choice, you own the moment. Choose again until it becomes a habit. I want to acknowledge here that this may not be a quick and easy process and that I still have moments when I succumb to the story. Like all these things, it is a practice. Often our bodies take some time to process traumas through the system. However, the mind that is connected to this beautiful body will either be helping or preventing that processing.
Every time, that first step is to become aware.
So if you’re stuck, ask yourself, what’s the story?
It’s time to let that shit go. If that means downloading a free meditation app, going to a psychologist, grabbing a ticket to a Balinese ecstatic dance party, or simply taking a walk in the sunshine, then do that thing. Know though that ultimately all it takes is the decision to let the story go. The rest is time, persistence and patience.
Reach out if you are struggling in this space. I’m here for you. Genuinely.
Namaste for now,