We all construct our realities through stories we tell ourselves and one another. What does that mean?
For example, I grew up believing that every December a plump white-bearded man flew around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, delivering presents to every child – as long as they were GOOD. What happened if you weren’t GOOD? I have no idea! There was no way I was taking the risk of missing out on his visit.
So, you see here the notion of a fairy tale (to an extent – built upon by Coca-Cola… but that is a whole ‘nother story!), complete with a moral message – “be good”. For me then “be good” was a story I grew up with. I carried this story throughout my childhood and into my adult life: be good at school; be good at your job; be good at taking care of people; be good at cooking… It was a helpful story – to a degree. My reality in relation to this then became “if I’m good, I’ll be rewarded”. Excellent!
But what if the story gets extended or adapted in some way (in my head) and as well as “being good” at stuff, I can no longer fail? I can’t be rubbish at anything? Then the story becomes a little twisted: “Shit, what if I try that and I fail? Will I survive? What will THEY think of me? What if? What if? What if?” Now the story means that life has become RISKY. It’s risky not to be good at stuff, there may be consequences for me. Now I might get it wrong in some way. What’s my next move if this is now my narrative (story)?
For me, when these stories became particularly LOUD in my mind was when I had reached a point in my life and career where I needed to make a BIG decision. The stories I had constructed around “being good” were keeping me in my comfort zone and therefore safe – but no longer happy, nor comfortable as it turns out! For me though it was as though my mind had shut down possibilities of doing anything except the stuff that was keeping me safe and “good”. I felt very small indeed.
Can you see then how “being good” had moved from an innocent fairy story, or even some wise advice from my parents into something that stopped me in my tracks and got me STUCK.
I’ll stick my neck out here and say that EVERYONE has a story (or more than one!). Everyone has a story that is helpful to them to some degree in their lives, but at some point, due to external influences, cultural beliefs, social norms, or even “what so-and-so said” – these stories become blocks and they need work to shift and change, to be rewritten, re-examined and to become helpful again.
Stories are powerful. How are you using yours?