When I say “change your story” I am referring to the loop of thoughts that run through your mind on a regular basis about who you are and the experiences you’ve had in your past.
Why is your story important? What you believe about people or situations affects every decision you make. It changes the way you approach different situations and people. It changes your response to those things as well. As a result, those situations and people’s reaction to you is altered. And this is the circle of damage that can occur when you have a negative story.
When I was barely a teenager I moved out of my father’s house to live with my mother. It was a decision I felt was necessary in order to protect myself. As a result of that choice I did not have a relationship with my father for the next 20 years. I did not have a relationship with my brother for the next 10 years. I did not have a relationship with the remainder of my father’s side of the family for the next 15 years.
In reality that decision was a strong move made by a scared, hurt young lady who wanted better. However, somewhere along the way the story changed in my mind and it played out in thoughts like, “Everyone leaves me”, “I’m not good enough to love” and enough abandonment issues to float a ship on.
This was my story. I repeated it in my head constantly and told everyone around me who would listen.
Because of this, as an adult I have had to battle feelings of inferiority, worthlessness, and lack. I fight with those thoughts and feelings on a daily basis. Every. Single. Day…because of a story I twisted in my mind long ago, and despite the fact that I know it was me who left, not them. That it was strength, not weakness.
I thought I was doing a fairly decent job at fighting that story, but recently discovered yet another way that my story has affected the way I live my life in a negative way. I recognized a “story” I play in my mind that warps how I view the people in my life.
“People hurt me. People aren’t trustworthy. They aren’t safe. I don’t have a lot of friends. I’m not good with people. People don’t like me.”
I have a friend who has told me on numerous occasions that you have to be a good friend to have good friends. This usually comes as I’m telling her about what an outcast I am and how I don’t know how to connect with people.
Every time she started with that talk I couldn’t dismiss it any faster than I did as I responded, “Well they have to be a good friend to me too! Why can’t they be a good friend first?”
You see the error in my logic, right? I didn’t.
Until recently that thought process made complete sense to me and – probably more important, subconsciously – also proved to be pretty handy in validating the story line I’d been feeding myself. I needed it in some twisted way because in my mind, it kept me safe. If I was the victim, it gave me an excuse not to try. My own personal bubble of safety and comfort.
This is the thing about comfort zones…..they’re pretty comfortable! I know when it’s 4:20 AM and my alarm is going off but I’m all cozy and warm in my bed the last thing I want to do is leave that comfortable spot and get ready for work. It’s why I snooze my alarm until the very. last. possible. minute. every single morning.
The thing I tend to overlook is that choosing to snooze as long as possible doesn’t necessarily help me beyond the moment I jump out of bed. I miss doing yoga, I am rushed and stressed getting ready, I have to speed (more than usual) getting to work so I won’t be late, and I feel like I’m playing catch-up all morning after I arrive. Does that sound comfortable to you? Me either!
So that story line I’ve been feeding myself feels comfortable on this side of the fence where I am alone and not being hurt by these dangerous, untrustworthy people I’m hiding from.
But is it really? Well I’m not being hurt, directly, because there’s no one around to hurt me! I’m safe, but I am lonely. I am guarded. I pay waaayyyy too much attention to every change in a person’s tone, facial expression, and choice of words just waiting for – and fully expecting – the moment where they get tired of talking to me, or don’t like what I say, or you know, just feel the direction of the wind change. I look for it, and then I shut down and the cycle of hurt makes another round. My story gets a little stronger.
However, if I bothered to climb up on top of this 50-foot fortress wall I’ve built around myself to check out the view I might see that the other side has some pretty green grass as well. You know, where people call to check on you, ask you to do fun things like meet for dinner, and basically are happy you exist in the world.
But to have good friends you have to be a good friend….
Unfortunately the harsh truth I’ve finally admitted to myself is that I haven’t been a good friend. At all. And that’s probably why I don’t have a lot of good friends. In my little bubble of safety and comfort, I don’t participate in their lives. I don’t call to check on them. I don’t ask them to do anything with me. Heck, if I’m being completely honest 80% of the people who know me haven’t even met the real me! They’ve met a guarded, scared version of me that even I don’t like.
I have some changes to make that are long overdue. I have an entire story in my mind that I have to eliminate. Right now the thought of it is pretty scary standing on this side of that 50-foot wall where I still feel protected. I mean the “tuck my whole head under those warm, cozy comfort zone covers and stay there permanently” kind of scared. The “forget about it” kind of scared.
It will be difficult for me. I’ll be scared every step of the way, at least at first. I’m hoping I’ll be blessed with some soft places to land when my efforts are clumsy and awkward, when I don’t get it quite right, or because I’m easily discouraged.
This is what I want to share with you. Learn from me. If you know you have a negative story line running through your mind, take steps to change it now before the roots get any more of a hold on you. Here are some ways that will hopefully help you to do just that.
5 Ways to Change Your Story
Call It What It Is
It is not reality. It is fear. It’s the monster under the bed when you were 4. It is your excuse. Your victim card. It is your lie.
Take some time to think about the story you’ve been telling yourself. When did it start? Where did it come from? Is it legitimate or is it something you’ve created to protect yourself from being hurt?
When I started to truly look at where these thoughts began, it helped a great deal to be able to tell myself it wasn’t real. Fear is something I can work with. I can fight fear. I can beat fear. And so can you!
Rework the Storyline
As you can tell from my own examples, our minds can sometimes be deceiving. I first had to discover where the lie was that I was telling myself. Then I was able to pick those thoughts out and begin replacing them with reality or positive thoughts.
For example, let’s say my best friend and I get into a disagreement. Immediately those negative, fearful thoughts kick in with their commentary. “Well, you’ve lost your best friend now. She won’t want to be your friend anymore. This is why you can’t trust people. They always leave. Act like you don’t care.”
There is a period of time where those thoughts appear legitimate to me. I’m scared. I’m hurt. As soon as I can though, I start replacing them. Of course, my best friend and I have been friends almost 20 years now so I have a lot of history to pull from when I change that story line. I use reality to fight against what my mind is telling me. “We’ve had disagreements before and she’s still your friend. We will work this out. She’s a great friend and she’s been there for you so many times. You can trust her.”
When your story line kicks in figure out the lie, then replace it with the truth.
Keep Yourself Busy
A mind that is allowed to roam freely is a mind living in chaos. This is someone speaking to you from experience…..lots of experience.
Someone suggested once, back in my younger days, that I “just think of something else” when my mind went all crazy on me. At the time I was strongly considering a nice karate chop to the throat in response because you don’t know my life!! Years later I see I should have listened because they were actually correct!
I’m only recently beginning to learn how to control my thinking so I still have some work to do, but I can tell you even the small amount I do control works wonders.
Take a walk. Get engrossed in your favorite book or TV show. Do some retail therapy. Call a friend. Get creative…make something! Figure out what works for you. Whatever it takes, just get your mind off the problem!
Another suggestion is to reframe the problem. That guy you can’t survive without…the perfect one on the pedestal….he wasn’t really that great, was he? You can totally live without him if needed. That embarrassing moment you tripped down the stairs in front of everyone? Life is not over and hey! It’s ok to laugh at yourself! Trust me, everyone who was there has embarrassing moments of their own.
Envision the Best Case Scenario
A lot of times I feel anxiety about upcoming social functions or interactions. When I do, it helps to play it out in my mind, picturing a world where I don’t die or get publicly embarrassed or get toilet paper stuck on my shoe.
If that negative story kicks up in your mind, take a few minutes….close your eyes, run through the scenario with the best possible outcome. The scenario where you are the social butterfly who has exciting conversations with people. The scenario where you give that speech smoothly and confidently and everyone is laughing at the exact right moments.
Build Your Confidence
Naturally as you start to make positive changes and see those positive results your confidence will grow and these huge roadblocks will become much smaller. Before that happens though, you’re probably going to need to build yourself up on your own.
Write and/or speak affirmations over and over. I AM CONFIDENT. I AM SMART. I AM GOOD AT PUBLIC SPEAKING. I AM OUTGOING. Plug in whatever adjective you need at the moment. Make sure to keep your affirmations positive, and it’s best if you can begin them with “I am” or “I have”.
Set small goals and be proud of yourself when you achieve them. Large or small, every milestone is something to celebrate! You could even keep a list of them and look back when you’re feeling discouraged.
Most importantly, be kind and patient with yourself as you learn how life works without that negative story. It will take time. There might be bumps in the road. No matter what, keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. You will succeed!