“Story.” What comes to mind when you hear that word? Dictionary.com defines the word “story” as: “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.”
Let’s unpack that definition a bit. The first thing is “true or fictitious.” We all have our own version of the “truth.” You’ve heard that saying that two people can observe the same event and have very different descriptions of the objective reality of what happened? That applies to our stories as well, and what is important is what we perceive as our reality. The second part of the definition that resonates is “designed to…instruct the hearer or reader…” Stories do just that. They are constructs that we use to inform us. We all have stories we tell about ourselves, our environment, and our situation.
Here’s an example. I had a story that I wasn’t creative. It came from my grade school and junior high art classes where I didn’t do as well as the other kids at standardized art modalities. Yet even then, I had contradictory evidence, as I was very active in music (also a creative art). But I believed that story, and for a long time whenever I was asked to be creative, I would demur. Yet my non-creative story has some basis in truth. I still can’t draw “conventional” images: ask me to draw a person that looks like a person, and what ends up on the paper probably looks like a child drew it. Does that mean I’m not creative? No.
A while back I decided to challenge my “I’m not creative” story because that story no longer felt supportive for the type of life I wanted to live. The statement felt devoid of personal power and personal passion, and I was actively cultivating those energies in my life. So I started to change my story. At first it was just a change to “I’m creative in certain areas” and that has expanded to really owning my creativity. I’ve since found things that I love (music, photography) which are visual and acoustic displays of my creativity, but even better my creativity has blossomed in other areas of my life as well.
That’s a simple example, but also potent. Had I continued to believe that story (which you’ll remember has some basis in truth), I would not have tapped into a piece of my vital energy.
Stories serve a purpose. They help us make sense of the world. The stories that have the most power over us often come from early stages of our development or significant life events. Our stories want and need to be told. Told and heard without judgment, with compassion. Often when we tell our story and still find that we are accepted for who we are, it actually allows the story to shift into a new reality. Are our stories legitimate? Yes. Are they necessary? That’s something to explore.
We all have stories of who we are in this world—some of those stories are supportive, and some may have been supportive in the past but aren’t aligned with how we want to live our lives now. So ask yourself, “Am I tired of the story I’ve been living with?” If the answer is yes, then perhaps it is time to start telling a new story. Or even more exciting, living into the new story that you want to create. Is that sometimes a scary process? Yes. Rewriting our stories may mean we have to deal with our fear, anger, sadness, guilt and shame. It can challenge our identity and feel vulnerable. But, on the other side, it can also be exhilarating to become the active author of a new story of your life. I am looking forward to hearing, what’s your story!