Fairy tales and telenovellas: the stories we tell

I’ve been thinking about the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.You know the ones that make us look better, make someone else look worse, and in general make us feel better in some way (even if it’s twisted).

We make up stories to make sense about people and experiences in our lives. Ultimately, it always comes down to the desire to feel safe, loved, and accepted. We internalize, make the situation about us, treat ourselves cruelly just to stay in that place of safety, acceptance, and love.

Do any of these sound familiar:

  • I’m not ___ enough.
  • I’ll never be ___ enough.
  • I can’t believe how stupid I am.
  • I’m fat.
  • I’m lazy.
  • I’m lonely.
  • I did something wrong.
  • He/she is mad at me.
  • I should have done more.
  • If only I’d…

Brene Brown, a researcher on vulnerability, writes in her book, Rising Strong:

The goal of the {Rising Strong} process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.

THE RECKONING: WALKING INTO OUR STORY Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.

THE RUMBLE: OWNING OUR STORY Get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations and assumptions to determine what’s truth, what’s self-protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more wholehearted lives.

THE REVOLUTION Write a new ending to our story based on the key learning’s from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.

Sometimes the right intention leads to the wrong action and the consequences are enormous. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fuck up. And sometimes we get caught in the wake of some other person’s failure. And when those things happen it hurts. We don’t like hurt. We often avoid it at all cost, including denying responsibility and/or the feeling itself. We tell the, “I’m fine” story while inside we seethe, we make excuses, we replay the experience over and over trying to think of how it could have been different.

Then there is the flip side. In the quest meet the need for love and acceptance, we discover that the victim role works well. Pity, sympathy, shared misery all salve the wound of missing love. The problem is getting stuck in that place, using it to meet unmet needs.

If we want to end our suffering, we absolutely have to get honest with ourselves, starting with our stories. Ms. Brown shares three questions to exploring those stories.

Questions that cultivate wholeheartedness and bring deeper courage, compassion, and connection to our lives-

1. What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?

2. What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?

3. What more do I need to learn and understand about myself? In the absence of data, we will always make up stories.

I am paying more attention to the stories I am telling to myself and realizing the ones arising out of not feeling joyful or fulfilled are really not even based on facts, rather assumptions I am making. You know what that means? I’m making myself suffer. No one else.

Would you be willing to take a one week storytelling challenge? All you have to do is notice what’s going on in your head (and body) if you are not feeling joyful and fulfilled.

Why are you replaying that conversation in your mind?

What got you so upset in traffic?

What is it about that person that’s driving you nuts- where have you seen that behavior before?

What’s really going on with your stomach?

Then ask yourself the 3 questions posed by Ms. Brown. Then do one thing to shift the story you’re telling. Notice how your happiness quotient changes.

Leave a comment below with your observation of the results. Need some help breaking your stories? Let’s talk.