The most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves -but beware, they’re usually fiction. Brené Brown
The last month has been nothing short of challenging in both my personal and professional environments. I firmly believe that as much as you try to separate personal from professional, that very dance can consequently be more stressful than the situation you may be dealing with.
I am not going to get into the dirty details of how my life has taken a 360º turn, what I will get into is how important it’s been to listen to and tell others the stories of how we’ve gotten to where we are today.
It’s no coincidence that I picked up the September Issue of O Magazine where Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and others get into the importance of storytelling and how the very act of listening is where we turn for encouragement in how we live.
You see, stories are the glue of what we are. They stitch together what we become. Our ability to tell them is fundamental to how we celebrate and examine our lives. Sharing our stories reminds us of what we believe in and helps us make sense of a fickle world.
According to neurobiologists, our brain turns into a carnival when we tell our stories; lights switch on in our heads. Through the simple act of telling we are reimagining ourselves. This happens even more spectacularly when we hear the stories of others.
We tell each other what’s happened to us not only because we want to know we’re worthwhile but because we want others to feel worthwhile too. Everything could be taken from us this instant: our home, our identities, our health, our loved ones -but our stories remain.
Our stories are also about self-preservation. You see when we feel threatened, we run. When we feel exposed or hurt, we find someone to blame. We even blame ourselves first before anyone else can. This is where ‘The Deceptive Narrator’ comes in. This unconscious storytelling leaves us stuck: We keep tripping over the same issues and when we fall, we struggle to get back up. We tell ourselves lies and we believe them.
The fabulous news is that this is also where resilience comes in. We have the ability to rewrite these stories by challenging these confabulations. The truth is we just have to be brave enough to get dirty with ourselves. Brown explains it as reckoning with our emotions. When you do, you can change your narrative. She gives 4 steps to do just that:
- Engage with your feelings. You don’t need to know exactly where the feelings are coming from, you just have to acknowledge them.
- Get Curious About the Story Behind the Feelings. Ask yourself: Why am I being so hard on everyone? What happened right before this Nutella craving set in? Why am I obsessing about what Samantha said? While this step may be difficult, know that the only way to get to the truth is by pushing through discomfort.
- Write It Down. Get your thoughts on paper. A story driven by emotion and self-preservation doesn’t involve accuracy, logic or civility. If it does, then you’re not being completely honest.
- Get Ready To Rumble. Like I say ‘Let’sRoll!’, this is where you get dirty. This is where you ask yourself questions like: What are the facts? What are my assumptions? What do I need to know about the others involved? What am I feeling? What part did I play?
For me, this past month has been one of radical introspection. I’ve been rumbling with my shame, my blame, my aggression. I’ve been reckoning with acknowledging that these emotions exist in me more than I’ve been willing to admit, but not to others…to myself.
Interestingly enough, you might learn that you’ve been masking shame with cynicism or that being vulnerable and asking for what you want is more enticing than basking in resentment. Resentment bottles up a world of confabulations that you begin to believe.
Confronting yourself, your fears, your aggression, shame and blame can be difficult. Getting to these truths is uncomfortable, but it’s the road to meaningful change.
Owning our stories can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it…Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.