Once upon a time…
Are you sitting comfortably…? Then, I’ll begin. Familiar words for storytime, for those of us of a ‘certain age’.
We all have a story to tell. Words that we have crafted to describe ourselves. Who we are, what we do, what we’ve achieved and experienced, how we live our life. Our story defines us. The words we choose and the way we ‘act out’ our story influences the decisions we make and the outcomes we create that construct our personal reality. Our story shapes our self-image giving us, and others, a sense of who we are. The script becomes our identity and the more we act out our story the more embedded it becomes in our psyche. The more we re-tell our story, the more hardwired it becomes. Like any repetitive thought and self-talk, the story morphs into a belief about who we think we are, and it becomes the ‘face’ we project to the outside world. For some people their story is a consciously crafted one. For others, it’s a script that has repetitively been played out over time, without much conscious thought.
What’s your story?
How would you describe yourself? Many people have a single word, or phrase they identify with. One of the exercises on the Winning Edge Programme is to complete the sentence “I’m the kind of person who…”. What would you say…? ” I’m the kind of person who… is generous? …helps others?… avoids confrontation?… likes to be in charge?… procrastinates? …is good in a crisis?”
What single word would you use to define yourself? Strong? Creative? Resourceful?
It’s important to think about the story you are telling yourself and sharing with the world and to get curious to question it. Here’s a few thoughts to consider:
- Is your story helpful? Is it relevant? Who does it serve?
- Are you the victim in your story? Or the victor?
- Does it align with your sense of purpose? Or are other people dictating your script?
- What must be true to maintain your identity? What evidence do you need?
- Is your story enabling you to grow and change in whatever way you want to? Or is it limiting you, keeping you stuck and preventing you from making changes?
- Are you creating a story about who you are so you can feel better about yourself? To feel more valuable/accepted/respected? To feel a greater sense of self worth?
- Is your story authentic? Or borrowed from another source (e.g. expectations and input from media/parents/education/employer etc.)?
- Does your story connect you to, or alienate you from, others who matter to you?
- Are you afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, or experience, to confront and deal with your story? Maybe you aren’t (yet) clear about another way to live your life…?
Why does it matter?
According to Dr Zach Bush, MD, in his recent podcast “Let go of your story”, the story we tell ourselves of our past and/or current life, keeps us in a box, or a ‘cubicle’. He believes our stories are often crafted out of hardship and, regardless of how successful we become, many of us still feel unseen, unrecognised and unloved. He suggests we have become disconnected from ourselves as well as our loved ones; that we have lost our sense of identity and personal power, so we are craving acceptance and seeking validation from others to affirm our self-worth.
Dr Bush asserts that our cubicle can prevent others from getting to know who we really are (and that we are far more complex than these four walls). Despite the internet connecting us, like Cal Newport in his interview on Digital Minimalism, Dr Bush believes this digital age, together with the comfortable trappings of today’s modern lifestyle, means we are more separated than ever before and in more emotional pain as a result.
We know from longevity studies in the Blue Zones countries that connection and community are key ingredients to a happy and healthy life. There’s also abundant research about the negative impact of emotional stress (i.e. the kind created by isolation, lack of self-worth and leading an unfulfilling life) on our health and performance levels.
Break out of the cubicle to find ease and success.
According to Dr Bush the most destructive identity you can have is one of resilience, because “what do you need to prove this identity?” He suggests we need pain, suffering, difficulty and trauma in order to keep being resilient so we will keep creating the trauma and subsequently we will never become successful.
It requires courage to look at how we have designed our cubicle and ‘read’ the stories we have crafted over the years to consider how they are impacting our sense of identity and feelings of self-worth. Many people will feel motivated to break down their walls once the pain of the current situation exceeds the fear of the unknown. While pain can be a great catalyst for change, why wait until you feel desperate?
- Are you content with who you are and the life you have created? Or are you comfortably uncomfortable, doing the same old stuff and yet wishing life were different?
- Are you willing to let go of who you think you are in order to create a new identity?
- Are you willing to reveal more of yourself to yourself, and to others? As the Johari Window model illustrates, growth comes from self- disclosure and self-discovery.
- What would it take to break out of your existing paradigm(s) and create a new story? Or write a new chapter to the story…?
If you feel that part, or all, of your story is holding you back from being, doing or having more of what you want in life, if you want to reconnect to your personal power and your community then perhaps it’s time to step outside the box.
How to reinvent yourself for success is the title of Winning Edge’s Kirsty Perrin’s TEDx Talk and will be available on YouTube in a week’s time – look out for it because it dovetails with this topic.
By Hazel Morley
About the Author: Hazel has worked as a Trainer, Facilitator and Coach for over 25 years, a number of which were spent as an Associate for Mancroft International. She believes in an inside-out approach to personal development and change and thrives on helping others who are ready to exercise their response-ability for being the best version of themselves. Her mantra is ‘always do what you think you might regret not doing’.
Hazel transformed her lifestyle in 2009, when she relocated to beautiful British Columbia, Canada. She gives credit to the Winning Edge principles for the nudge to move to the mountains. Since living in Canada, Hazel has expanded her portfolio of enabling others to achieve their career goals to include ways to create optimal health and live with vitality. She is fascinated by the power of the mind-body-lifestyle connection and the body’s innate ability to protect and heal us from disease.