We are, each of us, a storyteller.
Perhaps you scoff at the idea; but the truth is, we tell stories to ourselves and to the people around us every single day. It is our narrative.
Maybe we are perpetuating an inherited story. The one our mother learned from her mother and then passed to us. (“The women in our family have always been unlucky in love.”)
Perhaps it was insinuated by how we were treated as children. (Your sister is the smart one.) Or ingrained in us throughout our lives. (“Become a writer? Where’s the money in that? No, you want to be a lawyer.”)
Or perhaps it is a limiting belief we’ve imposed on ourselves that holds us back from achieving our dreams. (I’m no good at this; I’m not as brave as she is, I could never do that.)
Regardless of the content, origin, or truth of the stories we tell ourselves each day, eventually they become our reality. A self-fulfilling prophecy. But as surely as we have crafted our current narrative, it is a story that we have the power to rewrite.
Challenge Your Story
Take a look in the mirror and tell me who you see. Do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Did you use words like smart, funny, adventurous, and brave? Or did you instantly begin ticking off a list of all of the things you don’t like about yourself? If you don’t like the story you just told yourself, don’t fret. You aren’t alone. When I looked into the mirror and discovered a hard-core non-explorer, practically afraid of her own shadow, I wasn’t pleased.
The first thing I had to do was challenge my story. How did it even become mine? And why was I so convinced of its truth? Slowly, but surely, I peeled back the pages of my story, investigating each layer and whether it served me. By challenging some of the things I believed so strongly about myself I discovered it’s never too late to rewrite your story.
Explore Your Options. Discover Your Story.
Asking the hard questions about why you believe you’re a failure; that you can’t do anything right; or that there is no value in your dreams is tough. But such internal exploration is the first step in unraveling the threads of the narrative you wish to discard. The next step requires even more courage. It requires going out into the world and taking on challenges you never thought you could.
My flirtation with exploration has led me to discover amazing things about myself. It has taken me on exciting, new adventures and pushes me to achieve my dreams. Even when things get hard.
Rewrite Your Story
Remember the stories we read as kids that allowed us to choose our preferred ending? Our lives are like that, too.
We can’t control everything that happens in our lives, but we can control our reaction. And it is our response to such stimuli that has the most powerful impact upon our story. Setbacks in life happen. But as long as we live and breathe, it is never too late to redraft our narratives.
Celebrated chef, Julia Child, didn’t learn to cook until she was 40 and was nearly 50 when her first cookbook was published. Grandma Moses, one of the most important American Folk artists of the 20th century, began her painting career in her 70′s. Laura Ingalls Wilder got her first book published when she was 65. These women modified their stories. We can, too.
My story is still a work in progress. But rather than clutching onto the story of the fearful little girl with the long list of phobias, I choose to challenge limiting beliefs, explore the world around me, and continually forge a new narrative.
Climbing Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica; kayaking; venturing to new countries; relocating to a town where we didn’t know a soul; touching a shark and a stingray in a petting pool — none of this would have been possible had I held onto my faulty narrative. But for me, it still only the beginning. There is so much more of the story left to write.
We are, all of us, storytellers. Even if we’ve never given it much thought.
Without this knowledge we become mere players in a story not of our choosing. Armed with a true understanding of our narratives and how they came to be, we are empowered to make significant changes in our lives.
Whether we are 20, 40, or 80 and regardless of how our narrative came to be, we alone have the power to change it. And it is never too late to rewrite our story.
Photos courtesy of B. Riordan and Illusive Photography, respectively.