My life is made up of stories. Powerful stories I tell myself… about myself. I tell myself that I’m scared of going out and being amongst a crowd of people. I’m too shy to meet and approach people. I can’t afford to travel the world. I’m too busy to go to church. I’m too tired to exercise. I’m afraid of commitment. I’m addicted to food…. And so I fabricate a bigger story around these smaller ones. A story that is only true until it isn’t.
One of the most important lessons I have learned about life lately is: Everything I tell myself about myself is only true for as long as I let it be true.
I’ve got to tell you, hunting for graduate jobs in England did crazy things to my psyche and self-confidence. Things I can’t exactly put in words. Simply put… it brought me down to my knees! After a couple of unsuccessful applications and interviews, I resigned myself to fate and told myself perhaps I wasn’t good enough to fulfill my dream of securing a job in a multinational oil and gas company. That became true because every action I took, everything I said and thought with regards to job hunting made it true. But it was only true until it wasn’t!
I tell myself that I can’t change my diet because I don’t have enough will power to restrain from certain foods. I tell myself that I lack the discipline essential to lose weight. How else do I explain paying for a full year gym membership and never attending? And then I say to myself, accept yourself, this is how you are. Well, guess what? That became my reality. Indiscipline and indetermination.
So here’s the deal. I have decided to spend some time trying to identify the silly self-limiting stories I tell myself that restrain me from becoming who I want to be and doing the things I want to do. After which I hope to re-write them by participating in activities which will enable me put an end to my old story and make my new story a reality.
Take public gatherings for example. I constantly tell myself how introverted I am and how much I suck at socializing, approaching and meeting new people. So in the past week, I made an effort to attend two different events – none of which I was forced to attend. Well… I didn’t go about chatting up everyone in the room and I definitely wasn’t the life of the party but to me, it was a brave step in the right direction. My old story is that I’m terrible at social gatherings however, I want my new story to be that I’m comfortable being in public, meeting and talking to new people. There’s no need being this pretty if I’m going to lock myself in doors all day, right? J
But seriously though, is there anything more uncomfortable for a person who is completely petrified of public gatherings to be in the midst of a lot of unfamiliar people? Probably not, and that’s the whole point. I want my new story to be true so I need to fake it till I make it by doing the things someone living that story would do and hopefully over time, the combination of persistently telling myself this new story and acting like it is true will eventually make it a reality.
If you don’t like your story, rewrite it. I’m broke. I have no friends. I have no marketable skills. I have no experience. I have no opportunities. I have bad luck. The odds are against me. My enemies have found me. I’m not good with people. People don’t like me. I’m single. I’m never going to find love. I’m black. I’m a disadvantaged green passport holder. I’m a single mum. I have no fancy education. My life is hard. If only someone would help me so I can get out of this and do better…. This doesn’t have to be your story. However, it will remain true for as long as you let it be true.
Ditch the excuses! What is your old story? What do you want your new story to be? Ascertain this and commit yourself to undertaking activities that will propel you from one to the other. It works. I know because I’ve done it before. It’s what I did when I decided to leave my comfort zone, move back to Nigeria and take on my new job. When I suppressed my phobia for public speaking and made my first presentation at work and when I decided to lose weight… well… the weight thing hasn’t exactly worked out yet but you get my drift, don’t you?
This is my project for the New Year. Dealing with each and every one of my self-restraining stories one at a time. Changing my life, rewriting my story, changing my habits– one step at a time.
Stories are powerful. They can steer your life in directions you don’t want to go. The voices in your head aren’t always right. Well, except they are telling you to leave a comment after reading this.
What stories are you telling yourself?