We are made up of our memories and the stories we tell about both ourselves and our experiences in the world. When it comes to personal growth and evolution, I believe it is crucial to take a close look at these stories and be as honest as possible in our assessment of them.
Because some of these stories, especially those we tell about ourselves, simply aren’t true and on some level we know it.
Many who have delved into my small steps approach are surprised at the depth and intensity of the work it takes to establish new habits and behaviors (incidentally SO much harder than any diet or other short-term quick fix program, but the results from this hard work are very real) and that a significant part of the process involves letting go of some of the stories that we’ve allowed to define us.
Many clients have come to me with stories involving statements like these:
“I have no control around food.”
“I’m a life-long binger.”
“I’m a yo-yo dieter.”
“I have no discipline.”
“I’m overweight because it’s genetic.”
“I can’t stick with anything long term.”
There can be a divide between “I’ve been doing this” and “This is who I am.” And this divide can be profound and enormous. In other words, just because we’ve been doing something (even for years) doesn’t automatically mean that behavior is an accurate reflection of who we are. As in, someone who has been binge eating for 20 years and tells that story about himself/herself may not, in truth, be a binge eater.
However, if there is one thing that all the stories we tell about ourselves have in common, it is this: they are comfortable. We are familiar with them. We know them. We rely on them. We fall back on them. They anchor us in the world. We can even convince ourselves that some of these stories let us off the hook (e.g. “I’ve been binge eating for 20 years, so there’s obviously nothing I can do about it. It’s just who I am”).
Even stories not anchored in truth are still stories we know and trust.
What this means is that choosing to write a new story, a story of what we stand for and how we truly see ourselves, can be unsettling and scary. We should never underestimate how massive an undertaking it is to live life on our terms and to do so, let go of all the stories we discover aren’t true. Stories that not only are not representative of who we are, but never were.
What a massive undertaking. And yet…It is only through the process of taking control of your own narrative that you, the real you, can begin to emerge in the world. Yes, you’ll lose the comfort of the old stories, but that is no match for what you will gain.