Knowingly or unknowingly, we live by a narrative that we scripted ourselves - often too long ago - and perhaps under stressful circumstances.
How we see ourselves though, directly affects how we feel and the value that we ascribe to our lives.
Why not take a moment to check, update, and connect with a more fitting narrative?
September. It heralds the winds of change while kicking off a new season and a fresh start for many. As the summer gracefully fades away and the air sharpens, I sense an energy picking up wherever I look.
Excited, bright-eyed children make their way to school, kitted out in smart, new school clothes, polished shoes and a fresh set of books. Students are gearing up for their great leap towards independence, heading off with ‘starter packs’ and ‘UniKitOuts’.
A natural human instinct invites us to rise at the chance of a ‘new beginning’, an unwritten page – unblemished by past mistakes, misfortune or disappointment – an opportunity to start again and put our very best self out there.
For a fleeting moment in time we connect – however unconsciously – with the bigger person inside; with a different, more optimistic narrative of who we are and can be.
We are all born storytellers, as Emily Esfahani Smith reminds us in her excellent book The Power of Meaning. Whether we are aware or not, we identify with a narrative of who we are – kind, generous, talented, creative, good and successful; or more often: inadequate, imperfect, at fault or ‘less than’.
What about optimising this natural moment of change, to let go of ideas and notions that have served their purpose and keep us timid and small? We can shed the burden of a negative inner commentator and replace her with a more encouraging voice; one that is in touch with a more spacious and expansive story. Let’s be clear on what that bigger story is.
To help you along, I offer you my THREE STEP PLAN to spruce up your narrative and create a more fitting story:
Find a private moment and create some stillness.
2. CONSIDER and CHANGE
Have you ever thought about the story you tell about yourself, and therefore live by? Maybe it comes out in how you express yourself, what you do or perhaps don’t do?
How would you fill in the following sentence: “I am someone who always/never….” What are the absolutes you use to describe yourself?
How do you stop yourself from growing and developing?
Now edit the script. What would be a more fitting narrative to live by?
Can it include that you are enough and OK as you are? Can it include references to connection and what you mean to others? Could it include a sense of trust in yourself and your ability to carry on learning, developing and contributing to the world?
Make a note of the story you want to tell about yourself and from time to time you might want to reread and if necessary, modify it.
Build regular pauses into your day and week. These need only be short but distinct moments when you check how your story bears out – both internally and externally.
How you (self-)talk
Become more aware of your self-talk, tendency to ruminate or internal chatter. Do you default back to the smaller and less fitting narrative and if so, kindly reframe and steer yourself towards a more encouraging and accepting attitude.
How you behave
Notice how the story you live by helps with bringing down barriers in your communication with others and how you more naturally rise to challenges; doing more justice to who you really are.
As they say: Sometimes in the winds of change, we find our true direction.
Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent. She also works with people around the world via online sessions.
Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.
Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.