“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale
“Most of us have only one story to tell. I don’t mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives: there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there’s only one that matters, only one finally worth telling.”
― Julian Barnes, The Only Story
“Be the author of your life story.”
― Frank Sonnenberg, Listen to Your Conscience: That’s Why You Have One
Stories we tell ourselves:
“I know David is not calling me back because I text him back too quickly, he must think I am too needy. I say all the wrong things. I never should have talked to him about meeting my friends so soon. I hate this feeling!”
“Man, I’m never going to get a return message. I keep putting myself out there, and nothing happens. They must think I am unattractive. Online dating is a waste of my time.”
“I’m sick of going on dates and it never goes anywhere. There’s no one out there for me. I am going to end up alone.”
“I’ve been divorced, no one will want me now.”
“I’ve been alone this long, there must be something wrong with me.”
“I am not smart enough.”
“I keep putting myself out there, but nothing ever seems to work in my favor. I guess I am not worthy of love.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m a recovering alcoholic.”
” I’m a horrible mother.”
“I am a bad dad.”
” I’m too fat.”
Sound familiar? I bet at least one of these stories hits a little too close to home. These are but a few very common stories I hear others tell themselves, and to be honest I have found myself say some of this stories to myself.
Our stories carry great power to shape and influence what actually happens in your life and how you feel about it.
The Stories We Tell
Researcher and storyteller Dr. Brene Brown speaks a great deal about the stories we tell ourselves in her most recent book Rising Strong. In it she writes, “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.”
Stories construct our understanding of:
- Who we are
- Who others are
- Who you should/should not date or be in a relationship with
- How you should date
- Why things happen
- What is possible or impossible
- What we think will happen
The power of stories lies in whether you are using your story or it is using you. Like Dr. Brene Brown illustrates, when you deny or choose not to acknowledge the story that you are telling yourself, it will define you.
On the other hand, if you choose to see the story you are telling yourself, explore what other stories might be possible, you hold the power to use the story to your highest benefit.
WRITE THE NEW STORY OF YOUR LIFE
Ask yourself three questions:
1. “What’s story or stories have I been telling myself?”
- What is the story you tell yourself about friendships?
- What is the story you tell yourself about past or present relationships or your potential for relationships?
- What is the story you tell yourself about family?
- What is the story you tell yourself about your health, diet, body image, and fitness?
- What is the story you tell yourself about your job or career?
For example, if your story is feeling unlovable, you can change this.
The real question is this: Do you love yourself?
Friends, family, and lovers come and go. If you depend on others to feel loved, you’ll often feel disappointed, unloved, or unlovable.
Real love is a feeling that arises within, and it begins with self-respect, self-love, and a willingness to open your heart. Healthy self-love isn’t a nauseating, self-absorbed emotion, but rather a range of positive qualities and abilities that combine to make a healthy, whole person.
If you want to feel lovable, start loving yourself and believe that God loves you so much (John 3:16)- that is the story you need to believe
2. “What are some de-tour stories?”
Start by rewriting the stories you have been telling yourself with the following elements:
- Who you are or could be
- Who others are or could be
- Who you could date or be in a relationship with
- How you could date
- Why things happen or will happen
- What is possible or impossible
- What you think could or will happen
When working with people at who are stuck in a story of why something happened or why someone did something to them, I explore with them the many possible alternative stories. These stories may or may not be true, but what they do is allow them to consider other possible explanations for an interaction or situation. Usually the exploration is enough to get a person unstuck from the story they are and have been telling themselves for so long.
3. “What is the story I’d like to write today?”
Imagine how telling yourself a different, open, more empowering story could change your life and relationships in small or even dramatic ways. Writing the story down may help your emotional and creative juices flow more easily
- What pieces of the story would you like to take part in creating?
- What fearless steps do you want to take to play an active role in your story?
- What figures would you like to cast (or not cast) in your story? (Hint: if there is a reoccurring actor/actress in your story, perhaps try casting some new people for the role—go ahead and experiment)
I would like to take a few minutes to learn from Elsa’s story in the movie Frozen. At the very beginning of the film, we learn that there are two sisters, princesses, who share a deep love for each other. However, everything goes wrong when Elsa, the older sister, accidentally freezes her younger sister Anna’s head while using her magical powers to create an indoor winter wonderland. The princess’ parents rush Anna off to be healed by some trolls. Unfortunately, all memory of Elsa’s powers must be swept from Anna’s mind in order for her to be healed, so Anna has no memory of what has occurred. After the event, Elsa is kept away from Anna so that she won’t hurt her again, and in the years of separation that follow, a rift grows between them. Unfortunately, before too long, calamity strikes again and the girls’ parents are lost at sea.
When Elsa comes of age, it is time for her coronation. During the course of the festivities, Anna falls in love with and is engaged to the impressive Prince Hans. Elsa, however, believes the two are acting too hastily, and won’t allow it. In the ensuing fight, Elsa’s powers are accidentally exposed. She then loses her composure and her ability to control her powers, resulting in a massive snow storm and eternal winter that freezes the entire kingdom.
Having lost all self control, hurting many people and their livelihoods, she storms into the mountains and begins singing “Let It Go” as she builds a castle of ice. The song begins by establishing the setting:
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I’m the queen.
She follows this by acknowledging her inner turmoil and her failure to control herself:
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried
Anyway, having chosen to throw out all composure because she lost control once, Elsa continues by singing:
It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
Ah! Up until this point, Elsa had been controlled by fear. She had been controlled by fear of what other people would think about her powers. Now she has decided to reject that fear. (I don’t care/What they’re going to say/Let the storm rage on) Interestingly, she had not been controlling her powers for the health and safety of those around her, as an act of love; instead, she had been concealing them because she was afraid that people would think negatively of her if they knew.
She then sings:
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
In the context of the movie, she is saying that it is time for her to see what she can do with her powers, to take them to the limit, that her powers are neither right nor wrong, and that she is now free to use them. (This eventually results in her almost killing her own sister.) However, removed from the context of the story, the lyrics advocate rebellion against the established norm and moral relativism. Furthermore, when removed from the context of the movie, the song concludes that rebellion and relativism lead to freedom.
Next Elsa sings:
Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on
Being one with nature, or the life force, is also a theme prevalent in the modernistic philosophies which helped to pave the way for both world wars. I find this addition to the lyrics – which already advocate rejection of accepted norms and relativism when taken out of context – to make the song almost a caricature of modernism.
Elsa also seems to be ashamed of crying. She is perfectly fine with flaunting her powers, and she doesn’t care what people think about them, but she still cares about what they’d think if they saw her crying. She has not removed her fears, she has only focused them on something other than her powers.
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past
Here she breaks from her history. She says that she won’t go back, even though there is a whole city filled with people whose queen has abandoned and hurt them. They need her to end the eternal winter. They need governance, too. However, she will not go back, or so she claims, because the past is in the past. The future, on the other hand, is in the future, and she should devote herself to it and to making the future better than the past or the present.
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
The imagery of empowerment can be found here. Somehow, her break from the past, her throwing off of responsibility, and her refusal to live by anything other than by what she feels are seen as empowering. When we look at the lives of people who live this sort of lifestyle, they do not find empowerment but pain.
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway
With that, the song ends. She is no longer concealing her true identity. She is in the light of day, and with these she changes her story. Elsa said it best: the past is in the past. Whatever’s happened to you, whatever choices you’ve made, whatever hurt you’ve felt before today, make a decision to let it all go right now. No amount of worrying will change the past, but it will rob you of your chance for happiness in the present.
People are sometimes scared of what they don’t know, and because of that, being different can make you feel like you don’t belong. Any time you’re tempted to think that way, just look at Elsa: the magic she was determined to conceal was beautiful and powerful all along. What makes you different is often the same thing that makes you unstoppably powerful, unique, and amazing.
As I was listening to the history of this epic story, I felt the God whisper to my heart : “If you don’t like your story, change your song.” Well, that got my attention.
That is why we sing. That is why we write. That is why we re-write. That is why we speak out words that bring life.
We can rewrite our destiny! Call forth the truth that was among us all along, but was hidden because of everyone elses story of our lives.
Maybe if we want to change our story, we need to change what we are singing.