Hey, you. I have an idea. In 2016, let’s tell ourselves better stories.
Let’s not tell ourselves the story about how we can’t, or won’t, or don’t deserve, or aren’t ready. Those stories are so obviously tired, and quite boring.
Let’s also not tell ourselves the more sneaky, but equally dangerous ones. Like:
It’s not that bad.
I don’t have enough time.
I can never decide.
I can’t afford it.
While all those things may be true—like, maybe you can’t actually afford to go on the trip and you don’t have time to take a class this spring—but when “I can’t afford it” and “I don’t have enough time” become your mantras, that’s where your energy stays. (“I can’t afford it” has been stamped on my forehead since I was 21; this is where my work is being done.)
And let’s especially, especially not tell ourselves the stories that are cruel to us. You know, the one where you’re the most unlovable, insufficient, rejected, uninteresting person around? The story about how your sweetheart didn’t want you (even though there are 1,000 real reasons the relationship is not right or good for you). These are the stories—the ones that we see as if looking in a funny mirror, a distortion of reality—that cause us the most suffering. Because not only are they untrue, but they put our well-being in the hands of something or someone else, and when that something or someone can’t keep us full for whatever reason—and there are many, and they are inevitable—we hurt. Deeply. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into more times than I can count and it never, ever fails to squash me.
This “telling ourselves better stories” isn’t about droning out sunny Chicken Soup for The Soul affirmations. It is about noticing, and then kindly, but very firmly, changing our narratives, one single line at a time. It’s not about denying how we feel, but making sure we don’t get stuck there and forget who we are.
You are not your nasty breakup.
You are not what they think of you.
You are not the frustration of your job.
You are not your broken heart.
You are not what you have lost.
You are also not a Yoga Teacher or a Lawyer or a Single Father or a Divorced Person or an Alcoholic.
You may have experienced all those things, and still be experiencing them, but they are not who you are. Do you see?
Who you are is infinite and stardust. Who you are is capable of miracles that would blow all our freaking little minds. Who you are right now is not who you were just five seconds ago when you started reading this.
You might ask, “How? How do I behave as if I am stardust when I feel as though I am dust-dust?”
Or rather, “How do I remember who I am when I forget?”
Here are 16 ways I’ve learned to tell myself better stories and remember who I am:
1. WRITE DOWN THE PAINFUL STORY. Then re-write it. Your re-written version should be powerful and loving. Even if you don’t believe it, even if it sounds too full of love and light and isn’t where you live at this moment, write it down. This is the story that's true. Example:
Your Story: He rejected me. I’m co-dependent and I’ll never have a healthy relationship. I can’t get out of this cycle and it’s killing me. I will never change.
The Rewrite: I rejected me, and he’s mirroring it back. I’m co-dependent because that’s what I learned, but now I know better, so I’m doing better. I deserve a healthy, beautiful relationship because I am a badass. I am already out of this cycle. I am already changing.
2. PUT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE who will remind you of the true, good, loving stories about yourself and call B.S. on the bad ones. Call on them regularly and ask to be reminded.
3. DROP PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT YOUR BAD STORIES and have a bunch of their own. They’ll keep you stuck.
4. DO "THE WORK" by Byron Katie. (This stuff will blow your mind.)
5. CREATE. Anything. Draw a flower or a log cabin with stick figure horses. Write a bad poem. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is a great manifesto about the importance of creativity to our souls, and she is of the belief, as I am, that every human is creative, not just the “artistic” ones. My favorite thing to do is get a pile of markers out and draw pictures around my favorite words or quotes. Sometimes I just write Post-Its and decorate my home with them. Sometimes I practice handstands.
6. SAY NO.
One of the best things I’ve done for myself this year is learn to say no. No to things I don’t want to do, even if it means letting someone down. No to things I “should” do, in favor of taking care of myself first. No, even though I've said Yes before. No, because it’s a complete sentence. It was hard to learn this, it's scary to practice it, and I'm still learning. But No is golden. No means taking your energy back. No means having boundaries. No means choice. No allowed me to create enough space to get sober, to learn how I actually felt about things, to gain some semblance of internal calm. Try it.
7. ASK YOUR TEACHERS TO SHOW UP. I did this when I was buried in wall to wall pain during the end of my marriage, when I was a new mom, wracked with anxiety and shrinking by the second, when I was faced with sobriety, and hundreds of other times in my life. I’ve asked for gurus, teachers, guides, angels and I’ve always found them. A few times I’ve met real life, actual people in the flesh, but most often my teachers have arrived in books.
9. MEET SOMEONE NEW + ASK QUESTIONS. I love Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. One of the best episodes I’ve heard was the recent on with Brian Grazer, the world famous movie producer of Apollo 13, Arrested Development and a zillion other movies. He says his secret to growth has been meeting one new person a week, asking questions and staying curious. I’ve found Instagram, Facebook and other blogs to be amazing places to meet new people who are like-minded (see: #2, building your tribe) so if you’re wondering how to do this when your day is filled with work and parenting and whatnot, I’m telling you it’s totally possible.
10. FOLLOW THROUGH ON ONE SMALL THING. It builds up your confidence.
11. CLEAN OUT, THEN REARRANGE. Things carry energy. When I have stacks of old mail piled up and corners full of junk around in my house or office, my insides get crazy. After Christmas this year I let my house get so cluttered I could barely breathe. Instead of lighting the tree on fire, I pulled out the cleaning stuff, got on my knees, picked one corner at a time and cleaned. I threw a lot of things away. I donated. I dusted and rearrange my books. I re-connect with all the objects in my house and reclaimed my space. It works.
12. STOP WATCHING TV. Just stop. It’s crap. Nothing on TV will remind you who you are.
13. MOVE YOUR BODY. The fastest, most surefire way to get out of my head is to move by body. Yoga is particularly incredible because it connects you with your life force, your breath. Running burns it all off for me, too. Anything that gets your heart pumping and forces you to focus on your physical body will pull you out of your head. I’m a yoga snob and thought I could only do “real” yoga in a studio with “real” teachers, which meant I wasn’t doing a whole lot of yoga this year. Yogaglo has changed my world (Stephanie Snyder is my favorite teacher).
14. READ A RETURN TO LOVE by Marianne Williamson and then read it again. And then again. Especially if your most painful stories are about relationships.
15. BAN YOUR GO-TO PHRASES FROM YOUR VOCABULARY. A while ago I noticed how every single person’s response to “How are you?” at work was “BUSY.” So I stopped saying I was busy, even if I was flat out stupidly busy. I stopped saying it because it’s boring, because, who cares, because saying it for the 600th time made my brain sad. I stopped saying it because it didn’t make me any less busy.
This is actually really powerful stuff. What are the things you most commonly say about yourself or your life? I’m so stuck. I’m so tired (oh yeah, we ALL love that one). I’m so overwhelmed. I wish I had the time for that.
One of my friends constantly says how overweight and out of shape she is (she is not) and I can feel her exhausted, flat energy hover around every time she says it. I finally told her she can’t say it around me anymore because it hurts me and it hurts her. Not because I don’t want to be there for her, but I don’t want to be there for her crappy story that’s not true.
16. PICK A WORD AND OWN IT.
My beautiful friend and artist Tammi Salas picked a word for 2015 and made that her mantra for the year. Hers was “SHED,” pictured below. I love this concept, particularly because it gives us focus. This can obviously be done anytime, but I love the idea of doing it at the onset of a new year.
My word for 2016 is “BUILD.”
Happy New Year, lovelies.