We all have stories to tell. And when it comes to stories about ourselves, many people don’t recognize that those tales aren’t necessarily factual. Rather, perspective, magical thinking, flawed memory, subconscious scripts, all influence how we see ourselves and experience our lives. For example, in families members are often unconsciously assigned to “roles”: who believes they are the “cute” one, the “smart” one, or the “troublemaker”? I’ve had clients describe themselves as “perpetual failures,” “never going to amount to much”, or “a committed rescuer.” These stories, at one time, served a purpose. Perhaps they helped us make sense of a bizarre family system, provided a sense of protection, or allowed others to “dictate” who we were and how we behaved that best worked for them. But these identities are far from based in absolute truth. And most of them need to be re-written if we are to fully flourish as human beings.
Re-Telling Your Story
I encourage clients to get a photo of themselves from when they were young, preferably just beginning school, and to display the photo somewhere they will see it daily. I ask clients to consider that child, filled with possibilities and largely stilled unformed, and rewrite a description of that child from a place of objectivity, openness and compassion, almost as if they were talking about someone else. Invariably, people describe their young selves using mostly positive phrasing–“you are fearless and funny”, “you are kind and love to give hugs and play with your pets.” Clients reframe their childhood selves as “curious and big hearted and interesting” and as “loved and loving.” With these new “stories” in mind, I ask clients to look at their photo several times a day, letting them allow the new script to sink into their sense of themselves, to anchor itself into their conscious understanding of who they are. Our stories can spring us forward or hold us back. With a more expansive, comprehensive vision of who we were, we can embrace who we are with affirmation and true esteem.