We are constantly spinning stories about ourselves. And many of these stories are negative to the bone. For instance, we might spin global stories like: No one will really love you until, unless you are thin. You can’t tell people the truth, because they’ll abandon you. (By the way, some people might leave, but that’s a good thing. They just saved you a whole lot of time.) You only matter if you don’t make mistakes. You are too complicated to love.
Or we might tell ourselves stories that pertain to specific situations. In her beautiful post, Esmé gives this example, which she wrote in the third person: “Esmé was at a writing residency when she began to feel symptoms of unreality. It frightened her. She worried that she would develop more severe symptoms.”
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
Next, Esmé wrote: “Fortunately, she was able to employ some important strategies. She messaged her psychiatrist. She contacted her therapist. She made sure to go for walks and to create safe physical spaces…In the end, she recovered from her symptoms and had a productive residency.”
That’s the incredible thing about stories: We can rewrite the stories that amplify our anxiety, deepen our depression, batter our body image and make us feel like we’re less than, unworthy, incapable and undeserving.
Explore the big-picture stories you’ve been telling yourself. Explore the smaller tales you’re writing on a daily basis, about certain situations, about certain people. Then consider a new narrative. And like Esmé, if it feels right, compose your new story in the third person.
She hated her “new” body, the body that was bigger and wider, the body she no longer recognized. And she felt deeply uncomfortable in her own skin. Fortunately, she realized that she didn’t need to bash herself. She didn’t need to diet. She didn’t need to change. She could find ways to foster calm and comfort right now. And so she did. And for her this was the best solution.
He wasn’t sure if he could get over the pain of yet another breakup. He felt emotionally and physically exhausted, and he couldn’t stop thinking about the things he did wrong. But thankfully he started refocusing on himself. He started doing what he loves. He started surrounding himself with supportive people. And he started enjoying being on his own. He didn’t know what the future held relationship-wise, but he did know that his everyday was pretty awesome.
She made a mistake, a mistake that might cost her a lot of money. She couldn’t remember a time she’d felt this ashamed. She was a failure, she was sure of it. She reluctantly reached out to a friend, and then started sharing what happened with a few others she trusted. She hired help. She started to feel better. She started putting this situation into perspective. And she understood an important fact: Whatever the outcome, she would be OK.
We write stories about ourselves all the time, and often these are far from positive. We might not even realize just how negative and discouraging these stories are. Thankfully, we have the power to rewrite these stories. We have the power to create narratives that are supportive, uplifting, inspiring, empowering and absolutely true. What story will you rewrite today?