I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of story and narrative these past several weeks. I’ve heard stories people tell themselves about who they are and who others are. I’ve heard how easy it can become to hear what one wants to hear. I’ve heard how a viewpoint can totally shape an experience, and how that can impact people deeply.
I was recently talking to my therapist, who commented that I am brave. “Really?” I responded. At this point in my life, I’m having trouble seeing it. I feel like I’ve spent the last year wasting away time, living as a shadow of my best self. As I write that, it feels extreme to say, but I know that this is the story I have been telling myself. I’ve been doing a much better job of telling myself that I can’t do things than telling myself that I can.
I have barely traveled. I’ve struggled to figure out my next steps. I’ve used up savings accounts. I have felt discouraged and disheartened, as I have felt the best parts of me slip into hiding. While there have been beautiful experiences, such as spending extra time with my sister-in-law just after my nephew’s birth, I find myself hearing the story of a failed year (which I sometimes forget is not the same as me being a failure).
That said, as my therapist challenged me, she reminded me of the other parts of myself that I tend to discount with speed.
“You went to Africa and climbed Kilimanjaro,” she commented.
“You’ve traveled the world,” she continued.
“You quit your job and moved to the Caribbean! I wouldn’t have done that.”
“Yes,” I find myself thinking. “These are all parts of me.” Somehow, I’ve let myself believe that this past year of uncertainty negates all the other things I’ve accomplished in my life. My narrative has become quite limited in its scope. I find myself wondering how I can shine a bigger focus on the moments of pride and joy. How can I let these points in my life carry equal weight in my personal narrative? And perhaps more importantly, why don’t I give them that measured weight naturally?
It’s fascinating to me how my mind creates this story around who I am, and how often it doesn’t account for the parts of myself that I most value.
In another conversation with my therapist, I mentioned qualities in others that I so much admire. I find myself drawn to people who have broken from the stereo-typically straight path in life. I find myself drawn to people who follow their inner voices. I tend to admire those who are brave enough to step out of their comfort zone. As I talked about all of these traits with my therapist, she commented that when we are inspired by others, we are recognizing traits within ourselves that have yet to emerge. This idea totally shifted my mind. I was immediately drawn into and in love with this idea. I went home and wrote out a list of traits I admire in others:
Telling untold stories.
Following a passion.
Creating something new.
Taking the unusual path.
Listening to your heart.
Is it possible that all of the things on this list are actually descriptors of me? I hope to think so. And I hope that I can continue to weave them into my story. That’s a personal narrative I would feel proud to live.