We all have a story that we tell ourselves.
It plays in the background of our mind all the time. That story has been written by our past experiences, thoughts, feelings and self-perceptions. Sometimes others have taken the pen from us and written a chapter or two as well.
If our story is positive, it can help support, encourage and guide us. If the story we tell ourselves day after day is a negative one, it can only hinder and harm us.
My self-limiting story was written in childhood. I grew up in a dysfunctional home with a lot of verbal and emotional abuse. I grew up believing that I was worthless, unlovable and undeserving of the good things in life. Childhood sexual abuse further damaged my self-worth; leaving me feeling violated, disconnected and degraded. It took years for me to realize that the abuse didn’t stop when those experiences ended.
I had taken over where they left off, and continued to abuse and punish myself.
The story I used to tell myself was ugly. I said things to myself that I never would have said to another person. Those ugly words played on a continuous loop in my mind my whole life. It colored the way that I saw myself and the world around me.
Every choice I made was a result of my negative beliefs about myself. I believed that when others treated me poorly, I deserved it. I was convinced that I could only fail. I thought that happiness only happened in the movies.
The only way I would be able to change my life would be to change the way I thought about myself. I had to recognize and change that negative loop of garbage I was telling myself all day every day.
But how can we change the story of our lives; these stories we tell ourselves?
First we must become aware of the pattern of thought. Because this story plays in our subconscious mind, we may not even realize that it’s there most of the time. To identify those self-limiting thoughts, we have to be present and listen. It will show up in our conscious thoughts or the words we say, we just have to be there in that moment to hear it.
Sometimes it’s a comparison—the feeling that others are more deserving of the good things in life because they are somehow “better” that we are. Sometimes it’s a feeling of lack—I can’t have, be, do, afford, or achieve because I’m just not worthy of it. Sometimes it’s a continuation of things that others have said to us with their words and actions—“No one loves you, your opinions are not valuable, you’re dumb, fat, ugly, incapable, a failure…” Recognizing these thoughts is the first step in changing them.
The second step is to interrupt the pattern of thought as soon as it comes into our awareness. When I hear that loop of garbage starting, “you’re not good enough, you look fat today, you’re not going to get that promotion…” whatever it is, I say this simple phrase to myself: “That is not my truth.” Sometimes I just think it, sometimes I say it out loud. (Yes, I talk to myself.)
By saying “that is not my truth” when then negative thoughts begin, I remind myself that that negative little voice is a liar. Consciously interrupting the pattern of unconscious thoughts opens the door for me to change them.
The third step in the process is to sing a new song. Once you’ve become aware of the negative thoughts, and told them that they are not your truth, you get to replace them with something new. This was challenging for me in the beginning. I had spent my whole life telling myself that I was no good, no one would ever love me and I was too damaged to ever do anything good with my life. Saying anything kind to myself after thirty-something years felt like a lie.
With practice, it got easier. Eventually, the positive messages began to outweigh the negative.
Today when the inner critic begins trying to tear me down, I can silence it almost instantly. I feel that nagging “You’re not good enough for this” thought begin, and I announce boldly “that is not my truth.” Then I choose something loving to remind myself that I am worthy.
I am lovable. I am kind, compassionate and generous. I am the author of the story of my life. I have the freedom to choose to foster healthy relationships. I am beautiful, and talented and wise. I am capable and deserving of great success, and no longer need to settle for anything less than the very best in life. I am healthy and whole and love myself completely. There is no reason for me to settle for scraps anymore. I can now sit at the table of my life and feast on all the wonderful things I once thought were unattainable.
Interrupting my negative patterns of thought has changed everything about my life. It has allowed me to step into the world with a level of confidence and authenticity that I never imagined was possible. The story I tell myself is now one of victory, courage and strength.
I know my worth and I walk through life expecting only wonderful things to happen—because I know that deserve them.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Apprentice Editor: Carlene Kurdziel / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Flickr/.estelle f.