Secrets breathe in the dead of night
When even breaths are drawn
And someone’s praying for the light
And the forgiveness of the dawn
And old fears huddle ’round the bed
And old scars start to bleed
We can’t take back the words we said
Or speak aloud our need
And hearts laid open in the night
Are locked up tight by day
So afraid another might
Go steal our hearts away
And minutes pass and hours go
Another day is gone
No matter that we wish it back
When our last breath is drawn.
I couldn’t tell you how long ago I wrote those words. They’ve stayed with me.
On those nights when we have difficulty sleeping, all of the hurts of the past can rise up to whisper in the night air around us. All those old stories we used to tell ourselves, all of our broken pieces—they resurrect themselves.
My old stories are simple to summarize: hard to love, easy to leave, never good enough and unable to rely on anyone but myself. This is the scar tissue that aches on the difficult nights. And while I’ve done so much work in rooting out these stories, tough nights can unearth the remaining scraps. It becomes clear then that there is more work to do.
Our stories are typically housed deep within us. Some originate in childhood. Others crop up in our life experiences. These stories are the terrible things we tell ourselves and believe, whether we acknowledge it or not. When we become aware of it, we have the opportunity to do some myth-busting on the dark stories we’ve been believing as our truth. We can pick the pieces apart to see that we’re not unlovable—to find that we’ve always been good enough.
We can trace the stories back to their point of origin and begin to see that we’ve built our lives around lies someone else told us about ourselves. Lies that we believed. Lies we’ve perpetuated in our lives.
So we begin to unravel the lies, pulling them apart at the seams. We take a close look at our lives, and we see that these lies hold us captive in a cycle. We believe them, so we see them. We see them, because we believe them. In short, we are manifesting them through our belief.
When a lover left me, it wasn’t because I am unlovable. It’s because he wasn’t mine, and he had feelings for someone else. It had nothing at all to do with me, and yet the pain of it could easily reinforce the lie if I let it.
When I’m told that my life isn’t measuring up, I pull apart the threads to see that the person speaking those words is speaking from their own issues and insecurities. The measuring stick they’re using is not the one I want to use to measure my life, because I’m good enough just the way I am. I am enough. My worth is not dependent on anyone else acknowledging it; it isn’t based upon comparison.
This is how the myths fall apart. On closer inspection, we find that they are not truth. They’re not anything like truth. We only accepted them as fact because it hurt too much to look too close. Now we approach, unafraid. We look closer, and we begin to see that we’ve built a foundation on the mythology that we are not worthy.
Our truth, the honest truth, is that we are whole already. We are worthy. We are enough. Sure, there’s always more work we can do to be our best selves, but we are not unlovable or insufficient in ourselves.
When we begin to bust our own myths, I think we become more cognizant of how we contribute to the myths of others. For example, I’m trying to make sure that my children have a positive inner dialogue. I focus on body-positive messages and words of encouragement rather than criticism. I’m far from the perfect parent, but I love that my children are already repeating some of the messages: “I’m so proud of you.” “You can do it. I believe in you.” Because I have spent so much time dismantling negative messages, I’m trying to give my children a healthy base of self-esteem and the knowledge that they are already good enough.
I try to extend those positive messages to the people in my life, too. If I notice that someone looks nice, I compliment them. I try to be supportive. We all face plenty of criticism, and when our own myths begin to fall apart, we can try to dissolve someone else’s with kind words.
On difficult days, it can be so easy to surrender to those whispers in the night that we’re just not enough. We can feel like we’ve failed, and we can wallow inside of those feelings. It’s easy to give in to them. I’ve found that it’s important to feel what we feel but not to let it define us.
If we feel like we’re failing, we can trace that feeling back to the source. If there’s something that we can do to change the situation, then we can take action. If, however, the feeling is coming from a lie we’ve been telling ourselves and we’re doing the best that we can, then we can attack the lie at the source by reminding ourselves of our truth.
And when we bust our own myths, we can learn to live in kindness so that we’re not contributing to anyone else’s negative self-dialogue with unkind commentary. We can learn to be supportive rather than critical of others.
Here are some ways to do that:
Instead of assuming we know what someone is experiencing, we need to listen to their experience. And we don’t need to listen to correct; we need to listen to understand.
Once we’ve heard someone’s experience, we can try to have empathy for that experience.
3. Offer encouragement.
Instead of doling out unsolicited advice or criticizing how someone is handling their situation, we can offer encouragement and support. I don’t mean that we enable someone’s bad choices; I mean that we offer constructive criticism, or none at all. We don’t offer criticism at all when our advice isn’t solicited.
4. Be cognizant of our own patterns.
Whether we’re raising children or just interacting with family or colleagues, we can be sure that the messages we’re putting out in the world are positive. Do we find ourselves complaining all the time? Do we find that the words we say are often critical? When we begin to unravel the lies we’ve told ourselves, we can be more careful to be a positive influence on those we encounter simply by paying more attention to the words we speak.
Our stories are powerful, and when we believe lies, these lies infiltrate every aspect of our lives. Myth-busting these negative stories is an important step to having healthy relationships with ourselves and others.
It’s only when we correct those lies and let them go that we become aware of how we’ve let them shape us.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Toby Israel