Oh, our mind.
The creator of our identity. The identity that I, you, we hold so dearly.
The identity that we cling to as a means to separate ourselves from everything else. That we cling to for survival of the narrative around what it means to be ourselves.
Listening to a book this past week, I was reminded of destructive statements I have clung to about my own identity. For many years, I didn’t think I had a choice to change anything.
And even more so, I was afraid to even consider the thought. Statements that I grasped and used like an overplayed song on the radio.
I remember saying many times…
“That’s just the way I am.”
“I can’t because that’s not who I am.”
“That will never happen because that’s just not me.”
These statements limited my life in many ways, to say the least. In reality, these statements scream, “Change is not possible. Change is scary. Change is not for me.”
And these messages kept me from stepping up and taking responsibility in life. Kept me from taking ownership over what I could change. Kept me in a story of how everyone had wronged me. They kept me in my own self-perpetuated suffering.
Whether it was to keep me from quitting partying six nights a week in my early 20s…because that’s just “who I was.”
Whether it was to keep me from being more open with my emotions and feelings in relationships…because, “I don’t ‘do’ emotions. That’s just not me.”
Whether it was to keep me from changing my career…because, “I don’t have the skills, relationships, or abilities to create something greater.”
Each an example of stories that kept me stuck in a soul-draining, life-sucking loop. For many years, it was stories like these that steered my actions and/or inaction. And for what?
How was I benefiting from not changing? From not changing the situations that were hurting my health, finances, and relationships?
How many nights would I spend at the bars filling a void that couldn’t be filled?
How many relationships would I allow to fall apart because I couldn’t open up?
How many days would I continue to waste distracting myself with stories of “I can’t be or do anything else”?
The answer to these questions is a lot. For so long, I told myself this story. The story of who I am, the story of who I could never be, the story of how I was somehow lacking, bad, or unable to do something. One of the greatest memories for me was when I changed the story of who I was after my attempted suicide, at 18.
When, after a coma, I had to relearn to walk and prove to myself that I could do it. Even after the doctors told me I may never walk again. And up until that point, my life was going nowhere fast.
Sitting on the balcony of the hospital one night, in my wheelchair, I changed my story. After hitting rock bottom, I changed my story from who I had been to who I would become. And for many years, I carried the personal proof with me. Proof that in some cases I could, in fact, do better, be better, have better.
While the path I was taking was becoming less destructive to myself and everyone around me, there still remained inner stories of limitation.
Stories of not belonging.
Stories that kept me and everyone at arm’s length.
Stories that kept me from stepping up and into my potential.
But, you know what? My stories of not being able to change, my stories of being destined for a specific place in this life, have finally shifted, forever.
I’ve often believed that the presence of fear, anxiousness, and worry were stories of reality. That somehow those feelings and body sensations were facts about the world. And that is false. The presence of fear has nothing to do with whether something can or cannot be achieved. Rather, these are triggers of the mind and body, but often bear no fact in what is possible outside of us.
And at the end of the day, I realized that all the stories in my mind were based on an identity that I thought was fixed. An identity that I thought could not be changed. And even if it could, I was powerless to do so.
The truth is that we are only one way or another because of the story we keep choosing to buy into day in and day out throughout our lives. And the more we prove to ourselves that we can make changes, the easier it becomes to create our lives from a different foundation.
Who we are today does not have to be who we are tomorrow.