Change the storyline of your life to live a better story.
I heard this idea in my meditation practice. We go through life telling ourselves stories about who we are, what we do, and how we live. I imagine they call it a story because even though there is a reality and therefore a truth to it, there’s no way we can know the whole truth of ourselves, others, or any situation. There are always going to be factors that remain unknown.
So, then, we create a story. I am a victim. I am powerful. I am no good. I am destined for failure. No one likes me. Everyone likes me. The story can be good or bad, but mostly, we’re talking about the bad stories of our lives. Those are the ones we want to change.
For me, I had one story about myself for most of my life; I lived thinking I was in control, cool, intelligent, put together, sensible, and fun. Back when I first started having stress-related health issues, they didn’t fit my story. (I also tested as an INTJ back then, and false or otherwise, it definitely colored my perception of myself.) I didn’t let anyone know I was having stress issues or that I was depressed because I didn’t see myself as a person that happened to. The story went that depressed people weren’t trying hard enough, didn’t read books showing them how to have a better mindset, and wanted attention.
I was lucky to get better at all with all that crap in my head. Well, better-ish, since the whole thing happened again a few months ago. This time (over several years) my story had changed. I had slowly come around to accepting myself as an INFJ, an HSP, a multipotentialite, and more creative and dreamy than hardass and intellectual. I was sensitive, and now my sensitivity had taken a blow. But I still thought it was on me. I still thought I hadn’t done something right or I hadn’t taken good enough care of myself. That’s probably true, but it put me in the mindset of victimization. All these external factors had contributed to my fall. It was the school’s fault, it was my friend’s fault, it was my doctor’s fault, it was God’s fault, it was my fault, etc.
Who cares? It doesn’t matter how it happened. It happened, so what am I going to do about it? Thinking about where the blame falls is not only toxic in that it’s automatically negative, but it also keeps the focus on the problem, instead of on the possible solutions.
One foot in front of the other. I can’t see three feet ahead, just the next step, so move there. And then there. And then there. Forward, forward…
The above is a kind of mantra I go through when I’m terrified of what’s next. I don’t know where to go. I knew in college, I had a general idea in Korea, but now…there is nothing ahead of me. It’s a fog, and I can only put one foot ahead. Go to the doctor. See a psychiatrist. Eat better. Exercise to keep me healthy. Get my mind healthy. Find positive friends who support and challenge me. Find a healthy church group. Find a writing group.
The story is changing around me, but I’m not a useless bystander. I can direct it.
Instead of I am a sick person –> I am a recovering person.
Instead of I am not in control of my life –> I can make decisions that influence my life.
Instead of I must be successful/financially stable –> I can determine what is enough for my life.
Instead of I have to be a published author to be worthy –> I am enough.
Instead of I am a burden when I’m sick –> I am worthy of being helped.
Instead of I am someone with a depressing past/history of abuse –> I am able to be better/I can share my story to help others.
You can see how valuable this is. It’s not just positive thinking. It’s changing how you view your entire self in terms of your life. Really, this is best for getting over a mindset of helplessness. Too many people who are victims of abuse, depression, chronic illness, or other really and truly debilitating problems let themselves lose control over their lives and continue to live out the story of their problem. I’m one of them, so I would know.
But I also know that it’s not the only truth. As many people I know who are this way, there are so many stories of people who have overcome awful situations with hope and determination and totally changed their own storylines.
Some of the most well-known examples; Viktor Frankl, Martina Stawski, Nick Vujicic, and Joni Tada.
Change the story of you in your head, and you can change your life.*
*I want to be clear – if you do have depression, anxiety, or have suffered trauma or abuse, positive thinking and this sort of advice will only do so much. I always encourage you to see a doctor or psychiatrist first. They are trained professionals. The sort of advice I give on this blog is more general. 🙂
3 thoughts on “Changing the Storyline of Your Life for Better Living”
When life was at its most overwhelming recently that’s pretty much what I did – one step at a time. I even repeated this when we had to go through so many hoops to get back to Asia. It felt like the sanest thing I could do and it reminded me to stay in the moment.
I really liked this one, “Instead of I am a burden when I’m sick –> I am worthy of being helped.”
Often when I feel like I’m putting others out or being a burden, my BF will ask me, “Would you do the same if your friends were in your shoes?” and without a doubt I’d say, “Yes, but…” and then the realization of what I feel would hit me – for some reason it’s easier to give than receive (at least for some of us).
Good post, Otter.
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It’s been the biggest problem in my life, and probably a huge reason for my anxiety. I have always resisted help, suffering from the American ideal of stoic self-sufficiency, and yet I would help others without hesitation. I just can’t accept help for myself. I came face to face with this when I was living alone and had to reach out to friends time and again. I had to get over the guilt or I would just cave.
I’m still working on it, but hearing that it was just a story I told about myself really helped break me of it. I can tell myself a different story. It’s hard, by God it’s hard, but I can do it.
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I understand. There’s even a saying in Thai regarding not wanting to be a bother on someone else and this is considered a good noble thing.
It’s time I think that we re-evaluate what it means to ask for help, be worthy of it and not feel like you are being a burden because if you are worried about being a bother, then chances are you are not.
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