09 May Story We Tell Ourselves
What kind of life story would you write? As if you were a victim? Or maybe a hero? Or perhaps as a learner? Ed Bacon in his book, The 8 Habits of Love, points out that we can choose what kind of story we create for ourselves. I believe that this can also help us shape new directions and identities as we go through life.
Story as a victim
Feeling mired as a victim would lead to, and arise from, thinking about defending one’s self, blaming others, or wanting to avenge past wrongs. These kinds of thoughts tend to make us not feel good about ourselves and may lead to bitterness or anger.
Story as a hero
We might try to make ourselves feel better by justifying past decisions or actions, confirming to ourselves that we did right, or patting ourselves on the back to feed our ego. This approach may leave behind a nagging feeling that perhaps we aren’t really being honest with ourselves.
Story as a learner
This approach gives us an opportunity to look into various corners of the soul with kindness and insight, to create a course correction, or start a new path in life, or confirm the path we’re on. It allows us to not regret life choices, mistakes, and failures, but rather to appreciate that our past has made us who we are today – as someone courageous enough to grow and learn.
Revising your life story
To keep your focus as a learner – whether looking at years or only yesterday – it may help to review what your ideals and motives were, or what the sense of direction was that drove you. Consider the people you loved, and the commitments you made and kept.
It can also be very helpful to talk about past events – or even those little day-to-day happenings – with a compassionate listener, who won’t pass judgement or attempt to tell you what to do.
Be gentle and compassionate with your past self and who you are now, because that can deeply influence your future. We can learn to do better what we didn’t do so well before, and become more of the kind of person we want to be. For instance, I often think I do a better job as a grandmother than I did as a mother, and that’s okay, because I’ve learned from the past and I can do better now.
A period of uncertainty or crisis may push us toward seeing ourselves in a new light, and exploring possible new identities for ourselves. For some people, becoming a caregiver, or developing a disability, or retiring from work, creates a new identity. Only you can decide on the nature of that new identity – as victim, as hero, or as learner.
Seeing a difficult challenge as an opportunity to reframe the story of one’s life can help us grow and develop in ways we never thought possible. I am comforted by Viktor E. Frankl’s words.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation…we are challenged to change ourselves.”