A guest post by Ronna Detrick
Last week's email was about the stories we've been told and the deeply-ingrained messages they carry (and perpetuate) within us: Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Adam and Eve... (If you missed it, you can read it here.)
In addition to these, we also carry (and perpetuate) another whole world of stories: the ones we tell ourselves.
A personal example...
It might surprise you to know that when I was a teenager I was incredibly insecure. I didn't go to more than a couple dances. I wasn't invited to the weekend parties. I never had a boyfriend. And I was convinced that all of this was because I wasn't good enough, pretty enough, enough-period, to merit any of the privileges that were reserved for the girls who clearly were good enough, pretty enough, enough-period.
Here's the irony: at the very same time that I bemoaned virtually everything about my life, I was getting straight-A's, performing in piano competitions, and fulfilling multiple leadership positions at school.
Somehow, the latter didn't make up for the former. Despite the good things happening around me, to me, even because of me, the "noise" of feeling not enough drowned out nearly everything else. And that noise was (and is) the story I told myself - over and over again.
Maybe you can relate?
As I'm sure you have your own version; stories you told yourself as as a teenager that have hardly remained isolated to those years alone. They persist, continue, even grow!
No matter the ways in which my life has changed since then, no matter how much data I have accumulated as evidence of my inherent value and worth, I still hear that voice inside. It still chatters away. It is still a story I tell myself: I'm not good enough, pretty enough, enough-period.
As I prepared to write this week's letter, I came across a blog post named Fifteen Inner Critic Quotes That You Should Never EVER Believe. Ready?
I am a failure!
I don't know how I got this new job.
My relationships never last longer than five years.
No one finds me attractive.
Nothing good ever happens to me.
It is too good to be true.
I am too fat.
"Oh, it was nothing."
I am no smart enough.
I hate myself.
I am a loser.
I am not worth spending money on myself.
I don't look good in a bathing suit.
I will never amount to anything.
When you see them all listed out like this, they're pretty ridiculous, right? And yet...they just. keep. talking. We do believe them - and others: the stories we tell ourselves. Yes, your list may look slightly different, but it's probably just as long - or longer.
So, what are we to do? (I'm glad you asked!!)
In last week's letter I said this:
When we name and acknowledge the stories we've been told, we can unravel them enough to proactively weave the story we desire and deserve. Consciously. Intentionally. With agency and sovereignty and will.
Said another way, it's not until we look at our stories and the ways in which they've shaped us, that we can hope to choose the story we want to live. Yes, this applies to stories like Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Adam and Eve; it also applies - perhaps even more profoundly - to the stories we tell ourselves.
Back to my personal example...
The story I told myself as a teenager was "I'm not good enough, not pretty enough, not enough-period." Perhaps that's common, even to be expected during such tumultuous, developmental years. But what of now? Why do I still hear that story echoing within me from time to time?
Though the stories I tell myself may have started out as the simple cry of a young girl, they point the way to far deeper desires, longings, even pains. When I really listen to that girl within, to the message within the stories I tell myself, this is what I hear:
I am not heard.
I am not seen.
I am not wanted / appreciated / acknowledged.
And once I hear this? Well, now I'm no longer rolling my eyes at silly thoughts that flit through my mind from time-to-time. I've uncovered a core story that has played itself out in a myriad of ways - over and over again. It's one I continue to tell myself...because ultimately, it expresses my deepest desires.
I feel the lump in my throat and the tears behind my eyes. I'm no longer lost in teenage insecurities, but watching reel after reel of movies in my mind's eye that reveal how that core story played itself out in my life. Choices I made. Compromises I allowed. Boundaries I didn't enforce. Realities I tolerated. Whether always true, or not, that core story - the one I have told myself again and again - has shaped so much of my life. And were I not to see that, recognize that, hear that, I would remain at it's mercy...living a story that is not the one I choose, but one that controls me by default.
One of the ways in which I've learned to uncover these core stories is through a simple writing practice. It has offered me more grace and insight than I can begin to name; I'm hopeful it will provide you the same.
Open up a blank document on your computer.
Ask yourself, "What do the voices within me want to say?" (The young child. The teenager. The jilted lover. The struggling spouse. The desperate parent. The exhausted woman.)
No editing. No censoring. No holding back.
Close your eyes and type.
Something happens when I close my eyes (and give myself full and complete permission to type EVERYTHING that comes to mind - no matter how harsh, how caustic, how painful, how afraid). I hear even more. I listen even deeper. And I let myself speak without restraint or shame or some imagined need to keep things tidy and manageable.
Not every time, but many times, I type things that nearly take my breath away, that shock me with their force, that break my heart. (Like: "I am not heard. I am not seen. I am not wanted / appreciated / acknowledged.") But when all of me is allowed, when I don't push the voices down, or dismiss them as silly teenage (or middle age) rants, I see threads of those stories I've been told and the ones I tell myself. *sigh*
Then I continue:
I open my eyes and read back what I've typed (without fixing errors, etc.)
I take a deep breath.
Then I imagine and invite a very wise woman to write/type back to the voices that have often screamed their way across the page. She speaks in tender tones. She offers perspective. She exudes grace and kindness and generosity.
I write even more - taking in, allowing, and feeling into everything I've heard her say.
Finally, perhaps most important of all, I remind myself that this wise woman is me.
If you're not up for typing with your eyes closed (though I'd highly recommend it), I came across another blog post called, 9 Stories We Must Tell Ourselves Daily. Honestly, if these were the stories you told yourself? Well, that wise woman within would smile, nod her head, and say, "May it be so."
I treat others the way they want to be treated.
I am ever grateful.
I am accountable.
I believe in myself.
I have high standards.
I follow my heart.
I trust my gut.
I am resilient.
I help people.
"Our reality and our actions will always match the story we believe." ~ Mareo McKracken
It is my endless hope that you look ever-closer, ever-deeper at the stories you've been told and the ones you tell yourself. There's always more to discover. Always more to learn. Always more to heal. And always, always more within you to hear, see, appreciate, honor, and acknowledge.
Yes, may it be so. If you enjoyed this post, please visit https://www.ronnadetrick.com and subscribe for more of the same!