Taking things personally can often mean a painful story arises when you’re hurt, insulted or upset. It’s definitely not a good feeling.
Yet, we all have a chance to choose what we make things mean. Humans are born storytellers, one of our most distinguishing characteristics in the animal kingdom.
When it’s just our internal monologue, we sometimes forget that we always have the alternative to tell any story in a good feeling way. We aren’t limited to trying to ‘not take things personally’ as an alternative to feeling badly. We can take things personally and make it feel good.
What does that mean?
It means when you set out on a quest to do something by choice, or something just happens to you without your permission, it’s your story and you get to tell it to yourself any way you like. It’s personal. It’s about one person, the protagonist, which is you, and circumstances that happen. And it’s a story, win or lose, that either feels good or it feels bad.
So why not make it feel good?
The big question:
Why on earth would you choose a story to feel bad when you can choose it to feel good?
A few thoughts:
- Maybe we just forget we have the choice. As young children, we initially seem to have no rules or limits on what we choose…until we’re told by someone that we ‘can’t’ and we ‘must’ and we ‘shouldn’t’. Eventually we forget our precocious, playful, powerful, precious choice-loving selves.
- Maybe we’re unaware of the power of language when it comes to self-talk. Many of us use language to ourselves that is unkind, and scarce in compassion – we’d never treat a person or a pet the way we treat ourselves in our own minds.
- It’s habit. We’re so caught up in the storytelling, in the habits of our inner-talk language, that we forget we’re the story teller, and have ultimate control at all times. We lose context of the big picture by being too immersed in the details.
- Fear. We may be afraid to let go of our stories. Our stories anchor us to feeling right and certain. If we let go…then what? A painful story might just be more acceptable than being uncertain, or heaven forbid, wrong. Others may tell us we’re talented, or just perfect the way we are, and we persist in believing our bad-feeling version of the story anyway. Ever done that? I have.
- Born to solve. We sometimes don’t even realize we have our story on automatic replay, and we tell the same story in many different circumstances – even through meeting new people and taking new jobs. I believe it’s human nature to solve a problem, and if we’re facing the same problems over and over again, it just means we’re hell-bent on solving it. Our brain just brings up the story over and over again as different circumstances flow into our life for the express purpose of a breakthrough. The longer you take to break through, well the longer you might spend hell-bent, repeating the cycle.
When I work with clients, getting them to see their story is one breakthrough.
Getting a client to see how much choice they have to let go of painful stories and to choose new empowering, good-feeling, stories is the next breakthrough.
When we change our story, we change our life.
Call to action:
- See your story. 2 simple ways to see your story is to practice mindfulness (just observe what flows into your mind) and journal in ‘stream of consciousness’ (just write what flows into your mind) for a few minutes. Start with 2 minutes and try to move up to 20. You get a direct insight to your mind, while outside the framework of your mind..a.k.a context. Very tricky but very insightful. Stick with it. Breakthroughs come with consistent attempts.
- See yourself as the story teller. This is about you in power-author-mode vs. disempowered-victim-mode.
- See what stories feel bad. Connect emotions to body sensations – your body is a very accurate measurement device!
- Change your inner talk to the emotion you want to achieve – whatever feels good or incrementally good. Again, go with what feels good in your body to help you measure incremental shifts. What does feeling good look like? If you want to be empowered, choose empowering language in your thinking. If you want to feel free, choose freeing-thought language. See freedom everywhere you look. If you want more peace in your life, choose to frame your thoughts in peaceful ways and release all resistance. And so on.
If you’d like to discover some tips on how to change your inner talk, let’s have a conversation.
Stories are powerful, and this is a small example of the good-feeling kind of story-telling habits to foster no matter what your age is.
Last month, my daughters entered the 2015 Durham Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition sponsored by National Engineering Month in Ontario. They along with over 150 other elementary school students (Grades 4-8), designed, planned, built, and brought their stick bridges in for testing to UOIT campus.
It was a busy Saturday, with many excited and engaged students, along with parents, teachers and volunteers from the engineering community who came together to see the results, take pictures, be inspired and test the bridges both functionally and non-functionally.
The goal was to inspire and educate students about the field of engineering.
The winners were decided by a machine built by UOIT just for this contest, that applied a load and then graphically displayed on screen the force required to break or deflect each bridge by more than 50mm.
Jessica and Sophia came in 14th place for maximum load and 10th place for performance ratio. This meant they didn’t win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place prizes. Yet the story they told themselves about the experience was they were happy with their results, smiling and feeling good.
They could have easily been unhappy or feel bad that they didn’t win a prize. Instead they chose to see the work they did together was a success – their personal best. Their happiness came from inner conclusions they made about themselves, not external validation. I took the opportunity to write out what they told me they were proud of themselves for into a card and presented it with a small prize, a couple of weeks later when they least expected it. The prize was not for building a strong bridge. It was for building a strong story of their experience and the positive way they chose to see themselves as a result of it.