“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
Your story is what you tell yourself and others about your life. We do this all the time when we meet new people. The longer we know them, the more we fill in our life story with whole chapters and characters we have met. The key is to know that you are telling the story, so you have the power to change the viewpoint of the narration.
You are the narrator of your life. Begin watching how you talk about yourself. Your every word defines who you want the world to see and reinforces how you think of yourself. If you keep the narration focused on unlimited potential for the future, lessons from past adversity, appreciation for the people who come and go, and gratitude for life itself, you will not only enjoy life more, you will be a joy to be around. Be a light in your own life, be your own best cheerleader, and watch your life be transformed.
Is your story one of being a victim of circumstance, or is it one of triumph through adversity? Recognize that either version of the story is just a different perspective of the same past events. For example, I could tell my story from a negative point of view …
I became physically and mentally disabled in my late twenties and early thirties. I went through an emotionally crushing divorce in that same time period. My condition eventually required brain surgery when I was thirty-three. One month before the brain surgery, my eleven-year-old daughter was tragically killed in an accident because some jerk cut them off on the highway. My life has been destroyed by things out of my control. How can I ever be happy? I have to deal with disabling health issues every day, which further makes my life sad and depressing. Life sucks!
This is a Woe is me! type story of victimization.
Or I can tell my story with positive passion …
Many years ago, I went through some emotional and physical trauma. These events provided an atmosphere of deep introspection of life and were a catalyst for self-transformation. I learned that I can be happy no matter what my past was, my current life circumstances are, or whatever the future holds. I am grateful for my past, because it has given me the opportunity to grow into who I am today.
This is a Life is good! type story.
It is important to understand that both versions of the story are just different perspectives of the same past events. The past hasn’t changed; the way I look at it has changed. What I choose to emphasize has changed. This switch from a negative perspective into a positive one changed my life.
The choice in how you see and tell your story will affect your self-image and how others see you. Don’t play the victim in your life story, and you won’t feel like a victim.
Today ask yourself, “What’s my story?” If you don’t like the story, then change it. Don’t fabricate lies, just re-frame how you describe past events and who you are. If you had past adversity or tragedy, begin to speak only of the lessons you have learned. Don’t focus on the pain. Focus on how you used the experience to grow as a person or how you learned more about yourself and life. If you can’t quite tell it in a positive fashion yet, then do not tell it at all! You write your own story. Make it a happy one.
You are the narrator of your life story. Make it a happy one!
Take time to sit down and rewrite your life story. It may take many rewrites before you eliminate all of the negative narration that you have been accustomed to telling yourself and others. At least start with one happier, more positive version of your story. You will be able to rewrite it as often and as much as you desire. There are numerous ways to tell any story. Make yours a happy one, even if you don’t believe it yet. Until you rewrite your life story into a happy one, refrain from telling it.
Watch how you talk about yourself and what you say about your life story. Story lines to avoid are the following:
“I can’t do that.”
“I’m not good at ____”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I feel like a victim of life circumstances.”
“I feel like a victim of past events.”
“Life is difficult.”
“I’ll never be happy because ____.”
“I’ll be happy when ______.”
You get the idea. Watch what you say about yourself and your life. Argue for your limitations, and you will always be right. Tell stories of victimization, and you play the part of victim.
Begin to use story lines that cast you as the hero.
“I learned so much going through _________. I am truly grateful for the experience.”
“Going through the loss of __________ really taught me how I should never take things for granted.”
“I learned that I can grow stronger through adversity.”
“I am not afraid to follow my dreams, because I know that failure is just a step on the path and another notch in my belt of experience.”
“I know I can be happy no matter what happens in my life.”
“Life is good!”
“I chose not to see myself as a victim of past circumstances but a student of life. If I didn’t learn something, then that would be a real tragedy.”
You are the narrator and the director and can cast yourself as any part you wish in your life story.
Moving beyond Your Story
Who would you be without your story? When you define yourself by your life story, you are still limiting yourself. You are more than your past, no matter how delightful, painful, exciting, or dramatic it has been. You are just a character in the story, not the story itself. It can be tempting, when people ask who you are, to start telling your life story. The next time someone asks you to share about yourself, tell them your dreams, your values, and what sparks your passion. It’s not who you were yesterday that matters; it’s who you choose to be now and tomorrow.
Laura Barrette Shannon
author of Be Happy Now: Simple Steps for Enjoying Life