If I could name one thing with the potential to bring inner abundance to every human being—that thing would be the stories we tell ourselves.
It’s past midnight and, thanks to your thoughts, you’re still not asleep. Passport. Plane Ticket. Bathing Suit. Five outfits. Underwear, shoes, socks. Toothpaste, toothbrush … You go through your mental list one more time, because you always forget something.
It’s been a long hard day and you’re finally exactly where you want to be: at home, braless, with your family. But instead of soaking up the conversation and laughter, the familiar sounds and smells of home that you’ve been longing for since you crawled out of the bed this morning, you are stewing over that comment your co-worker had the nerve to make. How dare she even say anything! She didn’t help, though she was supposed to. And now you have more work to do tonight. You always get stuck with all the work. And she always takes part of the credit. Why does this always happen to you?
We are brilliant beings, soaking up information from our environment from the moment we are born. If we cry, we get changed, fed, and cuddled. If we smile, Mommy and & Daddy smile back, and laugh and coo. The actions and reactions, lessons and consequences grow bigger as we grow older. If we touch the hot stove, we get burned, and learn not to touch the hot stove again. If we get a speeding ticket, we learn to slow down, at least on that curve where we got the ticket.
You’d think that by paying attention to reactions and consequences, to the patterns of behavior that leave us unhappy, frustrated, and/or stressed out, we could easily see where we need to make changes. But unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Not only do we soak up information, we store it in our big beautiful brains as stories.
These stories become our guide to the way the world works and the way we should behave within the world in order to get what we want, and avoid what we don’t.
That avoid piece is huge. Think pain, suffering, death.
Stories are part of our survival mechanism. What’s absolutely fascinating to me is the way these stories often run in stealth mode under the radar of conscious thought, determining our every action, reaction, and pattern of behavior.
“We rise to our expectations.” –Kindra Hall
I listened to Kindra Hall’s audiobook Choose Your Story, Change Your Life: Silence Your Inner Critic and Rewrite Your Life from the Inside Out. Kindra is a guru on the subject of stories and how they impact our lives. She’s researched the topic for years, and found that developing awareness of the stories we tell ourselves can help us finally lose that weight, or finish that book, or learn to say no (or quiet our mind at night after a stressful day at work). In fact, an awareness of the stories we tell ourselves can help us live out the life of our dreams.
In her book, Kindra tells of a woman who was working on her fitness goals and not seeing the results she desired. Then she discovered that she had this tried-and-true story she kept telling herself when she was faced with a delicious piece of cake: You Only Live Once.
I’m a fan of the YOLO motto. It inspires me to live, and it’s even a theme in the novel I’m writing. But stories, even positive ones like YOLO, can be also have the power to hinder us on our path to our goals.
Kindra shares more stories in her book. Like the one about her Dad losing his job, just before retirement, and being afraid he was too old to find another job. She tells a personal story of a long-desired speaking opportunity she was given and almost turned down, because she also had other work commitments that were keeping her away from her kids. And all that time away from her family and focused on work meant she was a bad mom, or so she told herself.
Kindra also tells many stories she uncovered while working with her clients. These stories revolve around common themes, like: I don’t have enough time, or money; I’ll never measure up; I’m unlucky, or I’m just lucky; I’ll never be able to do this; I can’t do this; I should do this.
And, the stealthiest one of all – I’m not enough.
The stories we tell ourselves have the power to assist us or derail us in the creation of the abundant life we desire.
It’s important we become aware of these stories we are telling ourselves, so we can analyze them and see their impact on our lives. Then, as Kindra points out, we can choose stories that serve us better on the journey to the abundant life we desire.
So, how do we go about becoming aware of these sneaky stories that hijack our minds? Our bodies give us clues. Kindra says that many times these silent stories reveal themselves as tension in our chest or in our neck, back, and/or temples. The hard part is tuning into these sensations and trying to uncover the events and stories that might be causing them.
Is a story of, “my work has to be perfect for the boss to notice my potential (worth)” sending you home from the office with a tension headache? Is a difficult family issue that you’re avoiding causing lower back spasms that incapacitate you over the holidays, so you can bypass the confrontation and keep everyone happy? Well, everyone except for yourself, anyway.
Kindra also believes that the inner critic, those verbal thoughts that run their own script inside our minds, is a great place to build awareness of our stories. She suggests taking a few days or a week just to tune into the things you say to yourself.
“Why did you do that?”
“You can’t do that.”
“That is too hard.”
“You shouldn’t have said that.”
Once you’re aware of your thoughts you can follow up with the work of seeing what stories might be lurking underneath. It might be a fear (the majority of the time it will be), and/or just something someone else told you that you’ve allowed to run on repeat. (We inherit stories from our parents and grandparents and close friends and coworkers too.)
Another way to increase our awareness of the stories controlling our lives is to pay attention to our emotions. Remember that post where I talked about crying for a whole week? Emotions like crying, anger, and again, fear, are the flashing lights on our inner abundance dashboard. They are huge indicators that something is off, and usually it’s a story that has us feeling out of sorts.
One of my stories is that I am supposed to be strong. I’m not supposed to cry. I developed this story when my Dad was in his final bout with COPD. I was helping Dad with his final wishes, learning his passwords, trying to hold it all together. We were sitting in front of his computer. He had this little notebook with his scrawly handwriting and all his passwords. He wanted to show me how to log in, how to access the information Momma would need.
I got misty-eyed when one of his passwords was my oldest son’s birthday. The oldest son I gave birth to when I was sixteen. Dad looked at me. Maybe he saw the emotion and took it for something else, but he said, “You’re going to have to do this.”
That became my story. I was going to have to do the hard work of holding it together and making sure Dad’s wishes were honored and his beloved wife of fifty-four years was taken care of. I added my own twist on the words. “You have to be strong. You’re not supposed to cry.” I’m absolutely sure that is NOT what Dad meant. But I wanted to do right by the man who stood by me and my precious baby at sixteen, and never once made me feel any guilt or shame.
I want to point out here that uncovering our stories is hard work. Our stories might lead us to some huge fears and past experiences that need some deeper acknowledgment and healing, some surrender and grace. That’s okay. Give yourself the time and support that you need, even if that means hiring a therapist or coach to assist you.
As Kindra shows, the crafty stories that we allow to rule our lives are numerous and part of our unending quest to stay safe and to feel loved. Don’t be afraid to give those stories a closer look. They just might need some tweaking or rewriting.
What is it that you desire? Is there a story running unchecked in your mind that you need to replace with a story that serves you and your dreams and goals better?
You don’t need as much time as you think. Take some small action today on your health, on your book, on your business plan, on whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t.
You’ll have more energy when you are doing what you love.
It may not be easy, AND you are still perfectly capable of getting it done.
You’re not too old, or too young, or too anything – you are authentic and just right for what you were created to do.
You ARE Enough!
Now, go fill up with inner abundance by starting the work on that project, goal, dream that was meant for you. And when the stories start popping up telling you that you can’t, shouldn’t … blah blah blah, wink at them, acknowledge them, pull out the fear and silence it with the truth – You are meant to have peace, and ease, and the life you desire.
Have you missed a post in the Abundance Series? Here are the posts thus far: