From the beginning of time, we have used stories to teach values and instill the beliefs that elicit behaviour fitting with the local cultural mores. As we grow up, many different stories come to us. Parables, spiritual writings, nursery rhymes, history and mystery, fiction and science… all stories to tell us about our world and what is expected of us. We especially love those stories of triumph, stories of heroes, people who succeed despite the odds… They inspire us to believe in ourselves, to have hope and faith….
But did you ever think of yourself as the central character, the hero of your own story? We each have a story that acts as a framework for our public persona, it drives our decisions, is reflected in our self-esteem, guides our behaviour.
Each of our personal stories is written from the events of our life, some significant, like a life-changing accident, many from the patterns that became repetitive, like attracting the same type of difficult partner into your life or chronic financial issues… Our stories act like the backstory for a character in a script or a novel.. they dictate the way we play out our roles in life.
Too often our stories act like an excuse to explain why we haven't accomplished what we expected of ourselves – they give us a crutch to lean on as we work our way through our script…. the problem is that we tend not to notice that we have been managing our life, making our decisions and choices, taking action, based on our backstory – so we don't realize that we may have limited ourselves based on the beliefs it represents… Ellen DeGeneres is a beautiful example of someone whose backstory – being a gay comedian – appeared to limit her career for a time… but those limits were placed on her by others… she was not stopped by her backstory, but instead used it as way of not only succeeding for herself, but also opening the door for so many others to move past what has been perceived as a limiting backstory.
Chances are, you are holding some limiting beliefs about life and about yourself. It is a useful exercise to check in on our stories from time to time, to notice how they are influencing our choices – and to consider options that might not appear to fit with our stories. Our stories tell us what we believe about ourselves and our world and can support us – or hold us back – from achieving our goals.
I challenge you to think about your own stories… consider the ways that your stories influence your choices. Notice also all of the different backstories that influence your choices… for example every family has a backstory that explains certain attitudes and relationships. What makes life so interesting is that the same story may be perceived differently by different members of the same family or group….and each one is right… but that's a story for another day….
In the meantime, if you've been feeling blocked or stuck, or restless, anxious, or even depressed, take some time to evaluate your story, and all the stories that have impacted your life. You will probably find some useful insights that can help you to push ahead.