I Read the Dictionary, Twice!
Somewhere along the line, in my training for life, I picked up a story about me that I believed in and repeated for almost 40 years. The story was that I needed to be thought of as intelligent in order to be loved. So, before my ninth birthday, I had read the Collier’s encyclopedia in its entirety and I read the dictionary, twice. Then, I nonchalantly worked those amazing achievements into conversations here and there. Even my brother was impressed with my reading feats and subsequently helped spread the word of my obvious intelligence. I say obvious intelligence because I had it in my mind that the only type of person who would read the dictionary and the encyclopedia is someone who was intelligent.
And so it worked for me, kind of. I say kind of since keeping that story going was a lot of work.
The issue didn’t show up in full force until adulthood and then the story became exhausting to continue day in and day out.
Why did I have to continue telling the story? Well, there were people outside of my family who didn’t know me and, as the story goes, in order to be loved, I needed to impress them with intelligence. This list included co-workers, casual friends and the biggie: potential love interests. I don’t remember consciously thinking about telling the story or even that there was a story to tell .¨ it was more like a low humming, under-the-radar rule that said “you must make people think this about you so they will love you, find you interesting and treat you with respect”.
That was one heck of a story to tell, but like most of us, I learned it wasn’t the only story I believed in and was repeating.
Most of us are telling many stories as we try desperately and unsuccessfully to counteract the scores of damaging and negative messages we received when we were growing up about us and the world. Although not all of what we learned was damaging and negative, the messages that were have created major challenges for us.
Projecting Fear and Lack: Where I Picked Up My Story
Most of us get up every day, go to work, attend social functions, hang out with friends and family and tell stories about our lives. We tell stories about who we are, what we are like, what our aspirations are and what our opinions are.
And most of it is a load of bull, a myriad of fa‚àö√üades that are consciously or subconsciously manufactured to counteract the fear of not being loved and to hide the pain of not feeling good enough about ourselves.
Yes, you read this correctly. The stories we tell about our lives are based on fear and lack, both of which are illusions. Let’s face it: we aren’t born afraid that we won’t be loved and we certainly aren’t born feeling bad about ourselves. These are concepts that we learn in childhood through the verbal and non-verbal messages we receive from those who raised us, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. They are, in fact, complete misperceptions.
The concepts we have about us are merely the ideas that our parents and caregivers were taught about their life and then projected onto us. This includes judgments, anger and jealousies, though it also includes love, peace and kindness.
Unfortunately, we tip the scales toward negativity in our teachings. We grow up believing what we were taught and our point of view about anything is then filtered through this limited scope of fear and lack. Because of this, we rarely see the true picture about anything. And the majority of what we think doesn’t work in our favor or in the favor of the planet and its other inhabitants. So what can we do about it? Well, here is the good news: we don’t have to believe in anything we were taught anymore if we choose not to. We can change what doesn’t work for us. We have the power to choose another path and tell a different story. It is our birthright.
So where did I pick up my story? I’m not exactly certain, but I will venture to say that I was heavily praised for getting good grades. As a society, we have been taught that certain standards must be upheld in order to get love, praise and attention .¨ in effect, we have to act a certain way and do certain things in order to be considered “good enough”. What a load of bull. And these so called standards are a moving target since they can be different with everyone you meet. When you take a good look, you realize we are just puppets acting out old thought patterns that have been handed down for centuries and they aren’t working for us. It’s time to change!
Tell the Story Your Way: The Power to Change Your Path
What if you could just be yourself? What if the story you tell yourself and others could be truly authentic .¨ no bull, no crap? Imagine the freedom, the relief from stress, the peace and the love you would experience. Well, we can do this. We can become aware of the stories we are telling ourselves and others about our life that are tied to old thought patterns that don’t work in our favor. With awareness, we can choose to do something different. And you don’t have to know where the issue originated to decide that you don’t want it as part of your story anymore. It will take some practice to drop it, but don’t give up; you deserve the freedom, the peace and all the love in the world.
For example, in my situation I decided that it doesn’t matter if I’m intelligent or not, people will love me anyway and if they don’t it’s okay, I love me. Once I was able to verbalize that, I felt some instant relief and over time, my stress decreased while my self-love increased. By the way, this type of shift has a splendid and positive effect on our health, too!
So, how can you figure out and become aware of what stories you are telling? How can you change the story to work in your favor? First, look for patterns of behavior that cause you lots of stress or have caused you loss in some way.
Becoming aware of these patterns allows you to take responsibility for them and be open to doing something different. This creates a shift to a story that works in your favor and is aligned with the authentic you. Then all you need to do is practice what works for you. When you do, the old patterns eventually diminish or drop off completely.
Take a plain piece of paper and make two columns. Label the first column Illusion. Here is where you list the stories you are telling yourself (that you have to do or be a certain way in order to be loved and valued).
Label the next column Opposite and write the true statement about that illusion, which is often the opposite of it. Then, pick one illusion and practice aligning with the new, true statement you wrote. Here are examples of some of the top illusions we have been taught about ourselves that we believe and repeat and possible Opposite statements:
1. I need someone in my life to be happy and fulfilled.
2. I am not good looking enough for _____________________ reason and no one will truly love me.
3. I’m not as good as other people because I don’t have ___________________________.
4. Everyone else has an easy life compared to me.
5. Bad things always happen to me.
If you were to write the opposite of each statement, what might that sound like?
1. My happiness doesn’t depend on having someone else in my life. I can be happy on my own. When someone enters my life, it will just add to my happiness, but it won’t be dependent on it.
2. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. I’m beautiful because ________________________.
3. What I have does not make me who I am.
4. We all struggle. However, I can turn those struggles into situations that work in my favor by perceiving them as divine wisdom.
5. Nothing truly bad happens to me. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” I will choose to see things as challenging instead of bad and look for the silver lining in every cloud for it does exist.
Of course, these are just samples. You can write your own illusions and your own opposite statements. Add detail to your opposite statements so you can provide guidance to yourself when those old negative and damaging thought patterns show themselves. Then just practice them every chance you get. You can change the story you tell about your life. When you do, you change the path of your life for the better. What story are you telling now?