The Stories We Tell Ourselves
book lady

By Katherine Atwater

What story are you telling yourself? What is the gift you give yourself and others by letting go of your story?

Our stories are thoughts that take root in our subconscious minds, often at a time in our lives when we are too young to understand what is happening to us. These thoughts may be the result of an experience we had as youngsters, or planted by well-meaning family members, friends, clergy, teachers, or mentors. Without the awareness that these thoughts exist, we often hear the “committee” in our minds repeating the beliefs, created by the thoughts, which creates the patterns we have become so accustomed to experiencing. The repetition of old patterns results in the stories we tell ourselves, the stories that continue to circulate endlessly through our minds and create havoc in our lives.

I recently heard one side of a phone conversation while I was driving in my car with a friend that caused me to take pause about how these stories affect our lives. I can only surmise what was being said on the other end of the conversation. However, when I heard the phrase, “I guess the lesson is to ask for help sooner,” my attention was caught. There was then a distinct pause before my friend continued to say, “Yes, but, being the oldest child in my family, I am used to doing things for and by myself. I am not used to asking for help.”

Ah, I know those words. They are words from my own story…words that have played around in my mind, creating times of stress and chaos more often than I care to admit. As I reflect back on these times the words escaped my lips, I realize they were often spoken as an excuse that kept me from taking a risk, from empowering myself, or moving forward in my life. The interesting thing is that it is only one of my stories. I, like many people, have several stories, and they, at one time, served me by allowing me to justify uncomfortable circumstances in my life, stopping any intended progress on my part.

In my experience, asking for help can be difficult, particularly for those of us who have spent the better part of our lives taking care of those around us while ignoring our own needs. What I have discovered is that no matter what is happening in our lives, whether we label it “good” or “bad”, it is a reflection of what we tell ourselves, and it serves us in some capacity.

Realizing in what ways we are served by our story can be a powerful way of discovering what holds us back from greatness.

For many of us, the simple, yet difficult task of asking for help, can be our biggest step into that greatness. In order for us to ask for help, we must put aside our ego, our pride, and our self-reliance and allow others to see a side of us, often times a wounded side, that we may not want them to see. Exposing our wounds to ourselves, let alone to another, can be an overwhelming step to take. Yet, as is often the case, once we do so and realize that we have taken our first step into the fear that held us back, we are able to do it again and again, with more ease and grace, eventually releasing the thoughts, beliefs, and patterns that held us captive in our story.

I know a story is just something we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better. However, when it is “ours” and we take ownership of it, we often have an attachment to it that is stronger than our desire to let it go. What we discover when we find the courage to let it go is that we bring ourselves to a place of truly feeling better, not just the pretense of feeling better. We stop feeding the story. We no longer identify with it, we recover the energy that we have been putting into it, and discover a new way of being.

We also discover what many have known for a long time. It is in the letting go that we receive. Allowing ourselves to ask for and receive help, we begin a new journey and leave behind our story. The words no longer resonate with us, therefore the beliefs that accompanied the words are gone, and the patterns that were attached to the beliefs fall away. We also get to experience firsthand the synergy that comes from allowing others to help us. It’s a win-win situation that brings health and harmony not only to our lives, but to the lives of those helping us.

When we allow others to help us, we give them a gift. I know that may sound strange to some people, yet in the receiving of a gift from another, we give them the gift of being able to offer themselves, their talents, their abilities, or even an expression of kindness that creates warmth and delight in their hearts.

As someone who has spent the better part of her life taking care of others, I admit that letting go of my story and learning to receive was a formidable hurdle for me to overcome. The idea that I might allow someone to do something for me that I was more than capable of doing for myself was beyond my comprehension. Then I got sick and had to rely on support from others for a while. It was a very humbling experience for me, and as I began to allow others to do for me, I saw the expressions of delight in their faces at being able to help me out. I saw in their eyes what others have seen in mine, and I realized that to allow them to help me was truly a gift I could give with great appreciation as I freed myself from my story.

2008 Copyright by Katherine Atwater


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