The stories I tell myself

bookstore2I don’t remember a day when I didn’t know how to read. I honestly don’t remember learning the alphabet or learning to read. I entered Kindergarten at age five with a 5th grade reading comprehension and they moved me quickly into 1st grade since my Kindy teacher didn’t like that I read the newspaper regularly.

Words, their meanings and how they can be structured into stories fascinate me.

As I grew up in a rural community in Michigan, stories found in books opened my eyes and my heart to the idea of travel and adventure in all corners of the globe. I was intrigued by the people I met in books and the stories they had to tell. Once I was old enough to leave home, all of this reading transferred to a wanderlust for travel around the world.

It’s not just written stories that fascinate me. I love meeting new people and hearing their story – learning what makes them tick, who influences them, why they do what they do, what do they like and dislike, what’s their greatest dream and greatest fear.

Lately I find myself examining my stories. The stories I tell myself to get through each day and the stories that drive the narrative of my life.

If my mind’s stories were organised like a bookstore or library, some might be found in the children’s section. Others are long novels set in faraway places, some have morals to learn, some would be found in the humour section and some are so dark that they might be featured in the horror area.

One story that is overarching in my life is that of being good enough. I am driven to be an overachiever and nothing I do is enough for me. I know I am my own worst enemy when it comes to this, but for years I haven’t really known how to change or wanted to change.

Others call me an expert in my field of work. Recently a potential client told me they wanted me to work with them because (in their opinion) I am the best healthcare communicator in Australia. I sit on an expert panel at the Mayo Clinic in the US for social media. I present at conferences on social media and healthcare, and have people recommending my services around the world, but still I don’t feel it’s enough.

I’m not sure which section of the bookstore this story belongs in because you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a comedy, but for me, this is non-fiction reality.

A friend of mine recently told me he was surprised to hear this was one of my stories and that I have to get over it. He is right of course.

I’m not doing myself any favours by buying in and believing this story. I’m not doing myself any favours in burying this story in my heart and not facing it. So I am spending some time examining this story. Determining where it’s come from. Looking at the factors that helped it develop and grow in my heart. And sitting with it. Acknowledging its’ presence in my heart. Knowing that it won’t disappear immediately as it’s had more than 40 years to grow and it may take that long for me to resolve. But I’m trying to change.

When I think about it rationally, I know I am enough. But then, when I’m off guard, or feeling tired or vulnerable, my ‘not good enough’ story, makes its presence known. And it seems to travel with a megaphone so I can’t ignore it.

The more I examine the stories I tell myself (and the ‘I’m not good enough’ is only one of them) the more I realise that these stories are part of me but they are not me at my core. They are why I react in certain ways to certain people. They are why I think the way I do. They have influenced decisions I have made in the past.

But I can change my stories. Like all stories, they can be edited to make them better.

Maybe by the end of my journey on this earth, I’ll have a prize-winning book compiled from my stories. But if I don’t, that’s ok too. Because the story of my life at the end will be enough for me.

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