From Change Your Story: No Need to Socially Distance From Yourself
The Covid Coaster has been quite the ride. Harrowing for some and actually exciting for others. But you might ask what could possibly be exciting about this change in everything that we are accustomed to? Well, what about increased time for your personal growth and healing for one? Now, I'm aware that for some of you the demands during this time may have increased, especially if you have school aged children or work in health care so this post understandably may not feel relevant to you. But for others, this is the perfect time to decrease social distancing... with yourself.
Most of us don't actually spend as much time as we should building a healthy relationship with ourselves because we have so many demands on our time.
Maybe you don't even realize that people have relationships with
themselves, but we all do.
We all have relationships with ourselves. You do talk to yourself right? Is your self talk filled with critique or compassion. Listen to the tone of your voice and the kindness of the words when you are talking inside. Is it the way you would talk to a friend? How about the amount of time you spend focusing on you? We know that to have a good relationship with someone else, we have to invest time in it. This is true of the relationship you have with yourself as well. You can read about how John's story was affecting him and what he did about it here. The name of this blog is Change Your Story to Change Your Life. The story you developed in childhood will affect the nature of the relationship you have with yourself.
In the story you developed growing up, are their scripts such as "I'm not good enough", or "I'm not likable enough"? Or do you ever call yourself names such as "stupid" or "lazy"?The first thing I remember in developing my story was when I was about three years old. I was in the car with my parents (before the time of toddler car seats) standing on the floor board of the back seat with my head stuck over the front seat between my parents. They were arguing about how to pronounce the word pecan. As is often the case, simple arguments can spiral into larger arguments and the tension was beginning to rise in the car. After listening to them argue for a few minutes, I piped up and asked why we couldn’t just say PEcahn or pCAN which borrowed from both of their preferences. Their reaction was immediate and highly gratifying in that they chuckled at my creativity and the argument ceased. I learned two things: I love and need to help people and nothing feels better than making people laugh. No surprise that I was drawn to psychology as a profession!
Throughout childhood, I had many more opportunities to practice my untrained attempts at care taking. Whenever my parents disagreed, I eagerly became triangulated in their arguments though sometimes at my own expense. I would try to help them see something from the other’s point of view. Although it was unpredictable whether this would be appreciated or resented, when it helped, the outcome was very strong and rewarding.
Additionally, I was the oldest of three children and at a very early age, my father told me and my siblings that I was in charge. I developed into a bossy, little girl who thought that she knew everything and was supposed to tell everyone what to do - even my same-age friends. Fortunately, my best friend told me in no uncertain terms that I better stop telling her what to do! So I changed my behavior. However, it took years or decades to rewire the feeling that I was supposed to be in complete charge of myself and others. I was also a very sensitive child (I still can’t watch bloody movies) and my level of empathy was so high that I often felt physical pain. This sensitivity is based in physiology and often leads to perfectionism, as it did with me.
Therefore, from an early age, I developed a narrative which was meant to guide me but it was from a child's perspective full of magical thinking. It encompassed the following scripts:
I need to be extremely responsible. I should always know what someone needs. I can control how others feel. I shouldn’t make mistakes. Although I always want to do the right thing, sometimes it bothers people. I’m smart but not likable. My importance comes from what I can accomplish. Nothing feels better than pleasing people (because it makes them seem happier) and making them laugh.
This narrative was full of false and impossible assumptions which led to projections, perfectionism and ambivalence. Over the years, I have worked on rewriting my story. Although it has taken time and lots of effort to shift from the old narrative, it has been more that worth it to me and those in my life.
To begin to shift your narrative, try this exercise. Imagine that you are sitting with yourself in a room where you won't be interrupted. Maybe like having a cup of tea with yourself. Could you imagine having a kind and understanding conversation as you would with an outside friend? Could you be a good listener to yourself? If the child part of you wanted to tell you something, what would that be? What would you want to say to that part of you?
The three Cs of Change are
Compassion, Curiosity and Courage
Would you like to learn more about changing your narrative? I have just completed a new workbook which can take you through a step by step process of increasing awareness of your old story, reevaluating the usefulness of it, and then rewriting the parts that need rewriting. I'm Not Good Enough: How the Stories you Tell yourself are Ruining Your Life and What to do About it. There are over 30 handouts to take you through the whole process . To read more and order click here.
PS: I sent a post on Mother's Day called Mother's Day - Happy? which only some people were able to open. If you'd like to read about how to take in messages from you mother's best self, click here.