“Your past is just a story. And once you realize this, it has no power over you.”
~ Chuck Palahniuk
Who doesn’t love a good story? It can be fun and entertaining when we share our creative ideas and thoughts about what life is all about. We love watching and listening to people’s triumphs and failures, successes and heart aches. The thing is, these stories are never completely true! They are a fantasy made up to entertain us. The more drama, the better, right??
The Stories we Tell Ourselves
I used to think this was true, but recently I woke up to some truths about myself. The ‘stories I’ve been telling myself’ have actually caused some problems in my life. There is nothing wrong with enjoying or telling a good story. We run into trouble when we become attached to or identify with these stories. These stories are tall tales we’ve made up about ourselves based on our past experiences and relationships. We all have stories we can tell about who we are and where we came from. I call them ‘stories’ because often times, we’ve developed and created these stories and they are not actually based on accurate information. We’ve only interpreted what really happened. Which is exactly what happened to me…
I created a lot of drama in my life. I made up a story about who I was based on what I was told and experienced in my past and therefore attracted into my life what I believe I deserved. It wasn’t all bad, I have so much to be grateful for but the drama was unnecessary! I attracted this drama as a defense mechanism to hide the truth of who I really was and it became my system of denial. It worked for awhile but the truth wanted to come out and it started shining through my blissful state of denial and hit me hard over the head yelling; “For God’s sake, Hilary, wake up!”
I discovered recently that I’ve been pretending to be someone I’m not; just to be accepted by others. Ugh, I hated that! I was doing it and hating myself the entire time. I believed it when people from my past told me who I was supposed to be and how I was supposed to live and behave. I don’t blame anyone. No one meant any harm. They were just passing on what they had learned about who they thought they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to teach me about life. Gets complicated I know but it’s worth figuring out. It is life changing. This realization was for me, anyway.
Making The Past The Problem
The problem was that I had spent my entire life trying to live up to the expectations of others, forgetting what I wanted, who I was and what I really needed to be happy and fulfilled. My family was male dominated and slightly old fashioned by today’s standards. My Dad was a very dedicated teacher at a private school and took his job very seriously. My Mom stayed at home. I had two older brothers. By no fault of their own, the men in my family were considered more important, more likely to be smart and athletic and land good careers.
No one meant any harm, it was just the way it was. I grew up believing I wasn’t important, that I never knew what was right and that I should always look to the men in my family for the right answers. I revered and worshiped my older brothers because they always knew what was good for me! I followed in their footsteps on may aspects in my life. To make a long, long…LONG story short, based on this influence, I started creating my story about always needing a man to tell me what to do and how to do it; that a man would always know what was best for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never emotionally scarred or attracted to abusive controlling men. I had wonderful fulfilling relationships but always looked to my partner to tell me what to do. I got married and started a business with my husband at the time based on his skill set. I went to school to learn this skill set so I could be his partner in the business. I deferred to him often on the operations and direction the business would take.
Changing The Story
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I actually had some good ideas and wanted to make my own mark on the world. Unfortunately that was part of the reason that led to the end of our marriage and our business but I got my fresh start. It was exciting at first but I had some inner work to do! I almost had to start over completely in every way. I even got into another relationship where I nearly followed that man’s career dreams as well! Good news is that I realized early enough that perhaps this was a bad idea and now I am enjoying a great partnership in love and not work!
These men in my life were good men. I take responsibility for ‘following their lead’ and ‘riding their coattails’ I used those terms a lot in the last 10 years! I knew I was coming to a new realization about myself when my story started to change. I was starting to feel badly about myself, I was starting to see that there was something I was missing that many decisions I made were based on what these men wanted. I was fortunate to have some very close trusted friends who understood; sometimes better than I did! It became blatantly obvious that the story I told myself was not serving me anymore.
It wasn’t an easy discovery, my thoughts became pretty dark at times. I had to look at my past and let go of some deep seeded beliefs. However, when I look back, I’m so grateful for the low point I got to because it meant I could work my way back up the be the way I wanted. It meant I could learn how to be myself for me; not for anyone else. I like the new me a lot. I have more energy, passion and drive. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. And having gone through it, I want it for everyone else! I want to share my journey with others because if I came out the others side, believe me, anyone can!
My story is not unique. We all experience things from our past that create our story in the present; good and bad. From a very young age, we are told things about ourselves and everything we see and experience, we interpret as truth. We develop thoughts about the world based on what the people around us are teaching and showing us. We see and hear everything and we start identifying with those experiences to develop the story of us and who we think we are supposed to be. Our parents, our friends, our siblings, etc., all influence us and we develop habits and beliefs on the ‘right’ way to behave based on others’ beliefs and ideals.
It is easy to get caught up in these stories and become the victims of our life circumstances. We blame people from our past for the things we experience in our lives and relationships today. Often, we’ll make excuses for our behaviours believing we can’t help it because it was how we were raised.
It’s Not Your Parent’s Fault!
Having said that, you cannot blame anyone else for the stories you’ve made up about yourself. Sure we were influenced but others but they were also influenced by others. They weren’t purposely trying to control you; they only told you things that they believed to be true and taught you how to survive in the world in a way that they believed was in our own best interest.
I was adopted at six weeks old and I often think about the fact that I would been a completely different person if my biological mother had not given me up. Messes with your head! I’m fortunate though, because the family that adopted me was absolutely amazing!
The point is that thoughts about, who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to live were imposed on us. It’s not anyone’s fault. We didn’t chose our family and they didn’t chose theirs, and so on. We are a product of the values and belief systems of our parents, schools, religions, friends, tv, movies, media, advertising, books, magazines etc. We are often exposed to things that we don’t choose to be exposed to. We learn from our early influencers and continue to develop similar belief systems and ways of learning the right and wrong ways of behaving and approaching life and relationships.
From a young age, we are very influenced by our parents, or caregivers. We are rewarded for good behaviour and punished for bad behaviour. We learn quickly how to ‘be’ to get rewarded for our ‘good’ behaviour. We learn to adopt the same belief systems as those who are rewarding and punishing us. Regardless if we think it’s fair or not, we develop habits and ways of thinking to please others.
Are you Stories Serving You?
It’s important to realize that the people who instilled these ideas had their own thoughts imposed on them growing up. So, stop blaming your parents for your issues!
Everyone has a story to tell about who they are and how they got here. It is human to say “My Dad ignored me so I’m in therapy to work through my bad habit of being needy and addicted to attention.” We all have thought at some point that we are the way we are because of how we were raised.
We have all experienced relationships and circumstances from our past that have caused fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, etc that continues to haunt us in our present. These are limiting beliefs and they effect our career, friendships, feelings of self worth, health, economics and our romantic relationships. If we don’t stop blaming everyone else for our problems, we’ll be stuck being a victim to our past and our current situations forever. Who wants to live like that; in denial of the power we have to make ourselves happy despite what happened to us in our past? Only we can take responsibility for our lives, no one else can make you happy because no one else really knows who you truly are.
There are good news stories too! Most of us have experienced moments of pure joy and affection. For better or for worse, we have become the story of our past. We don’t live in the present because we are so deeply influenced by our past relationships. And nowhere is that more true than in romantic relationships.
Your Love Story
Love and romance is where we are most vulnerable, where we tend to feel the most pain and pleasure. We created beliefs around love and intimacy from our experiences with friends, families and romantic relationships. We were told things about ourselves that we fully believed at the time and still believe to be true in our present. Perhaps someone hurt you and you built up a wall of fear and self-preservation. Or maybe we hurt someone and built up a wall of shame and self-loathing. We become very attached to our story!
At a certain moment in time when we did experience pain or hurt, the negative feelings were needed to keep our hearts and minds safe. However, it was a moment that ended but we carry these hurt feelings around with us for a long to protect us in case it ever happens again. The problem with that is, we enter into new relationships expecting to be hurt. We carry around our past pain like a safety net and react to current situations based on what happened in our past.
This becomes our story. For example, you may develop a thought pattern based on your past experience with being hurt that “people get hurt in relationships”. This becomes a limiting belief and your behaviour in relationships becomes destructive because you are certain you will be hurt. So you wear protective armour expecting to be hurt. The messages your sending out are ones of distrust and defensiveness. That won’t be conducive to a loving, trusting, joyful union of souls!
This pattern of fear starts and you begin to attract relationships that cause you pain and hurt because you are attracting them to prove that you are right; that “people get hurt in relationships” This story or limiting belief will keep you stuck in bad relationship patterns.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way!
What happened to us in our past is our interpretation and not based in fact. For the majority of us, these stories or limited beliefs are buried deep. We don’t really know why we feel the way we do. Why are we attracted to a certain type of person? Why do we behave the way we do in relationships? Why do we often have feelings of insecurity, unworthiness, distrust within ourselves and our partners? Why do we sabotage our relationships? Why do we get stuck in patterns and continue making the same relationship mistakes over and over again; with different people but always with the same outcome?
Just by becoming aware that our relationship patterns were developed based on a bad experience that doesn’t exist today is a huge step forward in being happier in our current relationships.
Once we see that the stories we’re telling ourselves are not true and are only our perception, we see that these limiting beliefs are not serving us anymore. We start to understand that we are in complete control to change them. To do this, we have to be introspective on our past relationships. Try to uncover where the fear/anger/blocks/patterns came from; what people or situations created these limiting beliefs that we can’t seem to let go of.
Maybe you don’t feel like you are worthy of love or deserve to be loved, maybe you believe all the good ones are taken, maybe you’re scared of being hurt so it’s safer to stay single. Whatever the story you’ve been telling yourself is, you can start to see it is not true so you can stop identifying with it and begin to detach from it.
Your Happy Ending
It may take some time to let these stories go. You may need to get some counseling to uncover some hidden feelings, sometimes journaling or meditating is all you need. The key is to clear your mind of the day to day clutter and get out of your head to be able to ask yourself, if you’re truly happy with your love story.
Keep the good stuff, let the bad stuff go. We deserve to be happy and fulfilled in our relationships. And that has to come from you, you have the power to create a beautiful love story based on who you really are and what you really want.
You are not your past and you are not the story based on someone else made you believe. You are whatever you need to be to be happy. You are the director and the hero of your story. Create and live your happy ending.
Your Love Workbook
Continue your journey to becoming the hero of your journey and check out the Love Workbook where you can:
- The Secret Patterns That Could Be Sabotaging Your Love Life
- The Mistakes That Every Woman Makes When It Comes To Romantic Relationships
- The One Thing You Can Do Today to Smash Broken Patterns and Destroy Limiting Belief