Like reading a bedtime story? Not quite. The stories we tell ourselves can be broken out into two categories:
For example, your ex always told you that you're too intimidating and opinionated. You heard it so many times, you started to believe it. Fast forward out of that crappy relationship and you still whole-heartedly believe you are too loud and obnoxious. You hold back your voice and your original thoughts, becoming a subdued skeleton who sounds like a shaking chicken when you try to stand up for yourself.
The two are not mutually exclusive. In my experience, I've found that the first usually leads to the second. Don't believe me? Just look at the math:
Yep, that's as far as my math skills go. When we're unsure of ourselves and our true identity, our first defense is to protect the ego—which ultimately comes across as insecurities aka assumptions and projections, especially in triggering situations.
Unfortunately, those examples are not fiction. During a very toxic relationship (gaslighting blog to follow soon!), I was told that I was too intimidating, opinionated, loud, obnoxious, aggressive... the list goes on and on. I heard it so many times that I truly believed it. That was the story I told myself.
As I started my career in "Corporate America" I consistently caught myself worrying—assuming—I was getting in trouble for talking out of place, offending someone with my opinion, or was just straight up not good enough. I worked my arse off, but I pushed myself a little harder every day to prove that I was worthy of my job.
I felt empty. Not only was I overworked, I was not myself. My own mother barely recognized me. The relationship ended, but I continued to believe those stories about myself. Later on, a female colleague told me I was intimidating and I laughed: "Yeah, I've been told that. I'm working on it!!" I even started beating people to the punch line!!! "I've been told that I'm extremely intimidating, but I promise I won't bite." Ha. Ha. Ha... stupid.
As it turns out, I'm not actually intimidating nor aggressive (slightly opinionated, maybe). I'm strong and confident—which is usually pretty intimidating to someone who is insecure and fearful. Interesting...
You know what's also interesting? You can always change your story. After years of struggling with my identity, I feel like I finally found my new story: I am a confident and talented CEO of a women's motocross apparel company. I am an amazing friend, girlfriend, mentor, and leader. Look, this isn't saying that my story is finalized. There's always room for growth and improvement—a sequel if you will. But for the first time in years, I feel the closest to my true self.
Please note that this did not come easily. I spent years self-reflecting, praying, meditating, journaling, and leaning on friends and family—and I still wasn't 100% convinced. Until just a couple weeks ago...
I attended a women's communication workshop hosted by WIILD Womxnhood and Bethany Dwyer. The goal of the workshop was to help women communicate more effectively and become better, more confident public speakers. I stood in front of a half-circle of 14 women and explained that I wanted to work on not being intimidating and aggressive while presenting/speaking. Bethany looked at me in the eyes and told me that she did not see an ounce of aggression and I did not come across as intimidating. She told me to change my story.
If you didn't believe in divine intervention, do you now? What are the chances that the phrase I have been saying to myself (and trying to believe) for years, was just presented to me in this moment, by someone I've never met before, during a workshop to empower ourselves?!?! It dawned on me: I have every right and all the power to change my story. So I did... that day, in that moment.
When you think about the story you tell yourself, does it make you happy and fill your heart with joy? Are you proud of the person in your story? You should be. Keep writing and re-writing until you'd read that story in front of millions of people. And most importantly: don't let anyone else write your story for you. If someone doesn't like your story, feel free to write them out. LIVE. YOUR. TRUTH. (If you've never listened to the Girls Gotta Eat Podcast, you should They offer the most relevant life advice.)