Now this week I bought Paul McKenna’s book Control Stress. Which is very interesting and includes some great practical tips on how to reduce stress. One chapter in particular caught my interest. It’s called ‘What’s your story?’ and talks about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. I think he means that self-narration or self-mythologising thing we all probably do a bit. This part really struck a nerve with me:
Remember, not all stories are negative. If you’ve spent your life telling yourself that you’re a gifted learner, a loyal friend and a ‘get it done’ kind of person, chances are that story has served you well.
But in our culture, the more common stories are imposed upon us from the outside. If you’ve ever been told you’re ‘just not good at maths’, or that you’re ‘shy’, or ‘you’ll never amount to anything’, chances are you’ve struggled in those areas. At some point, you probably took on the story as your own and began repeating it in your head and out loud to others, using the label as part of your identity and building further stories around it.
Now go back and reread those two pages from my notebook. Embarrassingly I’ve got myself down as some sort of freaky big eared, light bulb attracting hospitalaholic. Somehow in my head I’ve turned myself into a real life Gaylord Focker from Meet the Parents for whom life is just one long series of humiliating hurdles. And it’s true, if something not so great happens to me, I just shrug and think ‘typical, of all people it would have to happen to me.’ So all this has made me think I should probably start writing a different story for myself. In this one I won’t be so accident-prone and have strange illnesses. I’ll be lucky and healthy and confident instead. And light bulbs definitely won’t fall on me.