One of the most powerful acts of self-care you can make is knowing how to change your life and owning your life story. This core story is your personal narrative, based on the ideas you've collected and internalized about yourself, your experiences and the world around you.
This is the story that lives at the center of your being — the story that influences every aspect of your life. It colors everything you do in life (what you believe you're capable of, whether you believe you're worthy or not, the meaning you assign to interactions with others, your levels of personal happiness).
As such, you protect this story fiercely, tend to it constantly, and look for ways to validate it in your daily experiences. In many ways, your core story is both the mirror and the face reflected.
While I fully understand that we must acknowledge the hardships we experience on our journey through life in order to learn how to be happy, I've also discovered that we can shift the narrative about those circumstances in our favor when we choose to re-frame them from a positive perspective.
For those of us who have experienced a troubled childhood or survived a disastrous life-changing event, that means we have to dig into those miserable times within our lives and actively choose to become the hero of our story — rather than the victim.
While that sounds idealistic, with a little help you can choose to own your stories and allow them to serve as chapters in your happy life with these seven steps:
1. Practice awareness and acceptance.
Begin by getting really honest with yourself about the one (so sad, so tragic) story you constantly tell about your life. We all have that one story — the one that now defines why we can't find happiness, why we can't pursue your dreams, or why we can't possibly be lovable.
Now that you have the particular story in mind, take pen to paper and write out all the details: How old you were, who else was there, how you felt, and how that experience changed you. You may feel a little rotten afterwards, so treat yourself with something nice, maybe flowers from the grocery store or a delectable piece of chocolate. However, move on to step two as soon as possible.
2. Know the facts.
Grab a fresh sheet of paper and read your story, solely looking for the facts. Maybe your story was about how you had a flat tire on the way to your first day of high school and it destroyed your entire senior year! The facts about the story are simply: you had a flat tire on the first day of school.
Now, our brains tie all kinds of stories to the facts and morph the facts into more (so much more!). Maybe you arrived to your English class late and that hot boy laughed, leaving you to feel shamed, stupid, or ugly. And ever since, your story is: "I'm jinxed. I have bad luck. Boys 'always' laugh at me. I'm unlovable."
By stepping away from the emotion you assigned to that story back then and choosing to place a spotlight on the facts alone now, you can begin to decide what you're going to choose to let that story mean about you.
3. Listen to your "Fairy Godmother."
Imagine that you have a Fairy Godmother. Fairy godmothers see through the eyes of wisdom and compassion, even though they can't change the space-time continuum. They're always rooting for you, while maintaining their distance out of love and respect. They see and accept you fully, as you are, and will always help support you in realizing your full potential.
Right this moment, she's going to help you rewrite your story. Start with the sentence "Once upon a time" and re-tell your story in third person point-of-view. Allow your rewritten story to unfold as your Fairy Godmother would tell it (and revise it).
4. Analyze your rewritten story.
Sometimes when we've held onto a particular story, it's naturally hard to let it go, even if it wasn't a happy moment in our life. And rewriting it can feel almost like a betrayal to the "old you." However, if you choose to fall in love with the traits that your Fairy Godmother saw in you, throughout your story, you can let your re-written story stand as your new core story.
Too often, we underestimate the sheer power of decision. Believing that the way things worked out was "meant to be" and appreciating the benefits of that journey can add a deeper feeling of meaning to your life. Seal this intent by analyzing your rewritten story for admirable character traits: bravery, kindness, daring, fortitude, or spunk are just a few of the admirable traits you can rediscover about yourself.
5. Role play.
Reading a story is one thing, but believing it and changing your attitude about yourself and life are another, aren't they? Choose a single action or trait you loved about your rewritten story and experience it now by taking action. Have an old-fashioned play date with yourself. Act like the brave or daring person in your story.
6. Share your story.
Sharing your new story with a trusted friend, spouse, therapist or a coach is a positive step in finding the new truths and values in your new story.
Now, your new story likely feel a little fragile or vulnerable, so carefully choose who you're going to share it with. Someone who will acknowledge and see your bravery — not the person who will want to poop on it (or make it about them). The act of verbalizing our story allows us to solidify it in our minds.
7. Continue writing your story.
Committing to a regular writing practice of recording your personal life stories allows you to keep your momentum. Write in the present tense with "I am" statements. Anytime you feel stuck (or especially melodramatic or tragic), go back to the techniques I've shared here to continue to rewrite your story.
Who you are is significant; though we can sometimes feel incredibly small or unimportant in the sea of humanity, know that your story is essential to the fabric that makes up this world. Our painful experiences are part of the human condition; however, we get to choose not to extend the pain by suffering over the story wrapped around the pain.
As the creator of your life story, you get to decide how to view it and what's significant. You also have the power to rewrite your way into happiness.