Little stories – one-liners, are sometimes the most powerful kryptonite in the story arsenal. Kryptonite had the power to drain Superman’s strength – it was the one thing that could bring him down. His Achilles heel. In fact, in the original comic it was suggested that he was a boring character because he had NO weaknesses. That was the point that Kryptonite was introduced into the story. We humans are anything but boring. Complex and filled with beautiful gifts, we also all have this voice in our heads that speaks to us, most often in derogative, critical tones, if not outright comments about our worth and our abilities. Let’s talk about this voice, these powerful one-liners, because they do the same thing to humans that kryptonite does to Superman. They take away our power, leave us weak and unable to use our strong and capable gifts. It’s time to get rid of them.
Stories are our lives in language. Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. I’m Lori Lee, and I’m excited for our future together of telling stories, evaluating our own stories, and lifting ourselves and others to greater places because of our control over our stories. This podcast is about empowerment and giving you, the listener, ideas to work with in making your stories work for you. Power serves you best when you know how to use it.
Last week we talked about forgiveness – how we do not give anyone the right to smoother our light. Today we are going to talk about one-liner lies that eat away at our souls. Sounds dramatic, but it kinda is.
The swimmer pulled his body from the pool as the water slid from his sleek physique. He grabbed a towel and dried his hair relishing the time of his last set of laps. He smiled to himself as he turned to head to the locker room, and just that quickly he heard the familiar voice in his head whisper, “Well ya, but you’ll never hit the next goal. You’re just too slow.” His momentary success was lost, that quickly, under a pile of words that played across his mind every day while he trained. As he walked toward the locker room he hardly noticed the smile on his face disappear, or the lilt in his step slow.
Across town a woman in a red dress, who loved to sing and dance, even dreamed of doing it on stage, shuffled around at her coffee shop job, singing when she closed in the evenings because daring to dream for anything more was just silly. Whenever she toyed with the idea of trying out for a production at the local theater the voice in her head reminder her that she was nobody. “Why would you be able to do that?” it queried. “Who do you think you are?” And so she shuffled and sang to the walls and the expresso machine, and the paper cups as she stacked them next to their paper sleeves.
The teen walked with his friends down the long hallway at school. The sign taped to the gray locker caught his attention. Tryouts for the soccer team were next week. He’d love to play. He’d been toying with trying out, but he knew his skill was somewhere in the middle of the road, and what if he made a fool of himself. What if he tried and didn’t make it? It was so much easier not to stand out because then you could fly under the radar. “you’re not that good,” the voice in his head parroted as it did every time he thought about trying. “It’s safer, not to try.”
These three examples are simple, standard, happen over and over every day, in a 7 billion individual ways. You’re not alone. I don’t know why, but it seems to be universal that everyone has this voice in their head. I’ve often wondered, what if that natural voice in our head was a cheerleader instead – a voice that told us we are wonderful and can be and have wonderful things. What if the little nit-picky voice wasn’t nit-picking and amplifying our fears and was instead creating possibility for us. What would the world be like then?
Well, this is the point where the powerful take control. And, yes, YOU are powerful. Today’s podcast is an awareness rallying cry. The first step is awareness, right? Let’s talk about these one line stories, give credit where credit is due and realize what they do to us, then let’s use our power ever day to shut them down when they start prattling on in our heads.
Have you taken one of the myriad personality tests? There are plenty to choose from as we seek to understand ourselves and others better. They pinpoint and categorize behavior patterns so that people can choose a career that aligns with their strengths, or learn how to get along with people who have different behavior patterns, or to understand oneself and why you do what you do. They are used for all kinds of reasons, and I dare say that most people have taken one or two.
I’m a predominantly Red personality. Depending upon which personality test you take, I’m a controller, a Type A, a get-things-done sorta chic. Type A personalities are the folks who make things happen. They lead, they create, they follow through, they want respect, they prize freedom. There are so many great things about this personality type. As with all of the personality types, there are also things about Reds/Type A’s that irritate others.
Over the years I have accumulated the occasional comment from a client, friend, family member that I’m too controlling, too opinionated, too strong. These comments, some of them from people I loved and felt loyalty too, were often hurtful. Over time I took these comments, these one-liners, ignoring all the positive comments from other sources that lauded my strength, that celebrated my ability to achieve, that praised my authentic and honest nature, and instead focused on the friend who abandoned me, or the boyfriend who didn’t like to be challenged, and the folks who didn’t want to hear the truth, and I internalized a story about myself that I was difficult. This story had a profound effect on me. I felt like it was truth because it was based in real life experience (granted, I have learned, a very limited aspect of my experience), and the repetition of this one liner I said to myself – Your Difficult– affected my self-perception. Once loving, outgoing and excited, I eventually started to stay inside my house and only chose to go out with people with whom I felt safe. I had great relationships with these friends; we had fun and created great memories, and who I am was something they loved, but I knew I was playing small. My world had become a select group of people that it had taken me years to truly trust. In my heart I realized this smallness was not serving me. I realized I had come to a point in life that was tired and protective, but I felt I was there for good reason and I just didn’t know how to get out of it, or frankly if I wanted to. It was unsatisfying, but it was safe. And after a few arrows in my back safety is important.
As I came to learn more about how we create our own stories, and I took an emotional intelligence workshop that I’ve referred to in other episodes, I worked with personal coaches who helped me get back in touch with the authentic me—the me that loves, and skips, believes in myself, and even dares to be vulnerable. It is a process, I’ll be honest, but I see the stories now. I see how I let a handful of experiences with people whose perception of an experience with me was negative, through their lens, take precedence over the hundreds, thousands of other comments over those same years where I was praised, applauded, loved and enjoyed by so many other people.
We all do this – Think about the last time someone criticized you and how much credence you gave this comment – how much it bothered you – how much power you allowed it to have. I can stew on a good insult for ages because it’s hurtful. Then think about the last time you were complimented, and how you brushed it off. Sometimes I don’t even acknowledge compliments I get, and afterward, I’m wondering to myself why I ignored the woman who told me she liked my outfit. Often times I can’t even remember a compliment, or won’t for long, because compliments tend to roll off our backs. There’s an actual evolutionary reason for this – in a nutshell, it’s because we are programmed to remember things that hurt us so we can stay away from them. The hurtful things get larger memory space to help keep us safe. We simply aren’t programmed to spend hours, days or weeks ruminating over the lady in the grocery line who told us we had darling children or the congratulatory comment the boss gave us after our big presentation or the time a dear friend told us how amazing we make his life. We’d be far better off spending time on that though than spending that time thinking about the person who told us we needed to lose weight, or said we were difficult, or insulted our taste in paisley pants. You hear me?
Here’s a truth: The stories we create about ourselves can become immensely heavy. Criticism from others builds up in our hearts and minds, and before you know it you are seeing yourself through the lens of the haters. The hater’s information can be completely inaccurate – their perception, not your authentic self, but that doesn’t matter to us when we repeat their stories. We eat it up and pretty soon we are telling a story about our unworthiness. We are too fat, too thin, too stupid, too difficult, too damaged, too unworthy to be the amazing person we came here to be. These stories are so powerful because our perception is our reality, and what we perceive as reality can make or break us. The story we repeat to ourselves gets assimilated into who we are, and pretty soon we are hiding, or living small, or ready to give up, or unable to engage in a productive life.
A lot of these stories are assimilated from childhood. What if your step father told you you’d never be good at anything? The thing we don’t realize as children is that this comment was a reflection of the person who made it, it had nothing to do with the reality of who you were and are. Those peers, parents, teachers, aunt or uncle who undervalued you, or put on too much pressure, or neglected to tell you about your strengths, criticized you or actively tried to tear you down, their words are about them, not about you. First and foremost, we must realize their comments are by no means reality. They are not the special truth about who we are –our authentic self. They are comments that come from hurt and damaged people reflecting their own insecurities. Everybody has an opinion – but we don’t have to listen to all the opinions, and we certainly don’t need to take their opinions as fact. Haters will always be out there – especially if you try to do something big. But just like the Olympic athletes who have to drown out the noises of the crowds, we get to learn how to block out the noise and the one-line judgment stories that don’t serve us. Other’s opinions only have the power we give them. That’s real stuff people – the game is in our own heads, and if we first realize their comments aren’t fact, and second, stop listening to the doubters, they got no way in baby!
What story have you made up about yourself? Think about this seriously. For me, I didn’t even realize they were stories – I saw them as fact. I am getting older, but did that really make me too old to find love? I had put on a few pounds since turning 40, but was I really unacceptable because of it? I am strong, but that strength helped me to survive an emotionally abusive husband, it helped me to survive traumas like my son being diagnosed with Leukemia, it helped me stand up and try for love a ridiculous number of times. We are not unworthy. We are not small. We are not powerless, so shut those voices down. If there is a voice in your head that is holding you back, then it’s not serving you. Your authentic self is wonderful and filled with potential, no matter who you are.
I know it’s not always easy to change our stories – especially these one-liners that feel simply like things we know–, but once you can see that they are false, that older people are always finding love, that all shapes and sizes of bodies are gorgeous and worthy, and that different people are attracted to different body types, that being a powerful woman is not something to be ashamed of…then you begin to wholly accept yourself!
While the hater’s comments still sting, cause no-one likes to be criticized, you come to know your authentic self and you can shake off the haters and their own small spaces, and the false stories that you repeat to yourself every day. Even the flaws you consider yourself to have are only flaws because you tell yourself they are. My son is often looking in the mirror complaining that one eyebrow might be higher than the other, or one nostril is not shaped like the other, or one ear sits higher on his head. None of these things are noticeably true, but if he continues to obsess about them pretty soon he’ll genuinely think there is something wrong with the way he looks. He’ll be self-conscious and concerned about things he’s created.
So, first and foremost accept your whole self. See your own beauty, your own potential, reconnect with the dreams you once thought you might create. Believe in yourself and check the voices in your head and the stories they tell you every day when you look in the mirror, when you try for something hard, when you need to stand up for yourself. Check the voices and the stories and weed out the lies, so you can fly!
I have a friend whom I will call Bonnie. As a young girl, she was filled with life and joy and fun. She danced and played and wasn’t the least self-conscious of her darling round body. As she got older and comments were made about her weight, she became self-conscious. Each segment of her life, adolescence, college, adulthood were marked mentally for her by her perception of her weight and what others might be thinking. The voices she listened to told her that somehow she was less than those who fit the magazine cover image. It’s a tough culture we live in when it comes to body image. There is no doubt about that. It’s an uphill battle. But what difference could it make if the voice in your head wasn’t saying “You’re too fat,” but “You’re beautiful.” How would she have lived differently? How would I live differently? How would you live differently? Who do those voices in our head serve – the one-liner kryptonite that cripple us from the inside out, or do we shut those down and replace them with one-liners that we create on purpose. One-liners like, hell ya, I’m awesome. I got this. I’m a beautiful woman. I am filled with love. I have gifts to share. My voice matters. I’m amazing. Whatever you need to hear.
So for those of you thinking, well, if I get repeated feedback and I never listen to it, then how do I improve? Or I only tell my sister she needs to clean her house because I’m afraid her kids are going to get a disease from the stagnating fast food wrappers all over the floor. Let me say that when we get feedback from others it can definitley give us insights to consider. For instance, I understand a little more now about how some personalities feel challenged or embarrassed or run over by people who come across bold and in charge. I am working to improve and refine my skill sets. I’m working on learning how to be more supportive with souls for whom directness is too much. I’m learning to allow instead of insist my children do things my way. I have learned that there are lots of other leaders and I can stand back and lead only when I’m needed, or feel strongly about an issue. We can use repetitive feedback from multiple sources to inform and guide us, but never to define us. We are not the interpretation of others, we are always worthy, always enough, and that’s the place we need to work from, because that belief in our authentic self, the self we all need to get in touch with, is the space from which we can love, without judgment. Get rid of the judgment, celebrate your beauty! Celebrate your beauty!
My challenge to you this week is to write a love letter to yourself. Remind yourself of your greatness, your potential, your talents and charms. Love yourself first and foremost, it’s the foundation for greatness!
Have fun out there telling your stories, and I’ll see you next week on Love Your Story Podcast.