“Imagine a new story for your life and start living it.” - Paulo Coelho
We all have a life story; it's part of what makes us who we are. Our story makes us unique while simultaneously uniting us with others. When we think of our story, we think of a series of events that make up our life. Our childhood, our teen years, our early adult years right up to the now. We see life as a list of what we have seen, heard and felt.
Think about your life story; how would you tell it to me now? What would you include in your story?
Your story is much more than a chronological list of experiences and achievements. Your life story is all the mini-stories that create your life themes, the characters you and others play, the plots that unfold for you, and so much more.
These mini-stories and the meaning you give them creates your beliefs about yourself and the world around you. These stories shape your perception of reality, the people in it and why things do or don't work out for you.
The mini-stories are why we're rich or broke, single or in a relationship, love or hate our bodies. Think of an area of life that you're struggling in; maybe it's your financial situation, body image or relationship. There's a mini-story on repeat in your mind that's causing that struggle. The more you repeat the mini-story, the more you believe it and the deeper the belief is ingrained in your mind.
Let's imagine your relationships are an area of life you struggle with. Perhaps you're single and keep telling yourself there are no good men left, that's a mini-story. But because you keep telling yourself that mini-story, you've made it part of your belief system. While that story is part of your beliefs, you will keep dating men who are not right for you or who hurt you.
That was me for years; I told myself that there were no good men left, that I'd left it too late to find The One. It was a story that would pop up every time I was online dating, after every failed date or after each situationship fizzled out.
But when I became aware of the mini-story, listened to it and started to unpack it, I was able to change it to a more supportive story - like there are good men everywhere, and my man is on his way to me. And now I'm in a happy, healthy, loving relationship.
Now let's imagine that you're story is about your body. Let's imagine the story is about how much you hate how you look - you're too big, too old, too whatever. You will never be a size 10 again, and you keep looking at other women and are envious of how they look.
Well, that mini-story can harm your confidence, self-worth and overall self-concept. And the mini-story creates a negative belief about who you are.
I had a beautiful, kind-hearted client look at herself like she was the most disgusting creature on the planet. She hated everything about how she looked. She couldn't look at herself in the mirror. She was full of self-criticism and self-hate.
It took time to unpack all the mini-stories that led her to believe that she wasn't attractive. When we reached the point where she could see that these stories were lies, we replaced them with better, more supportive stories. And now she sends me messages about feeling beautiful, pictures of her on holidays in bikinis and more.
Stories are just stories; they only have the meaning you give them.
When you decide to unpack your stories in a supportive environment with someone who can hold space for you, you can begin to create awareness of what stories are hurting you. You begin to realise that a lot of the beliefs and stories you have about yourself are not true and are no longer helpful.
You can see what experiences, perceptions, traumas, self-doubts, fears or anxieties have created these stories and their knock-on impact on your life. For example, seeing your parents struggling with money when you were a child has created your money story as an adult.
Your mind believes all of these stories to be true unless you tell it otherwise. It's taking the time to educate your mind and body that these stories are not true and that you are ready to change them.
You have to be willing to let go of the story to improve the areas of your life that are struggling.
Sometimes the body shows us what we belief as a little pang of anxiety in the belly, other times it shows us through stress and shoulder pain. Or it could be holding on to excess weight because we’re unwilling to let the story go.
To transform your mini-stories and beliefs, you need a mind-body approach. Remember the client who hated her body, we combined both mindset tools to rewrite her story as well as embodiment practices - tapping and yoga - to release the story from her body. A more holistic approach to healing, with buckets of self-compassion, is what can change your life story to be more empowering and supportive.
Embodiment practices can help you remove the physical symptoms from your body. For example, breathwork can help soothe anxiety. Yoga, visualisation, and emotional freedom techniques (tapping) are powerful ways to move the energy from your system and create a more empowered body and mindset.
Coaching offers a space to share your story in a safe, supportive and comforting environment and to have someone help you unpack all the mini-stories within your story. Working with a coach can help you put an end to the story and start a new chapter where you feel more empowered. It can help you create more self-compassion and understanding. And with the right tools, can help you rebuild your stories in a way that supports you and who you want to be.
It takes time to remove old stories and to replace them with new empowering stories and beliefs. There is no quick fix to changing our beliefs. It takes consistent practice and a mind-body approach to get there. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself.
- Helen Stevens