June 27th, 2016
“Do you want to trust that story?”, asked a mentor of mine. We were in a workshop, exploring mindfulness, therapy, and the stories and beliefs we hold on to. The story I was telling about myself was particularly persistent. And when it’s told, I’m often left feeling lonely and unlovable. But for many reasons, the story is difficult to resist.
You may be confused. What do I mean by story? And how do I tell myself a story that leaves me feeling bad about myself? The stories about ourselves often center around formative life experiences. We internalize these stories and add meaning. The meaning can be positive or negative. The negative ones can be that we’re ugly, unlovable. That we can’t trust people. That the future is unsafe. That no matter how hard we try, we’ll never be good enough. That if we stand our ground and have boundaries, our loved ones will have enough and leave us. Some stories we tell ourselves center around our worthiness, our intelligence, or our physicalitlty. Others around the safety of the world, people, and relationships.
We all have some stories or beliefs about ourselves and many of them are supportive. But when the detrimental ones are so strong that they’re hard to resist…well, that’s when we can benefit from some perspective. And some compassion. It might be helpful to talk with someone about why you have these beliefs, where they come from, and how they limit your ways of being in the world. The understanding can help you recognize them as something other than the truth.
But sometimes it is even more important to be compassionate with ourselves. When our stories capture our attention, can we then shift to a sense of understanding and concern for ourselves? When we’re beating ourselves up mentally, can we notice that and then see if we can call upon compassion and kindness; reminding ourselves that life can be hard, that there’s a piece of us that is lovable, that the person who experienced those things (you!) is worthy of caring, of understanding?
This is challenging work. But it is so worth the effort. Learning to care for oneself ultimately creates confidence, strengthens connections, and opens one up to possibilities. So when you find yourself repeating some harmful beliefs about yourself, take a moment and ask yourself, “Are you going to believe that story?”
If you’re looking for a therapist in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC to help you with your stories, contact Mike Giordano at 202-460-6384 or Mike.Giordano.MSW@gmail.com.