“Hey, how’s it going?” is a question heard quite frequently, and often asked by Dr. John as he walks into the room with a patient. Depending on how close you are to the person asking, you might reveal more of what’s going on in your life. Life is made of so many ups and downs, so many back and forths. We never know when we’ll have a good day or a bad one, experience one of life’s joys or the pains that come along with them. Our stories awaken our self-awareness, understanding of the world around us, and have the potential to empower us. When we experience heartbreak, pain, sadness, or another emotionally tolling situation, it is natural to grieve within this sensation of loss. While one never fully “gets over” the events that occurred in their life, you do have the power to tell your story, and to determine how to handle the circumstances you encounter.
Amy Jo Goddard explains this best in her book Woman on Fire when she says,
“I already mentioned that many people will use their story to maintain their own victimhood. If you are using your stories to maintain your identity as a victim, it might be time to change your perception of your story and tell it differently, or stop telling it altogether. Many people keep their victimhood firmly in place for their entire lives and never choose to move beyond it. You can choose to have a different narrative. It doesn’t change that maybe what happened to you was painful, but how you decide to relate to it is what becomes empowering. Maintaining an identity as a victim will never get you the empowerment you seek. Sometimes it’s difficult to see how our victim self shows up. Everyone has one, and it’s a part of ourselves to get to know and understand, yet we don’t need to let that victim self be the core part of who we are not of our story.”
The valleys we walk through in life are painful, but if we tell our story in a way that victimizes us, and keeps us enclosed in the confines of our past, others will see us as being unable to relish in the joys life has to offer in our future. Furthermore, it limits us to not reaching for more in our own lives, since victimizing ourselves emotionally and often physically closes us off to only handle what is immediately in front of us. Choosing to tell our story in an empowering way does just the opposite – it opens others to sympathize with us and encourages them to share their struggles too, even inspiring them to overcome their circumstances! When you make the choice to tell your story in an empowering way, it is as if a light comes on, and you are able to see more clearly how the events experienced influence you as an individual capable of being more than your circumstances.
Leigh Stein went through this process of redefining her story, and details it in her memoir The Land of Enchantment. She explains, “For the first time, it felt like I had a choice. I didn’t have to be the tragic heroine of my own life anymore.” She goes on to explain how this transition allowed her to detach from a toxic person in her life when she says, “Seeing [him] in the context of the life I’d rebuilt…gave me the clarity to cut his character from the script, and the power to put the ending on our story.”
Image is “From the Faraway, Nearby” by Georgia O’Keefe
Mark Manson has a different perspective of letting go of the struggle with pain in his recent book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. He says, “Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.” He goes on to say that “Pain is an inextricable thread in the fabric of life, and to tear it out is not only impossible, but destructive: attempting to tear it out unravels everything else with it. To try to avoid pain is to give too many f*cks about pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not give a f*ck about the pain, you become unstoppable.” This is where people can become limited in the telling of their story, how they make their pain their identity. We will suffer. We will feel pain. If you’re not afraid to feel it, to know it’s only a chapter and it will lessen with time, what’s stopping you? What could have the power to hold you back?
Only you have the power to tell your story. Being happy isn’t based on luck. Happiness is not based on your circumstances. Happiness, as stated from Tony Robbins, “is a state we can become through our actions. The path to happiness is more than material items and superficial things. Rather, happiness is an all-encompassing way of being.” Choosing happiness isn’t just the choice to be happy – it is finding happiness as your identity. It is about making happiness a part of your story. Who will you be? The one who overcame or the one who was overcome by pieces of their past? Examine how your story has shaped you, and makes you a stronger person!