Have you ever told a story of something that happened in your past, and then another person that was there says something like, “That’s not how it happened. This is how it happened.”? I’ve had that multiple times with my sister. We’re close in age, so we went through quite a few experiences together.
We always view experiences through a lens. Two people could go to the same event and tell completely different stories about it because of how they perceived it. Some of the stories we tell ourselves about our past are helpful, and some of them are not.
When I was 21, I went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For years after that mission, I told myself the story that I hadn’t been a very good missionary because I didn’t have a lot of baptisms, my mission president didn’t seem too impressed with me (another story in itself), and I gained a bunch of weight. Then one day someone asked me, “What do you think you could have done differently to be a good missionary?” I thought about it, and really I had done the best I knew how at the time. I had gotten up every day, studied the scriptures, tried my best to get along with my companion, follow the rules, and be sincere. That story totally changed my perspective. Yes, I made mistakes, but I did the best with what I knew. When I believe the first story, I feel guilty. When I believe the second story, I feel proud.
I had a friend that felt like her parents didn’t give her enough attention. She decided that her parents had just raised too many kids and weren’t able to take care of her the way she needed, and now she was being held back because she didn’t get what she needed when she was being raised. This was a very painful story for her. So instead of this story, she imagined her parents praying to know if they should have more children, and God telling them, “I want you to have this one. She is strong. I know you may not have the emotional capacity to take care of her, but if you’ll just do your best to provide for her, I can work with her when she’s older.” My friend said she’d never know if this story was anywhere near the truth, but it brought a lot of peace. She could also see how she was strong enough, and God was working with her to become who she wanted to be. The first story was painful. The second story was peaceful.
Some may say this is just telling yourself a lie. But really, it’s just a story either way, so if a story is a lie, we’re always lying to ourselves. Perhaps it’s more true than the other story we were telling ourselves.
What parts of your past do you feel are holding you back? How could you tell yourself a new story that would empower you instead?