If you want a brighter future in life (and dating!) start by looking inward. The stories we tell ourselves impact everything… and we do mean everything.
The stories we tell ourselves are powerful, so powerful that they have the power to change the course of our future. Find out how to harness this power to change the course of your dating and relationships in 2016 and future years.
“I know Adam is not calling me back because I text him back too quickly, he must think I am too needy. I say all the wrong things. I never should have talked to him about meeting my friends so soon. I hate this feeling!”
“Man, I’m never going to get a return message. I keep putting myself out there, and nothing happens. They must think I am unattractive. Online dating is a waste of my time.”
“I’m sick of going on dates and it never goes anywhere. There’s no one out there for me. I am going to end up alone.”
“I’ve been divorced, no one will want me now.”
“I’ve been alone this long, there must be something wrong with me.”
“I keep putting myself out there, but nothing ever seems to work in my favor. I guess I am not worthy of love.”
Sound familiar? I bet at least one of these stories hits a little too close to home. These are but a few very common stories I hear clients tell themselves all the time.
The thing is, they are just stories.
Our stories carry great power to shape and influence what actually happens in your life and how you feel about it.
While the power behind your story is immense, it is just a story—a story that can be changed with a little insight, a closer look at the fear underlying the story and a desire to transform how the story you tell yourself can change your dating and relationships in 2016 and beyond.
The Stories We Tell
Researcher and storyteller Dr. Brene Brown speaks a great deal about the stories we tell ourselves in her most recent book Rising Strong. In it she writes, “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.”
Stories (sometimes called narratives) construct our understanding of:
- Who we are
- Who others are
- Who you should/should not date or be in a relationship with
- How you should date
- Why things happen
- What is possible or impossible
- What we think will happen
The power of stories lies in whether you are using your story or it is using you. Like Dr. Brene Brown illustrates, when you deny or choose not to acknowledge the story that you are telling yourself, it will define you.
On the other hand, if you choose to see the story you are telling yourself, explore what other stories might be possible, you hold the power to use the story to your highest benefit.
Stories are shaped not only by your experiences, but your interpretation of those experiences.
Interpretations are gleaned by the meaning you make out an event or experience, and can also be shaped by adopting the interpretations of others (e.g., your parent telling you that boys who tease you like you—never heard that one before, huh?).
It is also not uncommon to adopt others’ stories, such as your mother’s, father’s or other important figure. Seeing an important figure carried away in their own story can often have a powerful, often unconscious, impact on how we come to view ourselves and our own story about the future. For example, seeing a parent cycle through unhealthy relationship after unhealthy relationship can shape the health of your own perceived relationship destiny. Likewise, seeing a parent in a healthy, satisfying relationship can shape what you think is possible within relationships.
Your story is also shaped by social and romantic experiences, starting in childhood and adolescence. They continue to be shaped by experiences, and your interpretation of these experiences, well into adulthood. For example, if you found it difficult to be understood, to make or sustain friendships, develop romantic relationships, or were bullied as a youth, this likely shaped the story you have about relationships, trust, and relying on others. Similarly, a positive association to these same elements would develop, if for example, you easily made friends, encountered healthy romantic experiences, and learned to trust others around you.
Because these stories radically influence what can and will happen in your life and your relationships, it is crucial to take a close look at the stories you are telling yourself.
Writing a New Story: Exploring Alternatives
Ask yourself three questions:
1. “What’s story or stories have I been telling myself?”
- What is the story you tell yourself about friendships?
- What is the story you tell yourself about past or present relationships or your potential for relationships?
- What is the story you tell yourself about family?
- What is the story you tell yourself about your health, diet, body image, and fitness?
- What is the story you tell yourself about your job or career?
Consider how these stories are influencing your path and how beneficial they are to tell yourself. Whether or not they have been true is neither here nor there. If you continue to tell yourself this same story, you will likely arrive at the same ending.
2. “What are some alternative stories?”
Start by rewriting the stories you have been telling yourself with the following elements:
- Who you are or could be
- Who others are or could be
- Who you could date or be in a relationship with
- How you could date
- Why things happen or will happen
- What is possible or impossible
- What you think could or will happen
When working with clients who are stuck in a story of why something happened or why someone did something to them, I explore with them the many possible alternative stories. These stories may or may not be true, but what they do is allow them to consider other possible explanations for an interaction or situation. Usually the exploration is enough to get a person unstuck from the story they are and have been telling themselves for so long.
3. “What is the story I’d like to write this year?”
Imagine how telling yourself a different, open, more empowering story could change your life and relationships in small or even dramatic ways. Writing the story down may help your emotional and creative juices flow more easily
- What pieces of the story would you like to take part in creating?
- What fearless steps do you want to take to play an active role in your story?
- What figures would you like to cast (or not cast) in your story? (Hint: if there is a reoccurring actor/actress in your story, perhaps try casting some new people for the role—go ahead and experiment)
Make Room for Edits
Just as you make room for “failure” or “mistakes” in life—and if you haven’t done so, you should definitely get on board with this one—making room for edits is an essential part of this creative life process.
No one says you have to have the complete story planned out detail by detail. The essence of challenging your story is to continue to question it – how is it helping you create more mindful, conscious relationships with others and with yourself?