Rewrite your life and be your own heroine.
I’ve started listening to some of the stories I’ve been telling about myself lately. I don’t like them at all!
- I’m old
- I’m fat
- I’m out of shape
- I can’t
Yuck! Why do we talk to ourselves this way? It’s mean and demoralizing. Who could find inspiration in such a defeated heroine? It’s not a story I want to hear, let alone live.
I don’t have to settle for that kind of negative story, and neither do you. In fact, without even changing the facts of my life, I can easily tell a different story about myself:
- I’m just getting started
- I’m stronger every day
- I feel great
- I can do anything I put my heart into
Which story would you rather be living? While there is truth in both, one leaves me unmotivated and depressed and the other leaves me energized and happy. It’s all a matter of perspective and outlook.
You create your reality with the stories you tell yourself. If you don’t like the way your life is unfolding, it’s time to give your stories a rewrite.
“Today is a new day! You have the opportunity to pick up life’s pen and change your story. Become the hero; the greatest hero in your story, and you’ll see how much more exciting your life will be.”Steve Maraboli
Have you outgrown your story?
let it go!
We choose many of our stories when we are very young. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes, we make the best choices we can, based on a very limited understanding of the world. But we are no longer children, and these stories may no longer be useful.
Have you outgrown your stories? Are they limiting you or keeping you stuck?
Think back to your childhood, what themes have you carried into your current life? Ask yourself if these stories still serve you. You can start with these questions:
- Is this story true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it useful?
- Does it make me happy?
retire old stories
Some of my childhood stories are long overdue for retirement.
I grew up poor. I remember the shame of food stamps at the grocery store and the vile taste of powdered milk on my Corn Flakes (Ugh!). My mother sewed many of our clothes, and when hand-me-down boxes of clothing came from our cousins, it felt like Christmas. “We can’t afford it” was something I heard frequently growing up.
But I’m no longer poor. I haven’t tasted powdered milk in 45 years. I am no longer that poor little girl paging through the JCPenney’s catalog with longing. I live a comfortable life, in a comfortable home. While I am far from wealthy, when I need something, I buy it. This poverty story is no longer true, but it continues to affect my relationship with money today. It leaves me feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with my life when I needn’t be.
Now when I find myself saying,” I can’t afford it,” I stop and challenge this story. I find that I can afford what I really want. Sure, I might need to work more or drop something I value less from my budget, but this is simply a choice about where I want to allocate my money and my time.
Rewriting this old, worn-out story has empowered me to be strategic in my financial thinking and unlocked doors to new opportunities. It’s my life, and I can do whatever I want with it. I feel giddy just saying that!
My new story serves me well: “If it is important to me, I can make this happen.”
“To transform our lives, we need to change our stories.”Carl Greer
What purpose does this story serve?
Goodbye, good girl
Here’s another story from my childhood that I’ve had to rethink. When I was young, I wanted, more than anything else, to be a “good girl”. I was the straight-A student, the kid that did the dishes without being asked, the hard worker. I still am many of those things, but I left the good girl behind years ago.
Or so I thought.
Lately, I’ve had to admit that I’m still trying to be the “good girl” in many ways. Though I haven’t seen a report card in decades, I still fight my desire to please others.
This is a no-win situation. Being the good girl is an impossible role to maintain for a lifetime (unless you die young, not an ambition of mine). First of all, I’m not a girl anymore. That ship sailed many years ago.
Second, my definition of good has changed a great deal. It no longer means following the rules and playing the role my parents wanted me to play. Today, being good means living with integrity, contributing to my community, and being true to myself.
Finally, I rarely know what other people are thinking, let alone what they want. They may not be even remotely interested in what I do or say. As the song goes, you can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.
start Living for yourself
To figure out why I assumed this role as a girl, I asked myself, “What purpose did it serve?”
As a child, being “good” made me a loveable, valuable family member. It ensured my survival. As an adult, I don’t need to play this role to survive. In fact, living fully requires me to stop pleasing others and start listening to my own heart. I can be a great person without playing this old, worn-out role.
Goodbye, good girl Jane. Hello, creative Jane, interesting Jane, and, my personal favorite, happy, fulfilled Jane.
Are there stories you can rewrite to increase your happiness? Follow this process to find out:
- Describe yourself as a child, jotting down the first things that come to mind.
- Describe yourself today.
- Note any childhood stories that have carried over into your present life.
- Challenge those stories: Are they still true? Do they make you happy?
- Discard or rewrite any stories that no longer serve you.
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”Nora Ephron
Be your own heroine
You already have what you need
I spent many years working as an actress, and when the right role appears I still enjoy it tremendously. One of the pleasures of acting is the opportunity to try on other lives, exploring who you might be given a different set of circumstances and life choices.
I’ve played characters that I never wanted to leave. It was so much fun seeing the world through their eyes, I liked their reality better than I liked my own.
Of course, the best acting is based on your own truths. You can’t build a character you can’t imagine in some secret part of your heart. So that character who is such a delight to perform? I can be her any time I want. She is already a part of me, just waiting for me to invite her out to play.
We all have the power to be the heroine in our own story. We can play a better, happier role anytime we want. Begin by deciding what facets of yourself you want to focus on. What are the things you love about yourself? What brings you joy?
If you can be anyone (and you can, in your own unique way), who will you choose to be?
“Be yourself; it’s a tough act to follow.”Katharine Hepburn
Choose your Favorite role model
Here’s a trick that helps me bring out the best in myself. Think of someone you truly admire. This should be someone that inspires you in a deep way, living their life the way you’d love to live your own life.
Do you have someone in mind? Great! The next time you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, ask yourself how your own personal heroine would act in this situation.
I like to channel Katherine Hepburn. Now I don’t know what Hepburn was really like. But in my mind, she’s fearless, full of life, and unapologetically herself — rocking those great, wide-legged pants. She was a fabulous actress, an iconic beauty, and a fiercely independent woman. I still can’t wrap my head around her daily outdoor swims, even in the cold months of winter. It’s a practice she maintained well into her 80’s. Now that’s discipline!
So when my alarm clock goes off and it’s snowing and I REALLY don’t want to go to the gym – I channel my inner “Kate”. I jump out of bed and get busy, thanking my lucky stars that I’ll be working out in a cozy gym and not swimming in icy cold water!
Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!Jerome Lawrence, “Auntie Mame”
Don’t settle for living a story you don’t love
I’ve stopped finishing books just because I started them. I no longer feel compelled to stick it out until “the end.” If I’m bored, unimpressed or simply not in the mood, I close that book and forget about it. There are other books to read, other heroines that intrigue me more.
The same is true in life. If you’re not happy with the story you’re living, leave it!
At any moment, you are free to choose a new story. There is no reason to settle for less than a story you absolutely love.
Whomever we once were, whatever has happened in our pasts, tomorrow is a blank canvas. What will you paint on it?