It’s easy for me to let negative thoughts creep into my mind and follow them down dark pathways, into large Grimm brother-like forests, where I not only feel misguided but also frightened.
But when I realized that the magical element of a story is that it can change and be anything, well, that’s when I knew I wanted to edit mine.
I wanted to stop following the path that lead me into the black forest and find one that lead me into a space of joy, creativity, inspiration, motivation, and adventure.
Sure, sounds great, right? I simply retell my story in the way I want and ABRACADABRA my fear-based mind magically disappears.
Well, not exactly, but close.
Although groundbreaking results didn’t come overnight, what did start to happen were small shifts.
1. Notice What Story You’re Telling Yourself
To start telling a different story, it’s important to identify the old story. Often these stories live semi-hidden, semi-conscious in the back of our minds. They are often the context through which we see the world and our role in it.
Sometimes it’s helpful for me to write down all the old stories I’ve been telling myself over the years like:
- No one will love me because…
- I’m not going to get the job I want because…
Once they are on the page, it’s easier for me to spot them when they pop up in my day-to-day.
And it’s at this point, when I take note of my thoughts and see them, when I can either choose to believe or change course.
2. Change Course
When I notice I’m telling myself an old story, when I feel anxious or rushed, or have self-doubt or fear, I stop whatever it is that I’m doing and I do two things:
1. I close my eyes and breathe into wherever the anxiety is in my body. I breathe into it and then exhale the feeling.
2. Once the stress it out of my body, I change the thought into an affirmation.
So if my story was “I’m always late. I’m never going to get there on time.” I change that to “I’m always on time.”
By supporting instead of attacking, I can calm my fear.
3. Identify Where These Stories Come From
When we’re younger, our guides in life are our parents, family, teachers, media, and society at large (phew that’s a lot of messages hitting us!).
We learn from a young age what is appropriate, acceptable, and expected. We take on the positive and negative traits of our parents, because that is all we know.
So by the time we fly the coup, a lot of who we are is actually underneath who we feel we are supposed to be.
At this point, your inner child, the one that loved painting, twirling in the living room, and wearing non-matching socks is so far under that she’s suffocating.
What’s important about figuring out where your story comes from is in learning that the story you’ve been telling yourself might not actually be yours.
When I hear myself says things like, “crap” when I accidentally drop my phone or when I comment on people’s outfits, I stop and ask, “do I actually think that or is that someone else’s story?”
Being able to distinguish your voice from that of others makes it easier to hear what’s really going on inside.
The most important piece to living without anxiety and fear is to be conscious of the old stories.
Once I realized that all my stories were tales, that they weren’t real, I knew that anytime I identified them during my day, I could choose to believe them or rewrite them.
Cynthia Kane teaches the skill of empowered, mindful and self-responsible communication to men and women to help them change their communication routines so they feel present, less critical, more patient, and in control of their words and reactions at home and at work. Her latest book, How To Communicate Like a Buddhist, was published April 2016. She lives in Washington, DC and offers workshops and private programs.