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  • Writer's pictureLaura Schaefer

On the stories we tell

Lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the stories we tell ourselves. Stories are perhaps the most powerful force on Earth, and the stories we loop in our minds shape everything we do, every day. Some stories are very helpful. For example, one story I like to tell myself is I'm a good mother. So, even when I really, really don't want to, I find a way to be patient with my daughter. I plan ahead to make sure she has what she needs. I grocery shop regularly, even though I DON'T WANNA. You get the idea. I'm a good parent, and good parents have freaking fruit in the house.

But some stories are a problem. There are little stories and little problems, like I Don't Have Time to Do My Laundry. This little story leads directly to the omnipresent stinky laundry pile. Not a huge deal, but annoying nonetheless, no?

Some stories are a little bit bigger. I'm Not Good at Remembering to Invoice My Clients. Um, what? Or, It Makes Me Uncomfortable to Follow Up When I Haven't Been Paid On Time. Sure, those are probably both true stories. But what is the outcome? Imagine you say instead, I Take Care of Business the Moment I Think of It. Or, I Am Very Organized. BOOM. Even if it isn't true immediately, you'll find a way to make it true. You'll practice. You'll find the right words. You'll make the new story true.

One story I recently decided to reject goes like this: High Cholesterol Numbers Run in My Family, So I'll Have to Go on a Statin at Age 37. Readers, I heard a record-scratch in my mind. I did not want this story. I really, really didn't. So I learned more about veganism. I didn't become a vegan. I'm too lazy for that. (<---STORY ALERT...most of us tell 50 stories in our heads before breakfast). But I now have some combination of broccoli, kale and spinach every day. I barely ever eat eggs anymore, and don't really miss them. Red meat? Yawn. I changed. I changed my diet and now my story is: I Had High Cholesterol But I Don't Anymore. WOOO. (Seriously, I went from 251 down to 194 in mere months).

Some stories are huge. One story I told myself for a long time was Money Scares Me. This story was so compelling to me and so deep-seated I would literally not log in to my bank account or open my mail even when I had business to attend to, because I knew the amount staring back to me would make me sad. Think about how much power I gave this story. So, so much power. It's a silly story and one I'm currently outgrowing. Here is my new story: I Am Good at Making Money, and I Am Good at Handling Money.

My new money story grew out of a different evolving story. One day, out of the blue, it occurred to me that whenever I got a writing assignment or job from anyone, regardless of whether it was a curriculum publisher or an online magazine or a marketing agency or a small business owner, I always delivered content on time and made the client happy. For years and years, this was and is true. But somehow I didn't realize it. It was such a given to me that I forgot to tell myself a story about it. Now I know the story: I Am Good at My Job. I Am a Talented and Dedicated Writer. Even if I don't knock an assignment out of the park the first time, I don't mind going back and trying again. I don't mind learning. I can take criticism. And I'm getting damn good.

What are your stories?

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