The Stories We Tell Ourselves

During my hour commute home a couple of weeks ago I was listening to an audio book with tears streaming down my face. Traveling the week before, being overwhelmed by my to-do list and failing to see my purpose clearly left me depleted. I began to question my ability to reach for the stars in my ambitions. I had started writing this blog in the airport. I abandoned it when I became “uninspired”. How could I have anything to contribute to the topic of resilience in the state I was in?

Now, during my commute I stopped my audio book. I flipped over to a podcast by a favorite author/pastor/influencer to stop my thought process from derailing any more. The podcast up next to listen to was about body shaming and changing our own narrative. The stories we tell ourselves usually are limiting and are important for us to acknowledge and talk about. The idea of detrimental stories we tell ourselves is not a new idea, but it is an idea I see more and more being talked about. I think it’s time to talk about as we work through being more resilient.

When I was 18-years-old I decided to become a water aerobics instructor. I had been recovering from a muscle fatigue disorder through water aerobics for four years. I already felt like I lived at the pool, so why not get paid for it? It was a job I could also transfer to anywhere I went to college. I made it through my certification course. I had overcome so much already to achieve this certification. My voice, often thought of as quiet and gentle, would become accustomed to projecting over the water. I was sure of it. The day arrived for me to teach my first class as a certified instructor at my regular pool. I was a novice, for sure, but I thought everyone there was supporting me. An older man, who was awkward to say the least, had also attempted to become certified through the exact same program. He did not pass. Irritably he participated in my first class, so I straightened myself up and taught.

After the hour class all the older ladies cheered for me. The man, however, pulled me aside and told me how terrible my voice was. I’m not exaggerating. He told me, “No one would want to listen to you”. He told me I needed voice lessons to correct what was so wrong. I remember just standing by the equipment, bewildered, having no idea what to say. I sensed he was jealous. I didn’t cuss back then, but I’m sure I was more frustrated than the limited vocabulary I had at the time. I shed some tears and my boss gave me a hardy pep-talk. She couldn’t stand the guy either. Pep-talk or not, I was still defeated. His voice remained in my head.

Years later, still hiding and feeling self-conscious about my voice, I would allow his words to be part of the stories I told myself. The first story was this, “No one would want to hear what I have to say.” The narrative turned into a lie. A lie the man at the pool never said. He only critiqued how my voice sounded, not what I said. Neither his words or my lie was true, but, over time, I had grown to believe both.

By the time I graduated college my true story was beginning to form. I was learning to overcome difficulty. I was rising up as a strong woman, a confident young nurse and someone who cared about the resilience of others. I had become confident in my water aerobics instructing, which was a great foundation for my nursing career. I was capable except when I was invited to share my story out-loud. I was reduced to stomach aches and a sore, hoarse throat. The voices in my head, including that awful man’s voice, were louder than the strength and the power within me.

These stories, the ones we tell ourselves, can keep us small. Depending on the narrative, we can be prevented from moving forward. The subtle whispers or boisterous voices overpower what we know is true, our wisdom and our courage. Instead of adventuring out to a new assignment, a new career or even new habits, the narrative repeats until we have bottled up any courage we might have. We allow lies to be thrown in our faces every time we start thinking about being courageous. We allow ourselves to be diminished to the same routine, the same job or the same self-reflections. 

In the next few blogs I am excited to talk about this topic more fully. I have been reading an incredible book about the stories and possibly the lies which inhibit our curiosity. They may even deplete us when life doesn’t go the way we think it will or should. Since my tearful commute, I have been digging deep into the core of resiliency in my own life. I’m eager to process and share with you what I am discovering.

In the meantime, what narratives are you listening to? What lies are you allowing yourself to believe as truth? Speak them out-loud, tell a trusted friend about them or claim what is true about yourself over the lies. These methods can be a great starting point to defeat them. 

Published by Stephanie Trowbridge

Follower of Jesus. Artist. Wife. Mother.

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