"Are you going to let this story run your life or are you going to rewrite it?" The words barely registered before the answer came into my mind. "I'm going to rewrite my story" I said.
Humans are natural storytellers, we have been since we first started communicating with each other. Stories are how we make sense of our world. They shape our beliefs around ourselves, others and the world around us. When you think about it, it’s amazing how much power a story can influence our lives. The real power of a story comes from the telling of it, the more it is told, the power it has and the more we hear it, the more it makes sense to us and influences our thoughts and actions.
Telling our own story
We all have a personal narrative i.e. the stories we tell ourselves. These stories explain why we act or think the way we do. These stories may have been stories that we have heard about ourselves. We might think of these stories being authored by our family, friends, teachers etc.
There is another type of narrative, and that is the one we author ourselves. These might be secret stories we tell ourselves, that we don’t share with others. They might even be stories that we think we authored but in fact, were written by someone else; we just adopted it and believed it to be true.
When I'm reading a book to my kids we sometimes discuss alternative endings or perspectives. Of course, we can't change the specific words the author has written in that specific story because the author wanted to tell the story in a particular way. However, we can rewrite it in our own words and make a new story - that's what makes stories so amazing and diverse in my opinion!
The good thing about our own story is that we are the author and the editor. We have the power to edit, change and rewrite. We can step into a character's shoes, change our own perspective and take a different path. We can even play a different part if we choose.
“Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often.” — Susan Statham
What does “rewrite your story” really mean?
Rewriting your story is basically about shifting your perspective. Because many of our narratives began when we were young, they are interpreted from narrow perspectives. As we grow older and gain more life experiences, we learn and grow which often gives us a different interpretation.
Rewriting your story is not about ignoring your feelings, denying your negative experiences or pretending everything is fine. Instead, it is about finding meaning in the events of your life/narrative that empower you to be your best self. It means not using a story as an excuser own stories so that we can choose to develop and m but instead, taking responsibility to make a choice in order to develop and mature as a person.
The reason rewriting your story is useful is because it can move you from a stuck, negative, blaming position in life into one where you move forward to reach your dreams and goals. It can help you let go of negativity and allow you to take responsibility for your own life, which frees you from anger and bitterness. Rewriting your story allows you to move beyond old fears, judgments (of yourself or others), and resentment.
What story are you telling yourself?
I've talked before about how our stories are powerful, what we say and present to others but today I'm talking about how to tell your story to yourself. Your life story isn’t just a biography of the facts and events of your life. It is also the way you integrate those facts and events internally, how you make sense of them. Consider the following:
- Who are you?
- What is your life about?
- What is the overall theme of your life?
- What are the most important events and elements?
- How do your values influence your choices?
- How do you create meaning out of connecting your experiences?
As we build the narrative of our life (regardless of the author) it becomes a strong part of our identity. Your story doesn’t just say what happened to you; it also says why it was important, what it meant/means for you, who you became and what you’ll do next.
Exploring your story
Once you recognise your own story you will begin to understand yourself more deeply. You can use it to explore questions and perspectives such as:
- Are you empowering yourself through your story or are you a victim of circumstances?
- Do things happen for a reason?
- Are you expecting the best or the worst to happen next?
- What is the purpose of your life?
- How do you treat others? Are you kind, can you trust them, do you feel safe, can you be open and authentic?
- How happy are you? How do you measure happiness and success?
- Why does life give you challenges? How do these challenges impact your life?
And probably the most important question: Do you want to keep your story, or do you want to change it? Does it work for you, or perhaps rewriting it could make you happier and more empowered?
How to rewrite your story
I said at the beginning of this article that I am rewriting my own story, (I’ll share at some point) but how? Let me take you through the process:
Find a quiet space
Think back to your childhood. Start from as early as you remember, and just let memories flow for a couple of minutes. Try to remember as vivid details as you can, try to make it tangible and sensory, but don’t get stuck on a single memory. Instead, keep on moving throughout your story.
Write down the story of your life
Start by mentioning the most meaningful moments. (Spend no longer than 20 mins on this.) It could be events, relationships, or something that you noticed or learned about yourself and your world. Something that shifted your beliefs and perhaps even your sense of identity. Anything that caused the course of your life to develop in the way that it is today.
Discover the theme of your story
Read your story. Notice what are the most common verbs and themes that show up in the story. Circle the main powerful words, emotions, action verbs.
Name your story
If this was a book or a movie, what would be the name of this story? Don’t give it a name that you like or desire, but one that matches the story that you have just written and read.
Change your theme
What theme would you like your story to have? What movie/book title would be the desired one? What is the theme that feels inspiring and powerful to you? Write this new theme (and a title) down.
Rewrite your story
Take15-20 minutes and rewrite your story from a perspective of the new theme. Don’t hide or lie about anything – just try to see it from a different perspective. For example, if your new perspective would be “life is an exciting adventure”, keep on asking yourself “if life is an exciting adventure, what did this event mean in my life?”
Reflect on it
Put the new story aside for a couple of days. Then get back to it and read it again. Go through the whole process again and keep on adjusting it in ways that feel empowering yet real and honest to your own story.
Enjoy the process
This is about re-inventing yourself and taking back the power over your life. It can be challenging, but it is also a beautiful process. Owning our story and creating it into a story that is meaningful, empowering yet authentic for us is probably the most powerful thing that one can do for our own happiness, life satisfaction, but also for a sense of meaning and positive relationship with self.