“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”Muriel Rukheyser
Stories are universal. We all listen to them and tell them. We read them, we write them, we dream them, we live them. And yet, stories are just words, just a sequence of words. And as such, they can be rewritten, reinterpreted, reimagined. At Becoming this is one of the things that we believe helps women to become unstuck: the power to rewrite your story can free you up to live the rich and full life that you desire.
Stories come from history…
A brief Google search will show you that storytelling is an integral part of human history. Spanning back tens of thousands of years, across continents and cultures, humans have used stories to communicate with each other.
At their roots, stories come from history. Joseph Campbell’s work on the Hero’s Journey shows that stories have common structures, use the same narrative tools and build upon each other. That book you are reading is probably telling a version of a story that humans have been telling each other for centuries.
…and yet history is a story
And yet, history is itself someone’s story. It is someone’s interpretation of the world, formed from their understanding of the evidence and explained to themselves and others. This (probably infamous) quote from Sandi Toksvig, which appeared recently on my LinkedIn feed from The Female Lead, illustrates the point perfectly:
“When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. ‘This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar’ she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’ It was a moment that changed my life.”Sandi Toksvig
So if history is itself a story, and we can dramatically alter the story simply by editing a single word, then imagine what we can do with the story of our own lives?
My own story
In my story, I’m a bit of an odd-one out. I never really fitted in when I was at primary school. I struggled with friendships at secondary school. And it took me until my fourth year of University to find the women that remain the core of my support network to this day. Telling myself this “odd-one-out” story was very useful to me. It allowed me to protect myself from all the times I wasn’t included – not invited to parties, not privy to the secrets, not part of the gang.
And I didn’t just use it in childhood, I relied on this story well into my adult years. When I started a new job, when I tried ceroc dancing, when I joined a swimming club, I would stand on the edges feeling awkward and not sure how to fit in. And rather than understanding and embracing this as a human experience, I would shelter under the protection of my “I’m the odd-one-out” story.
Then, for my 40th birthday, my friends presented me with a photo book. In it were photos spanning the 20+ years of our friendships. And as I turned the pages, much to my surprise, I realised that I was no different. There I was, in the group, same laughter, same tears, same experiences, same challenges. I wasn’t the “odd-one-out”, I was just one of the girls.
This realisation has allowed me to rewrite this story that I have carried since childhood. It has allowed me to be kinder with myself – both as I look back and also as I live my day-to-day life. I realise now that I’m not unique in my experiences of relationships, parenting, entrepreneurship, life. I’m just me. And I’ve realised that being me is OK. I’m enough just as I am.
Rewrite your story
“The good news is that we can rewrite these stories. We just have to be brave enough to reckon with our deepest emotions.”Brene Brown
Of course, the process of rewriting your story is not simple. The stories that we create to protect ourselves during childhood become entrenched in our identity as an adult. To rewrite your story, you have to be willing to pull it apart, examine it, and consider whether to reshape it or simply retire it from service.
But I can tell you from my own personal experience that it is worth it.
So what’s the story that you’ve been telling yourself for years? That you’ve been sheltering beneath or behind? And what would happen if you could rewrite your story?