The story that you decide to tell yourself about your past depends on what you choose to focus on.
If you asked 100 people that you know to describe your life – I bet not one of them would describe it like you would. In fact, you may get 100 different versions.
The good news here (there is always good news!) is that you get to look at your life however you want. But none of us do this all of the time.
Instead we have thoughts about our past and how that effects our current life. But it really doesn’t. It is your thoughts about your past that create your feelings.
Here’s an example. Since 2008 I had been telling myself that I’m not good with money.
The facts: Back then I had no debt except for our home. The financial crisis hit and we ended up losing about 90% of our self employed income in our photography business. Which in turn caused us to have to short sell a home that had lost more than 50% of its value. We had put 50% down on the house, almost all of our savings thinking it was a good investment. Guess what that meant? We were left with no savings, our money had disappeared into thin air. Everything spiralled from there. We ended up renting a small home and using the kids college savings to live on. Using credit cards, going into debt. We had hit rock bottom.
My story: I told myself that I was a failure. That if it wasn’t for me, my family would be in a better financial situation. I was almost 40 years old and now had nothing to show for it. I kept telling myself over and over what a loser I was. This was all my fault. I was feeling not only devastated but inadequate and unworthy.
As a result I lived into this version of myself. I gained weight. Stop exercising. I took a menial job as a waitress somehow thinking that a couple hundred bucks a week was going to make a difference. (I’m a big fan of the hospitality industry so I’m not demeaning being a server, just that I chose to work at a place where I knew I would make almost no money. Because I wasn’t worthy of something better).
Guess what result I created for myself? I was a loser that couldn’t help support her family.
At this point in my life I chose to focus on the premise that ‘I was no good with money’.
I had proved it.
But had I? Wasn’t it a financial crisis that affected the world, not just little old me and my family? Was I the one that had developed these elaborate schemes related to the housing market? Or was I just a parent that wanted to buy a home with my savings as an investment for the future of my family? I had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I changed my thinking.
I don’t look back anymore at myself as someone who isn’t good with money. After we hit rock bottom I got back to work. I got back in the game. I doubled down on our photography business, helping to make it wildly successful. I stopped telling myself these stories that weren’t serving me.
What good did it do to look in the rear view mirror blaming myself? I started looking forward towards the future.
What’s the moral of this long story?
Don’t beat yourself up about anything that happened in the past. It already happened, it’s over.
Let’s start learning to understand yourself better by developing a curiosity for why you think this way about something in your past that is currently preventing you from moving forward.
By being compassionate with ourselves we can learn the truth of where these thoughts come from and start exploring other ways of thinking.
Make compassion, understanding and love your new adjectives.
Start choosing thoughts that empower you, not diminish you.
Let’s start with the real facts of your story and start creating the results you want.
[side note: If this failure hadn’t happened to me I would not be where I am now. This low was a life changing event. I never look back at this anymore as anything but a life lesson that helped me move forward into the life I was really meant to be living. Here I am!]
The book I just finished reading: Hero on a Mission