The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Think about a time in your life when you had interpreted someone’s “Yes.” (emphasis on the period) via text as he or she harboring frustration with you. You then begin to analyze this event and bring reason to why they are mad at you and assume they are irritated with something you said. But how much of that is the truth? Rather, this is the story we tell ourselves to bring a story line into a trigger event to help make sense of it. Yet, that IS all we are really doing, making up a story, and not even considering the truth in the situation.

Perhaps after confronting this friend regarding the text message, she does not even remember it because there was not emotion attached to the response at all. Meanwhile, you had suffered for days thinking constantly about this response which turned out to be a misinterpretation at the end of the day. Dr. Brene Brown speaks of how the brain actually rewards us for creating a storyline such as this to help to make sense of a situation whether it is a truthful storyline or not. As a result, however, we may be so committed to our story that we never end up finding the truth.

Brene Brown speaks about how these trigger moments, such as the “Yes.” text message response are opportunities for self-reflection. Our recognition of the tendency to craft a story in this moment is the sign to begin our self-reflection. To take the same example, once we are triggered by this text message and recognize our minds readiness to craft this entire story about our friend, we stop and reflect. Here, we are given the opportunity to figure out what about this response had triggered us?

The interesting thing is that we will always find that it everything to do with us, and nothing to do with the other person. The person on the sending end had no foul intention or malicious vengeance with a “Yes.” text response but because of our own inner insecurities and fear of rejection, we are sensitive to the short diction.

Since we are the creators of our reality, if we believe the story we tell ourselves all of the time, we may never give ourselves the opportunity to find truth or use this opportunity for self-reflection. By constantly believing the story we tell ourselves to be true, we can ruin various relationships in our lives. We may blame the actions of others for the way we are feeling or the failure of a relationship on the faults of another. How much truth is in these storylines? Are they merely just stories we tell ourselves?

Next time you feel the urge to develop a storyline in a trigger situation, recognize it as fiction and question what about YOU allowed for this to be a trigger event. You may find out more about yourself than you’d like to admit.

The Expression of Joy

I have done a lot of thinking about “expressing joy.” In Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability (which I feel I need to give a second listen to), she speaks of expressing JOY and the fulfillment of happiness this brings. She speaks of a story of a man who lives his entire life like everything is just ok, not really getting overly excited or enthused about much. Then one day his wife of 25 years passes away, and he is regretful of never truly expressing the joy he had all of these years of life with her. From the day on, this man vowed to actively express joy every single day. I may have paraphrased that story a bit, but the lesson is conclusive:

Actively express joy for everything in life, big or small.

It is easier said than done mostly because life is so distracting and sometimes we do not truly see a moment as an opportunity for joy, rather, we may just see it as just another ordinary moment.

If you are anything like me, vacations or promotions were always things I was appreciative and grateful for but did not necessarily induce excitement. Perhaps it is due to a modest upbringing or not wanting to come off as arrogant or haughty, but the converse of not expressing joy, is just as poor… We SHOULD be excited and be joyous for these small pleasures in life.

This thoughts has then led to my attempt in better defining “joy,” and also finding a way to intentionally express it every single day.

First, my definition of “joy” is essentially gratitude + excitement.

Gratitude is the expression of things in life that we are appreciative and thankful for but does not necessarily induce that explosive expression of how I (at least) visualize “joy.” The visual that comes to mind when I think of joy is then sun shining, beaming on my back as I skip through a field of daisies, wearing a great big grin. That is the visual I need to live up to in my mind.

So, in order to have that visual come closer to life, the second piece of this definition is then excitement! This is an action we prompt have to prompt for ourselves. We can choose to be excited about those moments in life we are grateful for. Ever hear the old saying, “Act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic”? It might be a motto you may hear at a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking workshop, but nonetheless, whether in public speaking, business or in life, we act the way we want to feel, more simply. I believe this intentional expression of excitement paired with this appreciation for moments big and small, helps us to feel JOY.

As a matter of practice, every day I do express gratitude but to further express joy, this morning I ask myself a simple question:

What am I excited for today?

Now, for the record, today is an ordinary working money, I do not have anything particularly unique going on, yet still I found moments to be excited about.

  • Excited to go to work.
  • Excited to finish my tasks for my project.
  • Excited to talk to partner about his day later.
  • Excited to go to the gym.
  • Excited to have dinner with my family.
  • Excited to read my book.
  • Excited to have my bean soup for lunch.

It sounds silly but we deserve to be joyous about all facets of life. Otherwise, why bother waking up, right?

Answer this question for yourself today and feel your mood change. I promise. That is joy.

The Power of Conversation

We all tend to underestimate the power of conversation. Conversation, though is sounds simple, is no easy task. It comes back to the concept of being vulnerable. Conversation whether it is in regards to a trivial matter as small as asking the waiter for more ketchup, or a more serious matter in discussing your emotions with your partner, in both cases we are setting ourselves up for rejection or potential conflict. As a result, many of us choose to avoid conversation all together. This is our comfort zone, being non-confrontational and closed-off in fear of being “difficult.”

However, something we underestimate is the immense progress and joy we can gain from conversation because, guess what, much of the time that rejection or conflict you fear NEVER HAPPENS. Or, at least it doesn’t happen as dramatically as you might have imagined.

Let’s take the simple example of asking the waiter for more ketchup. Now, if you are anything like me, though I do want more ketchup, I probably would hesitate to ask the waiter with the thought that I would be pestering him. Yes, I know…. Silly. What is the worst that can happen? He doesn’t get me ketchup? He thinks I am a bother? It is unlikely he would come back with a new bottle and hit me with it or something because I suppose that would be the unrealistic and utterly worst case scenario. Conversely, if the conversation was breached and request was asked… Guess what? You might just get what you were asking for no problem, no big deal. Doesn’t that feel better? You got your ketchup free of any injuries to report back home about.

Now, for two more serious examples illustrating the power of conversation we will talk about conversation in work and relationships.

First, let’s consider discussing a promotion with your manager. It is no doubt easier to come into work and perform your typically job day in and day out than to challenge your position and breach conversation with your manager to discuss promotional opportunities. It’s scary! I know. However, in not taking the chance to beginning conversation about opportunities, you will miss out on them. How would your manager ever know what you are interested in doing? What if they just thought you weren’t interested so that is the reason you have not been offered new positions? They are your manager, not a mind-reader afterall. Plus, worst case scenario, again, you will most likely go back to working in your current position, so it sounds like there is not much to lose (Unless your manager is a [Insert your explicit here]). Anyway, the conclusion is that conversations alone can open up opportunities you may not have realized were even there!

In the second scenario, let’s consider discussing a certain way you are feeling with your partner. This can be a feeling that is really not even about them but perhaps it is something difficult in your family that you are dealing with, something at work, something about your current circumstance that is causing you uneasiness, and ultimately, may be influencing your relationship to some degree. Of course, it is easy to get caught up in the thought, “Oh, he doesn’t want to hear about this. I can handle it on my own.” “Oh, I don’t want him to take the way I am feeling the wrong way, so I rather not say.” “Oh, he’s better off not knowing because then he will think I am CRAZY.” We all are. It’s ok. Yes, we will have all of these concerns about sharing out emotions with our partner, but the sad truth is that when things are left unsaid, no matter how minor the issue, it will metastasize until it is something that cannot be so easily repaired. It is sort of similar to that leaky roof you knew needed to be fixed two years ago when it was just a small hole, but now two years and three terrible snow storms later, the damage is more severe and is going to cost much more money than had you have gotten it repaired two years ago. Fix the leaky roof now!! NOW is the time when it is no big deal, it is fixable, manageable, LATER is when it might be too late and may find yourself paying a premium for it. One conversation. It may be all it takes. As a result, you may well find relief, joy and sheer happiness in this expression. You may feel as though a world has been lifted off of your shoulder. After all, that is what a partner is for. To be there for you. Let’s trust that.

Let’s not underestimate the power of conversation going forward. We do not know that we do not know. If you are questioning whether to have an important discussion with someone in your life today, have it! You will feel better that you did, regardless. Good luck!

“What is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me…”

Ahh, the classic question posed by a 90s one-hit-wonder, along with the rest of humanity.

Throughout our lives, many of us are both hexed and fortunate to experience love. Recently, for myself I have been experiencing love for the first time and it truly is unlike any other emotion. It is ambiguous, cannot be understood nor described.

If you’re anything like me, you might have previously thought, “I’m so fine with being the cool single aunt the rest of my life,” set on doing everything on your own, not feeling like you need anyone because of your independence. Well, let me tell you, if you come to find someone who challenges all of those inclinations, please give it a shot. It is easy to stay in your comfortable world where you only have to worry about you and there is no need to ever be vulnerable. Plus, the word “vulnerable” alone probably makes you sick. So, rather just avoid it, right? I get it.

However, at the same time (I have learned and am still learning) vulnerability is both critical to wholly love and it is beautiful. To be further sickened by the thought, listen to Brene Brown’s –Power of Vulnerability or read her book, Daring Greatly—(Listed in ‘Books’). Both of these journals have opened my eyes to the importance of vulnerability and also made me realize how much I unknowingly avoid it. The way Brene Brown describes, “Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”

How beautiful is that? To share your thoughts and emotions with someone and allow them to accept them without judgement. Talk about being naked! Sheesh. Meanwhile, all this time I thought my biggest fear was physically being naked?! I don’t know. It sounds like no contest compared to the deep expression of vulnerability.

Honestly, love has no definition because everyone is different, every relationship is different, which is why so many of us go on 100+ dates in our lives to find no one who clicks. Yet, that same guy who showed up 20 minutes late in ripped jeans and a baseball hat on your first date found the love of his life a week later!

We are not all compatible, so we cannot expect love to be an apples to apples experience for everyone. It is unrealistic. All we can strive to do is embrace love, let love in, love love but most importantly love yourself. And, to quote Brene Brown one more time, tell yourself, “I am enough.”

So, what is love? Well… You’ll have to find out for yourself.