The Power of Story

The power of story moves us through our days defining our experience.

What stories are you telling these days?

What are you telling yourself?

And what are you telling others?

A woman standing in a field of Golden Rod holding a mirror to her face that the tells the story of her as Golden Rod.
Photo Credit: Noah Buscher

These are the stories of your life. The words you use and the way you string them together shape your world. Whether you mean it or not, these stories are a reflection of how you see yourself and are seen by the world. When you allow that inner voice to beat you up for not getting out of bed early enough, you are messaging that you are bad and flawed. Conversely, when you wake up late and revel in a good night’s sleep, you are applauding yourself for healthy self care. Either story sets the tone for the day; one puts you in a negative, out-of-sorts state of mind. The other puts you firmly in charge of influencing positive outcomes.

Then, as the day goes on, what story do you tell your children, friends or colleagues? Are you impatient with them? Do you complain that they need to hurry up because you are behind schedule? Or do you encourage them that they too can make healthy decisions like eating breakfast slowly, exercising or not rushing through a task? Are you telling them a story of scarcity or abundance? Impatience or encouragement? Fear or hope?

A collection of ornate masks pointing to the covering we wear when we tell the story of happiness when we are really struggling.
Photo Credit: Llanydd Lloyd

Whatever your answer, is this your intention? Is this how you want to see yourself and be seen? If so, that’s truly a gift to embrace and continue putting forth. If not, why not? How are these stories serving you? What purpose do they fill? Will self-flagellation really make you get out of bed earlier tomorrow? Will it help you “get your act together” for the rest of the day? Perhaps you are wearing a mask; consciously telling the misleading story of happiness when actually you are torn up and struggling inside. This serves many purposes; few of which are truly helpful. It may make you feel safer and less vulnerable. It may help to keep others at a distance or dampen the pain. But untended pain and struggle are wounds that fester. We need our peeps to help us through. So, when I ask about your story and whether it’s what you intend, I am not asking if you’ve managed to tell the story of Pollyanna where everything is coming up roses. I am asking if you are aware of the stories you tell. 

A woman demonstrating incredible flexibility with a yoga stance of hands arching backwards to grab one bent leg over her head while standing in silohuette
Photo Credit: Wesley Tingey

Being intentional is the first step towards genuine freedom when considering the power of your story. The next step is cultivating flexibility; remaining open to how your story changes across the day or even moment to moment. Maybe waking up late really is a problem because you missed a meeting with your boss. Does that have to put a dark cloud over your entire day? Or can you rebound and shift the narrative? Perhaps missing that appointment crystalizes your priorities for the rest of the day and gives you focus you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Being ready to flex to the guaranteed unexpected of the day sets you up for greater success. As you move through becoming more intentional and flexible with your story, consider the next step of authenticity.

Wait! Didn’t I mean authenticity when I talked about intentionality?

Nope!

A message of Be Brave written on a chalk board next to a stack of books of yet to be written stories.
Photo Credit: Joyce McCown

Telling our stories is naturally a very personal process. Being intentional involves choosing words that you are aware of their meaning and impact. The person struggling inside may intentionally hide their pain from people they believe cannot hold their pain, but this clearly is not authentic. Being authentic is truth telling; bravely speaking from your heart and soul. It is risking your own vulnerability in order to tell a narrative in alignment with who you are and what you are feeling.

Rows and rows of yellow rubber duckies in total alignment
Photo Credit: Joshua Coleman

Actually, these three steps in personal story telling are not necessarily sequential. Personally, my illness has given me great clarity and resolve with these three components. I have pulled back numerous layers of self protection and rigidity. I have gotten so much closer to being in alignment through authenticity. Honestly, though, there are still stories I intentionally don’t share with everyone yet. I am gathering more courage; can you relate?

More significantly, I continue to struggle with the stories I tell myself. I am still so critical and impatient with myself. I know these tales hamper my happiness and influence how I allow other people to see me. I’ve recently vowed to double down on learning how to banish the inner critic. I find myself returning again and again to kindness and compassion in order to reconstruct the internal dialogue. 

Bright red center ball like an atom or neuron with powerful white tentacles extending out in many directions.
Photo Credit: Hal Gatewood

As I gather my courage and soften my inner voice, I find greater freedom, fulfillment and peace. The personal power of my story lies in telling it intentionally with flexibility and authenticity. All of us can empower ourselves and the people around us by further developing these key traits. 

So, how might you revise your story to increase your personal power today?

Do you need to be more intentional? Flexible? Authentic?

May it be so!

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