I overheard a conversation a few weeks ago that struck me to my core. I could not concentrate on anything else. I could not write. I could not answer emails. Spotify, where were you when I needed you most?
An upper middle class white man telling his friend about how hard it is to be him. How much rejection there is in his life. How much pressure. How people don’t understand how hard it is to do the work that he does. And this is the unbreakable circumstance of his life. This is simply how it’s going to be.
On the surface, you might think—wow with all this white male privilege, why can’t he simply seize the opportunities that are his for the taking? But, that would be a superficial view of the situation and one where we often get stuck.
Instead, I viewed the situation with empathy. I realized I could not look away because I’ve been him. He clearly has a story about why he is where he is, why his life is hard and why it will always be that way. There is pain and fear and struggle in that story. I was there once too.
As many of you know, my parents died in a car accident when I was 11. For 15 years after the accident, I survived, I did what I needed to do, but I also created a story about my life that I could use to protect myself from any hint of failure.
Whether I was facing the consequences of too many absences in high school, not showing up for a final exam in college, or even a tendency to go for the easy job instead of the one that would force me to learn and stretch—when things got hard, I became that poor girl, that story. The girl who wasn’t parented enough, the one who was incomplete, the one who was broken too early. And she wasn’t meant to live a great life, she was meant to get by. I was prone to saying, "I could have been a drug addict or dropped out of life. So, I’m doing ok."
And then I woke the fuck up.
I realized that I created the story about that broken girl. And if I did that, then I can also create the story of a girl who had a rough beginning, but so much love and belief in herself that she learned to use that broken-ness as the very wholeness that fueled her to do incredible things with her life. Why couldn’t that story be true?
With the right support, the momentum of small wins and the practice of moving through challenges as a powerful person—I’ve learned how to choose this story that helps me soar instead of the one that keeps me standing still in life.
When my clients come to me, they’re also struggling with stories that are holding them back in their lives.
I’m the mom who took 3 years off to care for my kids. My career wasn’t going that great before that, so I’ll never get back into the workforce.
I’m the entrepreneur who has been working my ass off in my own business and wishing I had the routine of a day job. I could never make the switch because people will think I failed.
I’ve never had a role with great leadership or direction, so I have zero accomplishments or results to put on my resume.
When we work together to break down these stories, debunk their truth and create a new narrative, beautiful things are possible. What’s the story that you’ve constructed about your life and how is it serving you right now? How is it keeping you in everything, ranging from a life of complaints and pity, to just getting by, to living an OK life. Are you really here for something just OK? For me, giving myself permission to go beyond OK was the game-changer I needed to live a life of meaning. And when that broken girl shows up every so often, I show her compassion, acceptance and love, and remind her that there’s another choice that’s within her grasp.