Someone described me recently as “a confident, outgoing mom and a successful writer.” I looked around for who they could possibly be talking about. I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly far-off that description sounds to me.
I’ve realized in the last year that no matter what happens to me and no matter how I change, in many ways I’m still telling a very old story of who I am.
And I think I might not be the only one. And I want to start telling a new story.
A friend’s mom came to town this weekend. She’s great and difficult, both, and my friend was debriefing the visit with us the next day. Someone asked, “how does your husband deal with some of your mom’s rough edges?” And she said, “Well, what’s helpful is that he doesn’t automatically turn into his twelve-year-old self when my mom’s around. But I still do.”
So true, right? There are people and situations that take us back to old, old stories, and even though we’re moms now, not children, or even though we’re business owners now, not adolescents, we find ourselves acting out stories that haven’t been true for a long time, or stories that were never true to begin with.
Two things were true about me when I was growing up: I was smart and I was overweight. Those two things defined me more than anything else. I was the unattractive person in an otherwise attractive family, but my mind was quick—it was easy for me to remember things, and it was easy for me to be funny.
And so that’s what I became—everyone’s chubby, funny friend. I was easy to be around, agreeable, capable. I knew how to make other people feel comfortable, how to draw them out, how to tell self-deprecating stories about myself. I learned to be the punchline.
But I’m finding that story and that identity aren’t helpful for me these days. Because what that story really says is, don’t worry, just be friendly and pleasant. Make a joke. Don’t worry about really achieving anything, or doing anything hard, or being great in anyway. What you are is a sidekick, a wing-man, a support character in someone else’s story. What you are is a punchline.
And because I’ve believed those things about myself for so long, I sometimes don’t expect myself to be anything other than a punchline. I don’t push myself the way I could. I don’t ask for opportunities or promote my work. Essentially, I don’t take myself and my life as seriously as I could.
This old story isn’t helping me anymore, so I’m writing a new story. This new story says I can and do work hard, and that I’ve developed my skills as a writer and speaker over the last several years. It says I might have more to contribute than I thought, and that being funny and pleasant might not be the highest things to aspire to any longer.
Even as I write these words, I can feel myself sitting taller, squaring my shoulders, growing up.
I’m changing the story.
Is it time for you to let go of a story you’ve been telling about yourself for a long time?
What’s that old story?
What will you write as your new story?