One of a million stories of ourselves about ourselves
This happened just this week, a friend of mine, who will remain anonymous, posted to her social feed:
“I have officially failed as a parent
Son’s diet consists mainly of pizza and pasta. Now he’s added pot noodles to his food choice! Although this was prompted by the ramen he had at Yo Sushi! At least he’ll be able to feed himself when he goes to uni/moves out “
The actual post was tongue in cheek in that self-deprecating way that so many British people are experts at. I assume the British are not the only nation adept at this but it certainly seems a trait.
Let’s change the story
I took the cue to delve into this by looking at it another way, I replied:
“He’s added noodles. This is not a failure in parenting, this is an expansion of his diet and cultural horizons. Noodles from the far east added to his Italian cultural intake during a time of national inward navel gazing is a feat of magical parenting. Expanding horizons and embracing a global culture is a huge win, if you choose to tell the story in a different way.”
My friend replied to my comment with:
“Oh I like that version way better
How quickly this went from a story of her being a “failed parent” to celebrating herself was great to see. But, as I say this was tongue in cheek.
Changing the stories we tell ourselves.
Many of the things I think about myself are stories I’ve gotten into the habit of telling myself about me. And as they are just stories, I can choose to change them.
I’ve seen this in action and used it with friends, clients and teams.
Playing games with money
The first time I was aware of this was during a money game, a friend was running. The game based on the Findhorn money game allows the participants to explore relationships to money. It is interesting to see people have strong reactions to money, which doesn’t intrinsically have any value or power. It has an acquired power or value because we tell ourselves it has through a story we all decided was true. But in fact the money we were playing with was just bits of paper with pictures of the queen and numbers on.
Not only did we explore this shared story we told about money but we also explored some of our personal stories about money. It seems that people can have a very strong emotional connection to money. It can be a fear of too little money, it can be the feeling of power too much money can have over us.
For me, I took all the cash I had for the weekend and laid it in front of me and in the first round of the game, where participants are allowed to take money from one another stacks, I sat and watched all my money disappear. I didn’t visit other people’s piles of cash. I just watch mine go.
Fear and loathing…
At first I felt fear as the money left, calculating how much was still there and if it was enough for the weekend or for fuel for the car on the way home. That fear you can feel in your body as a physical presence, for me it was like a lump in my throat.
But once all the cash had gone another feeling took over. It was a realisation that nothing bad had happened, yet my fear of having no money at all had come true. I was still OK, I was still able to get on with everything I wanted to do. This feeling felt like a relief, a weight lifting out of my chest and unblocking my throat.
I had just rewritten the story I tell myself.
This is where we get our Yoga Pants on
My friend Charlie developed this technique from the Money game to other areas of life. He calls it Identity Yoga and it is a way of changing the story we tell ourselves about ourselves (or about how we relate to things e.g. money). It is a powerful technique and is useful in stopping beating ourselves up about a story we can change. We can stretch ourselves to find that new identity.
This technique can be used to help us defeat Imposter Syndrome or explore our relationships to work, teams, family, or even our parenting techniques.