How to Own Your Story: Honoring Pains and Collecting Joys

Close-up of a hand writing a letter with an old-fashioned pen.Every person has a unique set of life experiences. Some are painful, some are joyous, and many more are somewhere in between. However, it is common for people to undervalue or undermine their own stories. If you have felt pain or emptiness in your life, the pictures you paint in your mind may seem dark. You may interpret your story as meaningless.

But every story is rich in meaning. Every experience fits within a greater understanding of our shared humanity. On the surface, this phrase might seem vague, but it means that we all share the struggles and joys of living on this planet. Everyone is worthy of that larger participation.

More specifically, your journey brings the value of authenticity. That authentic rendering might contain tragedy, bad experiences, or regretful actions you have done. But it also contains your values, hopes, and dreams, as well as your strengths, talents, and accomplishments. Your life story is complex, as is everyone’s. It holds many different pieces, good and bad, but as a whole it is incomparably yours.

By this I mean you have the credibility to define your own life story. This credibility can feel fragile and easily shredded by other’s actions or words. But at its core, your story, your identity as a human being, remains in your custody alone.

Here are a number of ways you can begin the process of honoring your story and who you are in it:

Honoring Your Pain

There is nothing shameful about human suffering. It is relevant to us all, giving us the challenge for personal strength and growth. Many say suffering allows a pathway to our spirituality.

Regardless of our spiritual beliefs, the pains we encounter in a lifetime are real and valid. They require our fullest acknowledgement in order for them to recede. In honoring their existence, we give ourselves permission to eventually let them go.

Letting Go of Negative Thinking

Typically, we have learned to think negatively about ourselves because others have done or said negative things to us. Over time, we have accepted and internalized those hurtful messages as our own truths. For example, if someone in your life repeatedly yelled at you, claiming you’re no good or not smart, you probably came to believe that person, not because the claim is true, but because you were overexposed to that idea over time.

Improving low self-esteem can be a difficult process. Most people usually require some professional help to do so. There is no shame in asking for this help, just as there no shame in going to a doctor when you have the flu or pneumonia.

Letting go of destructive thoughts will allow more free space in your mind to entertain new ways to think and feel about yourself. The process may be slow. You may need to take baby steps at first. Yet change will likely grow easier as you let go of old, unhelpful patterns of thinking.

Finding Treasures Within Yourself

Most likely, there are many lost treasures in your life. We each have so many gifts that are right under our noses. These talents may go unnoticed by us. We may discount our gifts with thoughts like, “But I’m not as good as So-and-so…” But all our treasures are precious, even if others possess similar gifts.

Only you own your story. Only you can rewrite the script to move toward a more fulfilling place.Finding these treasures may be challenging, but it can be worth the hunt. You may sing a song you used to know and unexpectedly like the voice you hear. You may spend time with family and notice your patience with children.

Sometimes finding these talents requires being open to learning new skills, such as drawing or writing poetry. It may take some courage to risk breaking out of old patterns. Yet the more valued treasure we find inside ourselves, the more chances we have to collect joys.

Collecting Joys

Joys come in all shapes and sizes. They almost always include some kindness, either done to you or by you to someone else. Sometimes smaller joys go unrecognized. Other times, we are not able to acknowledge joys in the moment given the layers of darkness that envelop us.

But as space is made available for the possibility of joys, and when we train our eyes and ears to look for them, joys will start popping into your consciousness more and more often. Just like any other collection, it takes some effort to not only recognize joys in that moment, but also to hold on to them in your heart, to make a bank of joys for reserve when clouds return.

Rewriting the Script

As stories of pain and hardship are truly honored in their validity and negative thoughts around those stories are slowly let go, more room becomes available for treasures and joys. These transitions, as difficult as they seem, can bring both greater honor and transformation at the same time.

In other words, your story isn’t finished yet. Only you own your story. Only you can rewrite the script to move toward a more fulfilling place.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Susanne Slay-Westbrook, LPC-S, LMFT-S, therapist in Austin, Texas

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Moira

    Moira

    July 23rd, 2018 at 8:33 AM

    Thanks

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