“When in doubt, tell the truth.
It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.”
~ Mark Twain
I’m always fascinated by the stories we tell ourselves. Each of us tell a different story of our lives, even when our circumstances are similar to someone else’s. Our stories make us heroes, victims, and martyrs. We tell the stories of our lives either about what happened to us or what we made happen. Stories of what happened to us are often about what others did that made us who we are. Stories of what we made happen are stories about how we changed our lives.
In my work I often ask for biographies. You can tell a lot about a person even in a one page biography. Is it about what they did or what was done to them? Do they believe their life is based on what others did to them or on their choices?
We tell stories all the time and for lots of reasons. We tell stories about what happened, stories to justify what we said or did, to defend ourselves, or because it is easier to blame someone else. We tell stories that sound good, stories so we don’t have to explain, and stories so we don’t have to change. If you don’t think you tell stories answer this: have you ever looked at the caller ID, decided not to pick up because the person on the other end was a complainer or drained your energy and then later when asked said you weren’t home? Ever want to impress someone and embellish a story – just a bit?
After we make up or embellish enough stories we begin to forget we are making them up and begin to believe them ourselves which is the beginning of the end. As we believe our own stories we loose track of the truth, it becomes buried, and so we loose the ability to change the situation – we get stuck. Let me give you an example.
You come home from work, tired and cranky, and you don’t want to cook. You grumble to your partner: “I work hard all day, I’m tired, I don’t want to cook after a long day at work any more.” If you stick to your story and don’t look any further you will either stop cooking or cook with so little enjoyment that no one else will enjoy it either. You won’t notice that you also don’t want to cook when you’re not tired, or when you’re not working. You won’t notice that the kitchen depresses you because its dreary and needs a new coat of paint or more light. You won’t remember that it’s been a long time since you tried a new recipe or that you’re feeling unappreciated. Instead you’ll dig your heels in – and be stuck.
How can it be different?
Listen to yourself as you tell a story. You may be telling what happened at work, why you’re angry at someone, the reason you failed or succeeded. Listen carefully. If you can, tape or write down what you actually say.
Ask yourself: is this true or am I telling myself a story? Could it be something else? Is that what really happened?
Take your emotions out of it, be a detective, look for the facts. “Just the facts, ma’am.” Is it every day? Just when you work? What part do you dislike the most: preparing, cooking, eating, clean-up?
Tell the truth. If what really bothers you is that everyone sits in front of the TV even after you’ve put dinner on the table or people eat and take off, tell them. (Kindly!) Tell them not what they are doing but how it makes you feel: “I feel like nobody cares or appreciates what I do.” Tell them what you need: “I really need acknowledgement that this is a meal you enjoyed or that you would prefer something different.” “I would really appreciate everyone sitting a little longer and talking about their day rather than jumping up and running back to their game, computer, TV, etc.”
Keep digging. Sometimes what we find at first is not the real issue. Sometimes we don’t even like what is the real issue or what it represents. However being really honest with ourselves is the only road to freedom.
Practice telling the truth. Start in little things and work your way up. Remember this is not about making someone else wrong but about admitting what you really feel. You can feel angry when someone cuts in front of you, but they didn’t make you angry.
On some level you always know the truth, that’s why you feel like a fake, and the deeper the truth lies, the more you fool yourself, the unhappier you are though you don’t know why. You’re unhappy because you’re lying, because you begin to live the lie, because you are no longer truthful with the most important person in the world – you.
Change the story.
Change your life.
It’s up to you.