Stories we tell ourselves

This has been a difficult blog for me to write because it is causing me to look at some of the stories I am telling myself. And in order for this to be authentic and meaningful to you, I am going to have to share some of those stories.  Ok, here goes.

I will start with something that happened today. One of the ways I find guests for Hey, Boomer is through articles I read, people I hear about on other podcasts and people I find on LinkedIn. I then reach out with a connection request, explaining what I am doing on the show, why I think they might be a good guest and asking for a meeting. Today I connected with a woman who has been at the top of her game for a while. She recently retired as the CEO of a successful company in the Silicon Valley area.  Her husband has also been highly successful in the finance arena and recently retired from an investment bank he co-founded with a few partners.  Together they wrote a book about life beyond retirement. 

We were talking about what they were doing and how she was getting major corporations to sponsor their workshops, and how she was getting her college alumni group to sponsor a workshop. It was exciting to think about. I mentioned to her that one of my dreams was to have live Hey, Boomer events, with speakers and workshops. She offered to help me with brainstorming the event(s) and with how to find sponsors. Sounds amazing, right?

Here is where my story comes in. I felt a fear in the pit of my stomach and the story went like this. “Who am I kidding? I can’t pull something like this off. I have never done anything like this before. She has been a CEO, she does not see money as an obstacle, in fact she does not see obstacles, she probably only sees possibilities. If I agree to brainstorm with her, she will quickly learn that I am not really that smart, or that good and she will tire of working with me.”

WOW. That is a totally disempowering story and I know what it is designed to do. It is designed to protect me from failure. If I don’t try, I cannot fail. As a life coach, I have been taught to ask powerful questions to help people reframe their disempowering stories. Coach, coach thyself…

How true is it that I can’t find speakers and sponsors and a venue and workshops to put on a dynamic Hey, Boomer event? What evidence do I have that would make me think that? None. The Boomers Thriving Summit showed me that I could get speakers and deliver quality content.

Is it true that I am not smart? NO. Is it true that I don’t have the experience she has? Yes. That is why she is offering to mentor me. She likes the work we are doing with Hey, Boomer and is willing to share the experience she has, to complement what I already have. Sure, I need to be prepared and think through what I would want, but the first step is to change my story to believing I can put on a live event (once it is safe) with quality content, that would be supported by sponsors, and I will have a mentor, so I don’t have to know everything.

stories we tell

How would it feel to visualize working with her, designing the event, fully supported by sponsors, seeing people excited about attending? That will be my work and that is how I will reframe this story.

Recovering Perfectionist

I am a recovering perfectionist. I hold myself to crazy high standards. I feel like I must have a to-do list and I am only “good enough” when I can mark off all the things on my to-do list. The story I have internalized from my family is “No time to play when there is still so much to do.” “You have to be responsible.” And as the oldest sister and as a single mom, I felt like I had to always be setting a good example.

How true is all of that? No one is telling me now that I have to be a role model or that I can’t play until everything else is done. That is the story that I have been telling myself for years! It is one of those “SHOULD” stories. I want to make it ok to play more and not finish everything before I play. I want to be responsible, but I don’t have to be perfect.

The bigger problem is that I try to hold others in my life to the same standards and when they don’t live up to those standards, I feel disappointed, frustrated. The story then becomes about them, that they are not “good enough” or “productive enough”  to hold themselves to the same standards I hold myself to. How do you think that works? It creates distance. It creates anxiety in the person receiving my judgement about them. Time for some more powerful questions.

  • How important is it that everyone have the same standards that I have?
  • What would it feel like to appreciate myself and others as perfectly imperfect?
  • Is it possible that what I really see is their ability to step away and honor their Fun and Play time, and I envy their ability to do that?

What stories are you telling yourself? Many of our stories have been with us for a very long time. Shifting them can take time. My question to you is, how much do you want to change those disempowering stories? Powerful questions can help.

5 thoughts on “Stories we tell ourselves

  1. Thanks Wendy. I so relate to you and your thinking and your recovering perfectionist ways. I have tried to let go of the perfectionist ways since single and it has helped with stress but I realized that it is apart of who I am, since I put things off when seeing it can’t be done just right enough. Procrastination occurs more often, so that adds stress. I too am an oldest of family and having fun was not priority then, so it is a struggle often, but I try to schedule get togethers with friends or coordinate and that adds fun to my life. I got to the beach last week with a friend and wow, that was fun and sure needed it. i have a huge magnet on my fridge that says- Letting Go is Freedom to remind me to stress less and be ok with what I get done on my to-do lists because it can’t be all work and no play.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your share, Wendy, (and Josephine’s!) and can totally relate, except I was the 3rd of 4 children (youngest of the girls) and didn’t think I was as smart, cute, talented, you-name-it, as my amazing sisters and darling little brother… Recently I have started “rewiring” from lifelong long hours of work and have yet to establish my new self with rhythm. I don’t do well (yet) with the “inviting fun with others” part (and think I will in time) and tend to withdraw or seek enjoyable productive singular activities, alternatively. Your question “How much do you want to change those disempowering stories?” IS really a GREAT one that has prompted introspection and more questions to answer. In the meantime, my office still needs alot of work and my dining room table is not totally free from at least a corner of clutter. Oh – and my basement too. (hmm… could there be some procrastination going on?) Please do continue to share. :))

    1. Susan, rewiring is a journey that I think we are on for quite a while. I would question your use of the word “withdraw” to seek enjoyable productive singular activities. Maybe those are exactly the activities you need right now. Question whether you are judging yourself or honoring yourself. Thanks for being part of our community. And for your share.

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