I was called a “delicate flower” today. Yep, yours truly. I throw kettlebells around for fun and give deep tissue massages for a living. Rarely do I think of myself as delicate, but the comment (from a sweet older gentleman client) was very welcome. See, my ego is currently recovering from a comment on my “big” arms (courtesy of a different client) last week. *Note to Future Kristen: Criticism about the appearance of girls who lift weights is another blog post entirely.
Annnyhooooo… I got to thinking about how funny it is that these two gentlemen could look at the same Kristen standing in front of them and see two completely different versions of her. It was just a reminder that we are all living in slightly different realities. Our stories.
Each one of us takes information from our environment (things that are seen and heard and felt), then we piece them together and build a window through which we view our world. No two peoples’ windows are the same. Once you realize this, it is very freeing – there is no longer a need to attach to the stories of others.
Case in Point: I have been called “fat” and “lean” in the same day. I have been told I “work too hard” and that I “need to work harder.” I have even gotten into arguments with people over whether my eyes are gray, green, blue, or hazel! So many stories. Ultimately, whose story of Kristen is most important? Kristen’s. The story I write for myself is the only one that matters to me. As long as I feel good about the view from my window regarding work, money, relationships, health, my appearance (ahem, my arms), etc., then all is well.
Example: If the reality is that my pants are tight, there are multiple stories I could tell myself about this fact…
Story A: Son of a… Damn dryer must have shrunk these things.
Story B: I am a worthless blob of a human with no self control and am clearly on the trajectory to being on one of those reality TV shows where they have to remove my ROOF to airlift me out of my house and to the hospital for emergency gastric bypass surgeryohmygodthisisthebeginningoftheendmylifeisoverpasstheicecreampourthewineletsgetitoverwith… *collapses in a heap*
Story C: Wow, my body sure is efficient! Guess I’ve got some extra stored energy to work with! I can skip my daily dose of peanut butter and totally kill it at leg day today.
Do you see which stories are useful and which are absolutely NOT? The super-duper awesomeness of this whole way of thinking is that YOU get to choose which story you tell yourself! Boom! POWER! You can have a good day… or not!
Ok, now that we have that cleared up, let’s continue to examine this concept of stories from a different angle: The stories of others. We can help what we tell ourselves, but we can’t help what we hear from others… For example, insensitive comments about one’s arms.
Ok, ok, I’ll get over it. My arms rock.
As a massage therapist, I hear lots of stories from others. …Annnnnd I have learned to pretty much take them all with a grain of salt. I’ve heard thirty-seven different versions of the same small-town gossip, each storyteller certain that his/hers is the truth. I’ve encountered more opinions than I ever care to on politicians running for office. I hear about all the local, national, and global current events, always presented with a slightly different spin.
One of the best examples of this is people talking about the weather. Check it out – I have heard all of the following comments about the exact. same. snow:
“Ugh, I am so sick of this snow!”
“Thank goodness for the snow; we need the moisture!”
“I wish it were Spring… I’m ready for warmer weather.”
“We hardly even got a winter at all this year! I feel gypped.”
“F#$% this snow. If I hear one more idiot say, ‘We need the moisture,’ I’ma slap that sumbitch.”
“I wish it would snow more! I have these BA new snow tires!” <– (me)
Amusing, no? Same reality: *Snow.* Multiple stories.
Weather is a rather benign topic, but what about other stories? Peoples’ personal shit? Stories about their appearance, relationships, jobs, etc.?
“_____ lost her job. I knew she couldn’t handle the pressure.”
“_____ and _____ were totally out in public together. How inappropriate.”
“_____’s put on a few pounds. He’s sure gotten lazy.”
Those stories, my friends, are not only useless, but can be hurtful and detrimental as well. I’ll willingly admit: I’ve been that teacher in the teachers’ lounge and that girl in the coffee shop who got caught up in exchanging stories, passing on “information,” and expressing my opinion on things about which I have no clue. That was all fun and games until I began to hear stories about myself. When the tables turn, it’s a different feeling. Kinda crappy. No, make that reallyhorriblysuperridiculously AWFUL.
*Thank you, Universe, for the lesson.*
It is so so so important to be mindful of the stories you’re hearing and the stories you’re telling. Now, when I hear gossip/stories? #1 Rule: I don’t participate or add any of my own. #2 Rule: I don’t get worked up or emotional over what I hear. Because it is only someone’s story.
Back to that power thing. This is huge. To be so confident and happy with your own story that the stories of others don’t affect you is oh, so empowering. You get to choose the the plot, the setting, the characters… all the nuances! What stories are you telling others? Most importantly, what stories are you telling yourself?
I have one dear, sweet client who has faced multiple cancers, surgeries, other health issues, and tremendous personal loss. There are many stories she could choose to tell about her reality. Every week, she walks into my studio with a smile on her face and a hug for me, saying “Life is GOOD!” <—I don’t know about you, but THAT’s the story I want to tell.