I’ve been doing a little soul-care lately and realized there are stories I’ve been believing about myself that just aren’t true, or at least they don’t have to be true anymore. Maybe you can relate? Is there something you believe about yourself that may not necessarily be true anymore? Something you’ve held onto for years, since childhood even, that you’ve accepted as fact that maybe isn’t? We’re going to dive into that topic today and ask God to remind of His truth in our lives, even over our personalities and patterns. I’ll share some of my stories, the silly and the serious, and hopefully we can change our way of thinking together and tell ourselves better stories as we navigate new seasons in our lives.
May 4th – Episode 22- Writing New Stories about Ourselves When the Old Ones Don’t Work Anymore
Hi friends, I’m Sandra Peoples and this is self-care and soul care for the caregiver. You’re listening to episode 22. I’ve been doing a little soul-care lately and realized there are stories I’ve been believing about myself that just aren’t true, or at least they don’t have to be true anymore. Maybe you can relate? Is there something you believe about yourself that may not necessarily be true anymore? Something you’ve held onto for years, since childhood even, that you’ve accepted as fact that maybe isn’t? We’re going to dive into that topic today and ask God to remind of His truth in our lives, even over our personalities and patterns. I’ll share some of my stories, the silly and the serious, and hopefully we can change our way of thinking together and tell ourselves better stories as we navigate new seasons in our lives.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend about the ways I connect with other friends. My first example is always book club. It’s my favorite time to hang out with friends. I also love my weekly Bible study time with women from the church. But then she asked if I did any game nights, like Bunco. “Oh no,” I said. “I don’t play games.” She asked why not. “I get too competitive,” I answered, and she laughed. But that’s only part of the reason. When I thought more about it later, I realized the reason I don’t play games is because of something that happened years ago. Something that I’ve made part of my story. Part of my identity even.
Here’s what happened: we lived in PA at the time and my husband pastored a church there. We had lots of wedding showers and baby showers, and of course I went because most of them were for friends but also because I was the pastor’s wife. One time we played a game where the answers were all baby names, if I remember correctly. The question was, “What’s the name of a city in Texas that’s also a boy name.” My answer was Austin. But the person in charge of the game said I was wrong, that the answer was Dallas. Now remember, we were in PA, but I had lived in Texas for 5 years. And of course, there are hundreds of names of Texas towns that could also be boy names. Austin is one of those towns/names. So is Dallas. Both qualify. But she said I was wrong.
Well, I wasn’t happy. And as the pastor’s wife, I didn’t think it would be good to argue, pout, or show how competitive I actually was. So what I did instead was decide I didn’t play games anymore. No wedding shower games, no baby shower games, no game nights. In the years since then, it became a story about myself that I believed was true. I’ve said no to invitations for game nights and found things to do instead when it’s game time at showers. But, at the church where we are now, some of the ladies have a monthly bunco night. They invited me early on and I couldn’t go, for real reasons but also because of the story I believed about myself—I don’t play games. But does that have to be true anymore? Am I mature enough not to get too competitive? Am I vulnerable enough to say, “I’d love to play, but I don’t know how. Will you teach me?” That could be my new story. Not that I don’t play games, but that I’m learning how to play Bunco and would love to hang out. And the truth is I may never love playing games, but I do love being with friends and doing things with them that bring us closer. And games do that. So next time I get asked to play a game, I’ll say yes. I’ll start writing a new story.
It’s kind of a silly example, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how many stories I believe about myself that may not necessarily be true. Like that I’m not good at math. You know what, I wasn’t good at algebra. But a work-from-home writer isn’t asked to do much algebra. The math I do is simple addition or figuring out percentages. I am good at that. So maybe I am good at math. That’s the story I’m going to tell myself now. “You’re good at the math you’re required to do in your life.”
Other examples are more serious. Like one time I overheard someone talking about me. She said I was spoiled and ungrateful. I was 23 at the time, engaged to Lee, and had just said we didn’t need a dining room table from one of his relatives because we didn’t have a dining room in the house we would be living in when we got married. But almost 20 years later, when she and I are around each other, I can still hear her words about me. They became part of our shared story. I probably did come across as spoiled and ungrateful then, but instead of leaving it in the past, I think she still sees me that way. I don’t believe that her opinion has changed over time. But that isn’t fair. I certainly don’t believe all the first impressions I had of her. So the new story I’m going to tell myself is that she loves me, she appreciates who I am and what I mean to our family, and that I can show her grace and gratitude without believing she thinks I’m the person she gossiped about so many years ago.
There are other stories we believe about ourselves because they have become part of our identities. They have become part of our identities because circumstances have affirmed that pattern in our lives and others have confirmed it. I act in a predictable way based on certain circumstances and people around me see it as part of my reputation, my identity. This can certainly be a good thing. I like that I am responsible, and that other people see me as responsible. I like that I’m a good driver. I like that I’m a good cook, and a good Bible study teacher, and a fast reader. These stories I believe about myself are helpful.
But there are times even the good, helpful stories we believe can hold us back. If one day I forget a deadline, I can be too hard on myself. You’re supposed to be the responsible one, you can’t make mistakes like that. Or if I try a recipe that no one likes. Or I get in a car accident that is my fault. Instead of accepting any of those scenarios as just being part of life, I feel shame. I feel like I’m flawed.
Here’s a good example: I’m known in my family as being a good gift giver. I pay attention to what a person likes and come up with something they wouldn’t get for themselves. I don’t like having to buy from a list because I can’t be creative, and the person isn’t surprised. I like having the reputation of being a good gift giver, but there are times when I put too much pressure on myself to get not just a good gift, but the perfect gift. Lee’s 40th birthday ended in tears because I couldn’t come up with a gift good enough for him, something that would communicate how much we loved and appreciated him. He would have been happy with a new t-shirt and pair of socks. If you remember from episode 9 on the division of labor at our house, he loves socks. That story that I believed about myself, that I was a really good gift giver, turned out not to be helpful when it kept me from buying him anything because it wasn’t good enough.
Now that I’ve identified stories I’ve told myself that may not be true, I need a plan to reject some of them and replace them with what works for me now. I can rewrite them and live out a new story that aligns with Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I play games because I value time with friends. I am no longer seen as spoiled and ungrateful by that family member. I am great at giving gifts, but I don’t let that standard hold me back when it’s unattainable. I can also write new stories for things I don’t think I’ve been good at, like math. Or being good at writing thank you notes. Or liking hugs. Well, maybe I’ll never be someone who likes hugs, but the coronavirus has probably changed the number of hugs I’ll be getting for a while. And I can at least not let the friends who do love hugs know they aren’t my favorite because being a good friend is worth a couple seconds of touching.
What stories have come to mind from your own life about who you are, what you’re good at, or what you’re bad at? If any of them aren’t working for you anymore, you can rewrite them.
We are who God says we are, and we have all the personality traits He created in us, but we also have His Spirit living in us to produce His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That’s who I want to be, and what I want for you. Let’s pray together as we end our time:
God, thank You for being the ultimate source of truth and the writer of the greatest story we’ll ever live—having a relationship with you thanks to the sacrifice of Your Son on our behalf. You love us and want the best for us, and we admit to You that we haven’t always done what’s best, even in the stories we’ve told ourselves. But Your truth empowers us and shows us a better way. As my friends and I think about stories we’ve believed that we don’t have to hold on to anymore, give us discernment and wisdom. Meet our shame and our weaknesses with Your grace and Your power. Help us to write a better story that finds its fulfillment in You and Your plans for our lives. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Thank you for listening today, friends. This can be a tough topic if we really dig deep, and I appreciate the time and attention you’ll give to thinking about your own stories this week. Remember, I love hearing from you in our self-care for the special-needs mom Facebook group or through Instagram private messages. (Side note: I used to tell myself I was bad at responding to messages and emails, but maybe that’s a story I don’t have to believe anymore either.) Know that I’m praying for you this week, especially as we get closer to Mother’s Day. Next Monday I’ll have some encouragement for you if Mother’s Day didn’t quite meet your expectations. I’ll meet you back here then!