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Know Your Story

Updated: May 26, 2023

Our experiences have tremendous power. They help us define ourselves and they can reinforce whatever we've been taught to believe is true about ourselves and about our place in the world.

Too often, though, we base our perceptions of ourselves — and our inherent value — not on the truth and what we know is real, but on what we allow others, through their own actions and words, to say about us. And it all goes on inside our own heads.

Imagine a couple of coworkers go out to lunch and don’t invite you to join them. As you watch them walk away, you’re overwhelmed by the same sense of exclusion you felt in junior high school when the “cool kids” made it clear you weren’t good enough (whatever that meant) to sit at their table. “You were a loser then and you’re a loser now,” you say to yourself (though perhaps not in so many words) as you eat alone at your desk.

One of the hardest — but most important — things we can do in our lives is to let go of the beliefs we attach to our experiences. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson (in his essay Self Reliance): “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.” You weren’t a loser in junior high school — no matter what the cool kids said — and you aren't a loser now. What you've been willing to take as fact for all these years is just a piece of someone else's fiction.

If you're going to believe anyone's story about you, believe your own. Because you know better than anyone the truth of who you really are.

Writing exercise/prompt: Imagine yourself in the third person and describe yourself to a stranger. What are your strengths? What special talents or skills do you possess? What qualities are you most proud of? What's your favorite food, and why? What music do you like, and why? What's your favorite book or movie, and why?

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