Try a New Story

I spent a lot of time in my youth hating my hair.  In my mind, it had numerous faults including, but not limited to, the fact that it is brown and straight.  In the 80s, when big curly hair was all the rage, I got perms and spent hours teasing and blow-drying it upside down for maximum volume before coating the whole mess with hairspray.  I had the feeling that my hair wasn’t good enough, and changing it would make me better somehow.  My teenaged self-criticism was not limited to the superficial appearance of my hair.  After all, how can you judge one aspect of yourself negatively without feeling that the whole is somehow flawed?

Unfortunately it’s common to live with the belief that we are unacceptable in some way.  This may be based on some event in the past that left a permanent scar, such as being bullied, or it may be a conclusion we reached based on our own self judgment.  Regardless, the internal story becomes fixed: I am imperfect, and I must do something to change.  There are varying degrees of this belief, from “my thighs are too thick” to “I am a monster.”  But most of us will discover some version of this story if we watch our thoughts, or just look in the mirror!

But what if we gave up that old story and decided to tell ourselves a new one?  Maybe something like “In this moment, I have everything I need.”  Or “Right now, I am exactly the way I should be.”  I’m not saying this will be quick and easy, because this is a complete reversal from that old voice inside.  But this new story changes the focus, from the attempt to become something better in the future, to realizing that everything is perfect in this moment right now. This leads to a sense of contentment that has nothing to do with external circumstances, and therefore can’t be taken away.

Try working with an intention and mantra, like those above, that reminds you that you are enough right now. Start each day by repeating your phrase to yourself, and spending a few moments in silence, accepting the sensations of the breath as the intention settles in. When you become aware of self-critical thoughts, or comparisons to others, remind yourself of your mantra. Release judgment and refocus on your breath, accepting that you are right where you need to be, exactly as you should be right now. Content in this moment.

 

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