Gaining Independence from Your Old Story!

This blog post was written by Amy Margolis, MSW.

Everybody has a story and by that I do not mean “You are born –dash- you die.”  I mean everybody has a story they create about themselves in childhood and this becomes the lens through which they see the world.  Early in my practice, I would ask clients, “What is your sentence?” and mind you, my clients were successful people.  The responses I got were, “I am fat,” “I am not attractive,” “I am lazy and stupid,” etc.  In essence people’s stories were some form of, “I am not enough just as I am.”

Where does this negative self-image come from?  If you were verbally abused as a child, it is more obvious.  You probably internalized your care-givers nasty comments about you.  However, if you were neglected, ignored, or mom and dad were just caught up in their own drama, you likely made up a story about yourself to explain reality.  For example when I was child, my dad was alcoholic.  Sometimes he would be wonderful.  Then he would disappear for days on end or be in the house and just ignore me.  I remember being seven and making the decision, “If I were prettier, funnier or blonde, my dad would love me.”  I also grew up with one sibling, an older sister who was very skinny and pretty.  Thus I decided at age 3, “I am the fat ugly one.”

These negative stories can an asset in that they cause us to compensate.  To cover up our core belief about ourselves, we overachieve.  My husband is a perfect example.  He grew up with a perfect twin sister, who did everything right.  He, on the other hand, was forgetful and would procrastinate.  His core sentence is “I am lazy and irresponsible.”  If you met him, you would see the opposite.  He has an MBA from Columbia University, one of George Bush’s 1000 Points of Light, and runs a very successful business.   The problem is that even if we achieve all of the outside trappings, we will never be truly happy until we change our beliefs about ourselves.  I have clients who have so much success, but can’t even enjoy it because their stories are screaming so loudly within.

How do we change?  Therapy is a great place to start.  In individual therapy, you will get to see where old beliefs come from and challenge them.  You will see how those beliefs may have served you growing up, but are no longer healthy.  Finally, you can create a new story, one that is self-loving, as you move forward in your life.  In group therapy, you will be mirrored by others, who will help you see the fallacy in your old beliefs and show you how you occur in the “here and now.”  They will also support you in living your new story and celebrate your success.

Just remember change is a process that requires courage, motivation and time.  You will have to look at old hurts, dig in dark places and feel emotional pain.  And for awhile living in your new story will take diligence and daily practice.  But it will all be worth it!  Finally, it won’t be your abusive mother or your five year old self in the driver’s seat of your life.  It will be you!

Elana Clark-Faler
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