I found an old picture of myself from when I was about 3 years old. We were at a family reunion in northern Minnesota, and I was driving a little red train. I don’t have a personal memory of that experience, but I looked joyful and free.
As I reflected on the picture, there was also a part of me that felt sad. This was me before… I learned that I was fat… I got rejected at the school dance… I struggled to figure out how to be cool… I learned that sex was dirty… I got cut from the team… I learned that hell was a scary place and I might end up there… and a bunch of other painful experiences and stories that kept me from living out my whole self and offering my full self to the world.
What about you? What experiences caused you to limit or cut off parts of yourself? What stories did you begin to tell about yourself that stopped you in your tracks, causing you to drift away from your true course and mission?
Across the people I have the privilege to meet and talk with, their stories are different, but the pattern is similar. We have painful experiences, and then we tell a painful story about ourselves. I’m stupid. I can’t do anything right. I’m worthless. I’m too… fat, skinny, short, tall, loud, quiet, etc. And the story becomes our reality and dictates the rest of our lives.
What I love about the little guy driving the train is that it was me before I had a chance to develop any of those painful stories about myself. I was curious, loud, playful, open, connected, and smart. I want to get in touch with that little guy, rediscover my true self, and shed the painful stories I have continued to tell about myself over the years.
Action Step: Find an old picture from your childhood. Get in touch with that little boy or girl. Really connect with him or her. What was true about you before you began to tell a bunch of painful stories about yourself? What is one story you tell yourself today that is particularly painful? What would it look like to let that story go?