Change the Story


6th grade for me was discovering that I was a ‘late bloomer’, that a lack of athletic talent could be remedied by hard work, that I shouldn’t walk in front of certain boys who liked to pop bra straps, and that decorating your locker and having friends to eat lunch with were what determined “cool”. I learned how to use the word ‘poser’. I broke every rule I could in order to be noticed and with this streak of insubordination discovered how to steal Cokes from the coke machine in the teacher’s lounge. There! I finally admitted it!

The spring of that year, we learned of a class trip to Washington, D.C. Our class would take a train through the night from Georgia to our nation’s capital. Excitement! As the trip neared, anxiety made a home in my 11-year-old brain and I dreaded the thought that no one would write my name down on their roommate request form. It would be my first time staying in a hotel with friends and I couldn’t bear the thought of squandering that joy sleeping beside one of the unpopular girls. In my 6th grade mind, I was overtaken with nightmares about rejection.

I told my mom about my concern and she prayed with me every night that the girl I considered my best friend would request to be my roommate. The only problem was she had another close friend and therefore there was stiff competition to see who would be chosen.

As it turned out, I wasn’t given the BFF identifier and had to scramble to find another roommate. I don’t remember who I shared a room with, but my heart was stung with rejection. The only reason I remember this story is Michael pointed I continually ask him one question.

“Do you think they like me?”

I didn’t even realize I was asking this same question, over and over. Every time I meet new people or get together with people who are not my closest friends, I ask for Michael’s thoughts on their acceptance of me. He usually laughs and says, “Ruth, you are crazy. Of course they like you.” I feel reassurance, but then ask him the same question the next time doubt creeps in about someone else.

Without realization, I’ve been telling and believing the same story about myself since this silly 6th grade trip to Washington. I’m not the best friend, the cool one, the girl with all the friends. In this story, I believed that I will always like my friends more than they like me. This rhetoric spins until I feel safe behind build walls against caring too much about friends. Because they will just reject me, right?

But here’s the thing: I had no clue I was telling myself this untrue story. Maybe you have a similar story about yourself that you also aren’t cognizant of.

Shauna Niequist wrote a beautiful post challenging readers to change the story we tell about ourselves. Maybe your story is about always being the punchline of the jokes and therefore not taken seriously. Maybe you tell yourself you’re the friend, not the girlfriend. Maybe you believe that you aren’t beautiful like everyone else. Whatever it is, we all have stories we believe about ourselves that simply aren’t true. But the only way we escape these negative thought patterns is to start telling a different story.

For me, changing the story sounds like this: People like me. I have good friends. I carry my friends burdens. I am kind, I am fun to be around, and I love to laugh. It feels strange to tell that story, a different story, about myself but yet gutsy at the same time. I’m sick of the old story, the lies, the doubts. Thank goodness you and I don’t have to live the old story anymore.

What about you? Do you need to change the story you tell about yourself?

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3 Responses to “Change the Story”
  1. Greg says:

    Perhaps it’s just my personality type, but I’ve never felt comfortable with telling my own story. I know best what I /want/ to do, but whether or not I achieve that is something that I think others (specifically, people who I know are striving to be objective–not critical) can best determine.

    More often than not, others can see things in and about us that we won’t easily (if ever) see ourselves. That doesn’t mean I stop trying to do the best I can in everything (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17,23), it just means that I use a more objective method of measuring that progress.

  2. Alexandria says:

    Yeah, I most definitely need to change the story I tell myself.

    I’ve had traumatic experiences.

    Oftentimes, every negative word and action someone said or did against me trumps any positive experience.

    I’ve been the ugly duckling totally forgetting that that story ends with a beautiful swan, I’ve been forever the “friend” and never the girlfriend at least not yet and I’m in my late 20’s so it seems like forever. I’ve been the unpopular one and outcast so I totally relate to your story about not having anyone to be your roommate. I dreaded class trips too because the popular clique already roomed together so I was shipped off to room with the unpopular ones. Even when I was in college no one asked to be my roommate. For a while, I had a room to myself and when I was forced to have a roommate for budget reasons, I had to room with someone who was in my same boat– no one wanted to be her roommate. Yeah, it stings.

    It’s hard to change the story when the negativity replays in my mind. I mean the bullying and being by myself and not asked out by a great guy even happens today post-college. I never knew that adults as in working professionals would be bullies. I even had a boss who was a bully. It seems like it never ends.

    But to be fair, God has brought people into my life since high school to college to recent days who are positive and seem to like me but even then I ask the same question to myself that you ask your husband, “Do you think they like me?”
    It’s hard to believe the positive when ‘I’ve been dealing with the negative for so long.

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