How to Release the Limiting Stories That Keep You Stuck and Unhappy
“It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.” ~Henry David Thoreau
We don’t see with our physical eyes, we see with our minds. I learned this lesson the hard way when I turned fifty-five. Suddenly, new wrinkles, deeper crow’s feet, dry eyes, and dryer skin seem to enjoy welcoming me each morning when I looked in my mirror.
I began to notice other people my age and I would automatically compare my appearance to theirs. Was she younger looking than me? Did she still appear under fifty (even when I knew she wasn’t)?
As you might guess, the negative train of doubt, comparison, and judgment did not fill me with joy. Instead, a looming sense of dread began to permeate through my life, dragging me into the abyss of aging despair. Hope became a lost memory, and the inevitability of growing older my reality.
My age stories became a lens through which I saw my life.
My mirror was my worst enemy. The more anti-aging skin care products I bought, the less I liked myself. It soon became a self-fulling prophecy—I thought I looked old, so I started acting older.
It wasn’t until after I meditated that I realized the trap I had fallen into—telling myself limiting stories when I had the same ability to tell myself something positive and empowering. I learned to shine my awareness on the negative beliefs and use a simple process to reframe them.
Story Alchemy™ to the Rescue
The word “alchemy” has earned a bad reputation over the centuries. Magic and witchcraft are associated with it, as well as charlatans and sorcerers. But alchemy is really about transformation.
Instead of changing lead into gold, Story Alchemy guides you through a simple four-step process to transform your limiting stories from negative to empowering.
The four steps are:
You have to first realize that you created your story. No one else—just you. When you accept this fact, it returns your power to change your story.
Once you acknowledge that you created your story, you understand that you have the responsibility to change it. If your story keeps you playing small, then it’s time to decide to tell a different version.
This is the fun part! Reframing requires looking at the situation or person and seeing another side that you did not acknowledge before now. Every situation can be reframed into a positive version. If nothing else, that fact that you survived to tell the story is cause enough to celebrate.
The last step requires forgiveness of yourself for creating the limiting story. Being kind and compassionate to yourself releases you to tell your new story. The old one has served its purpose, now it is time to let it go and replace it with the new, empowering version.
How did I use Story Alchemy to see past the physical evidence of growing older? I realized that I had accepted society’s definition of age, and I set about creating a new definition.
Now when you ask me how old I am, I will always respond (with a twinkle in my eye) that “I am as old as I think I am. Today, I think I am in the mid-forties.”
The person usually laughs and nods her head, acknowledging my joie-de-vivre if not my humor.
My declaration of age in terms of how I feel makes me happy, because tomorrow, I can decide again how old I feel. My self-image and value is not tied to a number that I can’t control, which is quite a liberating concept.
As I began telling my new story about my age, I noticed something peculiar. Whenever I passed by a mirror, I deliberately stopped and took a moment to look deep into my own eyes. A spark of divine light was always waiting for me to acknowledge it.
Knowing that I am the embodiment of such loving energy always puts a spring in my step and a smile on my lips. I know that I am not just my body or my age, but part of something so much bigger than myself.
Of course, age is only one topic that is ripe for limiting stories. There are so many more—money, relationships, career…the list could easily expand beyond the word count for this article. The point is to start becoming aware of your limiting stories and make a conscious decision to pivot and tell a more empowering version.
For example, if you are struggling in a relationship or have a history of “failed” relationships, why not take some time to discover the thread that runs through your past? It is helpful to pretend that you are an “explorer” and you want to discover the buried treasure in your past. Some questions you might ask yourself are:
What limiting story do you carry with you about that relationship?
As you dig deeper into the rich soil of your past, you will discover some artifacts of insight. Make a chart and write down what you discover about each relationship. A pattern may begin to emerge that will lead you to a common story you told yourself that led you to act in a way that impacted the health of the relationship.
Remember, the stories you tell yourself filter your reality. If you believe that you are incapable of forming new relationships because you are too sensitive, then you will be. If you are convinced that you are too old to learn a new career, you will remain stuck. If you always feel constricted around the topic of money, then its energy will never flow the way it is supposed to.
After you alchemize your limiting stories, you will see the light instead of the dark. Your sensitivity in relationships actually makes you a better listener and friend. Your work experience is valuable, especially when you are confronted with conflict because you have a deeper understanding of people and their motivations. Money is seen as just an exchange of value, instead of a definition of your value.
When you begin using your new, empowering story, observe the changes that naturally result in your relationships. Because you have changed your internal dialogue, your external actions will also shift.
You may also discover small bits of your authenticity that you had forgotten. You may find that you laugh more often and you give yourself permission to be playful or silly. As you peel away the layers of limiting stories, your vision will clear and you will see yourself and your world from a new perspective.
The end result is that your mind and eyes will begin to see the same things. No longer in conflict, you will notice random moments of happiness and joy bursting into your awareness. Be forewarned: spontaneous dancing may also occur!