Often we see things that end or things that went differently than planned, expected or hoped for, as failures. A job or a relationship that ends, goals you did not reach in the way you planned, or goals you did not reach at all. The career path that is far from linear (I know I for many years felt that I was failing somehow, because I did not have a linear career path). Never let a story of ‘failure’ or any other dark or negative story, be the only story you tell yourself. Never believe the story of failure defines an experience or defines you! Always look for the other stories, and tell yourself these stories as well, next to the dark and difficult story. If we only tell ourselves the dark and difficult story we start to identify with that story, that experience. And this story will shape future experiences.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not about toxic positivity, about negating or bypassing difficult situations and emotions. The first step is always giving yourself space to feel whatever emotions comes up. Not to bottle it up, not to ignore it, but let the emotions flow through you.
So allow yourself to feel loss, grief, regret, anger or other emotions that come up. Then ask yourself what do I need right now? And give yourself what you need in that moment. Whether it is giving yourself time to mourn, or to run a bath, or to cry or….
The next step
But I don’t want you to stop there! After you have given yourself space and time to be with the challenging emotions take the next step. Consciously start looking for multiple stories, for positive stories as well. Stories about staying true to yourself even when it is difficult, stories about what you have learned, or what becomes possible now, stories of resilience, stories of success, stories of beautiful alternative routes taken, and many other stories.
Finding multiple stories
What always helps me in finding these multiple stories is this. 👉What if you assumed that this difficult thing that happened is exactly what needed to happen at that moment. What story would you tell yourself then?
🌱What is this difficult thing showing me, telling me?
🌱What can I learn?
🌱 What alternative route is opening up because this thing ended or failed?
🌱 If I assumed this was not a failure but exactly what was supposed to happen right now: what action would I take?
Don’t let the dark or difficult story become the whole story or the only story you tell yourself. Look for your multiple stories because there is always more than one story to tell!
You are so much more than a single story!
p.s. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her 2009 TED talk – The danger of a single story– so beautifully talks about the danger of a single story on a societal and personal level. Worth watching!
This blog was also inspired by the book “The midnight library” from Matt Haig I read over the weekend.