Are you familiar with the concept of stories?
I don’t mean the fairytale kind or the kind that they tell on The Moth podcast, I mean the kind that we tell to ourselves. The kind of stories that run on repeat through our brains all day (and lets me honest, sometimes all night) that shape our world.
Okay stay with me here.
Sometimes we pick them up while we’re so young that we couldn’t possibly remember how they even came to be. In fact, I think most of the stories that we’re saddled with throughout our lives are collected through our childhood years and tucked away deep in our subconscious. They run the show. They become the lens through which we view the world.
If you let them.
Three years ago I bought Jen Sincero’s book, “You Are a Badass”, right after my son was born. I devoured it, twice. Then I bought the audiobook and listened to it, oh I dunno, about 3 or 4 times. I loved the concepts and I loved all of the ideas that it brought forward for me, but I didn’t apply any of her teachings to my life, I just sat on the sidelines.
Then her next book, “You Are a Badass at Making Money”, came out and I did the same. Bought the book, loved it. Listened to the audiobook, obsessed. Only this time something clicked for me. People changing their stories sounded silly, or more like being in denial to me before…but if people could really change their stories around money and become millionaires - what could I achieve if I started changing mine? Not about money, specifically, but other stories that have been holding me back.
I picked a story that I had been telling myself my entire life, as far back as I can remember. One that was as much a part of me as my laugh and my stretch marks. I hate summer.
No, I really hate summer.
It’s hot. It’s buggy. I’m constantly fighting with my husband over the thermostat. I sweat and sweat AND SWEAT. My legs stick to everything. Summer music is awful I mean can you BELIEVE what is popular on the radio now? Where is all the good TV?
Now that I’m a mom of a one and three year old - there was an entirely new set of gripes. Is it too hot for the kids to go outside? Make them wear their hats! Simon, KEEP THE HAT ON. Sunscreen. More sunscreen. My oldest son is so pale he’s practically translucent, WHO MOVED THE SUNSCREEN? Sand in the house. Sand in the cracks. ALL THE CRACKS. And so it goes.
So I told myself that every time I had a negative thought about summer I would simply say to myself, “That’s not true, I love summer!”. And that when I talked about summer I would only talk about it in the nicest of terms, and I would tell anybody who would listen that I LOVED summer and how you just can’t beat a Michigan summer! Amirite?!
When anybody asked how the summer was going I would say, “We’re having the best summer! Wow! I love the summer! Weeeeee!”.
It felt fakey and weird.
Then something strange started to happen.
I didn’t notice how sweaty I was. The kids and I went outside and played every single day. We all smelled intensely of sunscreen and I loved it so much, I can still smell it now as the leaves fall behind me like snowflakes. At 4pm every day we took freeze pops on the deck and sat on the steps and ate them as they melted in record time. The kids were always sticky, thus, I was always sticky. We blew bubbles and water balloons and swam and ate SO MANY HOTDOGS. Chlorine counted as a bath. Feet were dirty. Kids were happy.
One afternoon as we sat on the steps slurping freeze pops, my older son scooted closer to me and I smelled his dirty, sweaty sunscreen hair and I wanted to remember it forever. I wanted to remember this summer forever. I never wanted it to end.
Then fall slowly started arriving and all the back-to-school supplies showed up on the shelves. My oldest started pre-school and Starbucks started advertising pumpkin spice. A friend asked me how my summer was and I said, “You know, honestly I had the best summer of my life”. And I meant it. And I mean it now. It really was the best summer. I was sad to see it go.
Our thought’s create our emotions. Our emotions create our reality. Those are the basics. By changing my “I hate summer” mantra to something completely different, my emotions around it shifted, and then everything about it became beautiful.
Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all s’mores and rainbows (oh hello did you catch that I have a one and three year old?) but the bad didn’t seem so bad and the ordinary seemed wonderful and the wonderful seemed incredible.
Now it’s on to the next story to examine, and that’s for another blog post. But really, challenge yourself to think about a story that you have been telling yourself, perhaps, for your entire life, that’s simply not serving you.
See how it feels when you talk about it differently. Try on a new story for a while and see if it fits. And of course, let me know if you do - or if you have - changed a story for yourself. I, for one, already can’t wait for next summer.