Right now I am reading my way through Byron Katie’s “Who Would You Be Without Your Story?”
It is an interesting question.
Who WOULD I be?
This identity I have – as me, with my foibles (uncoordinated, can’t cook), hang-ups (socially anxious, too serious), phobias (roaches, knives), talents (music, hopefully writing!), interests (recovery, birds), etc etc etc….
Is it really “me”?
Who is me?
Who am I?
This concept of “us as story” gives me a whole new perspective on these age-old profound questions.
I might be all of the above. None of the above. Somewhere in between. Or nowhere I’ve ever been before. Or everywhere.
I am also noticing as I read how I carry all of this – story-ness – around with me. I introduce myself to people and before either of us realize it I have carved out my identity in stone – as in, I can’t see without my glasses, I have one younger brother, my bird’s name is Pearl, don’t ever ask me to cook if you want to survive the meal, and so forth.
I’ve gotten so used to doing this, and so good at it, that I’m starting to wonder if I’ve ever actually met myself.
As in, who would I be, without this story?
COULD I cook? Would I be able to try a hike without falling over and off the side of the mountain? Maybe I have other interests I’ve never thought to explore. What if I wake up one day and discover I’m not really interested in recovery at all, but have a latent untapped talent as a chef….
Would I be okay – as me – with that discovery?
Would I still know who I am?
I have mentored myself, all of these years, telling myself supposedly reassuring things like, “Well, don’t worry, you just don’t like that sort of thing.” Or “It’s okay to say no to that camping trip – I mean, what if a tree roach crawled into your sleeping bag?”
Only I’m starting to realize now that none of it was particularly reassuring. It was limiting. Enclosing. It has kept me stuck, scared, and small. I can really start to see this when it comes to bigger self-definition stories, such as “You just don’t date well – you’ll probably be single forever”, and “You’re shy – it’s okay not to go to that event/mixer/networking social tonight.”
Is it? Okay?
Will I really be? Single forever?
Am I? Shy?
I am realizing I do not know.
Maybe I knew sometime in the past. Maybe when my eating disorder was in charge, and I didn’t even know that such a thing as “recovery” existed, maybe then these stories were true.
But I haven’t questioned them for years. And they may not be true anymore.
I will keep reading. And we will see.
Today’s Takeaway: What stories are you carrying around with you that you automatically assume define “you”? Do these stories still work for you? Or do they keep you feeling small, stuck, scared, afraid to try new things, reach out, let others in? As Katie would say, “Just notice.” Begin to notice what you find, and how it feels.
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Last reviewed: 6 May 2011