I met Sara Bareilles about two weeks before the pandemic hit the UK. My wonderful partner Mel took me to see her hit musical and then we loitered around the stage door so that I could tell her how Waitress saved my sanity and helped me fall in love. For a musical centred around a theme of pies, you've got to admit that's pretty impressive!
I had a brilliant list of things to say to her - mostly around how I felt seen because she had created a character who lived through domestic abuse and came out the other side stronger than before. How Jenna is a character that I felt a deep personal connection to, and how important that had been to my recovery.
When it came down to it, I was so starstruck that I actually only managed to tell her that she inspired me to call one of my kittens Sardine - as she wrote in the musical, it really is “hilarious to call a cat a kind of fish”. (In my defence, look at that face - she really deserves the international recognition of a celebrity!) I didn’t know how to tell her that her lyrics saved my life (without coming across a tad too fanatical). So I’m going to write it all here instead and maybe the universe will take it her way for me.
I first heard a song from the musical approximately one week into living by myself for the first time in my life. I had gone from my parents’ home to student digs to sharing a house with my ex (and then a short stay on a friend’s spare bed to avoid going into a refuge) and now I was living solo. I hadn’t even rescued my cat at this point. The silence was deafening.
In that silence, I was thinking about all the things that were “wrong with me”. And I do mean ALL the things - from my “hair is so frizzy” to “I can’t keep a whole flat tidy” to “I’m a deeply unlovable person who will die alone and my cat isn’t even here to eat me”. I had embraced the void, big time.
And then my best friend sent me the link to a song: ‘She Used to be Mine’. It’s Jenna’s love letter to her former self - not a perfect shiny version of herself as the tragic heroine who lived a perfect life that somehow went wrong - her mixed-up, not perfect but trying her best self. It was an acknowledgement that you can be imperfect and have value. Not in spite of each other - those two concepts existing at the same time. Mind. BLOWN.
But Sara Bareilles wasn’t quite done with the life-changing concepts for me. Because halfway through, there’s an idea that took what was left of my brain and blew it again: we can rewrite our stories. Let it sink in for just a second… we can rewrite our stories.
It might sound daft, but that had never occurred to me until that point. The things I’d experienced were part of my story, but they didn’t have to be the ending? I could make them mean something other than “I failed at marriage”?! I wasn’t automatically doomed to die alone?
What do I do with that information?
Now that I’m a coach, I know how important stories are to our understanding of the world. Human beings are not computers - we don’t remember things exactly how they happened as a list of facts, we string events together to make meaning and turn that into a story about ourselves. It’s not usually a conscious process - it’s just how our brains like to make sense of the world around us. We filter out the evidence that supports our stories and ignore the stuff that doesn’t. We are selective in our memories. I could tell you about an experience that we both shared, and you would have a different outlook on it to me.
When you start listening carefully to your story, you can hear the hidden beliefs below it. The question “why” is a great one to use here. I’ll give you one of my examples from this time in my life…
I am going to die alone. Why?
Because no one will want to date a mess like me, let alone stay with me until I’m old. Why?
Because they’d have to care for me in lupus flares and I might not be able to work full time. I might not keep a beautifully tidy house and cook good meals every night. No one would put up with that. Why?
Because it would suck for them and I don’t bring enough to the table. I’m not good enough to outweigh the bad parts of having lupus and that makes me unloveable. OUCH.
I was carrying around the belief that my value lay in my productivity. That lupus decreased my productivity and therefore my value. That lupus made me unlovable. There was even a sneaky belief deep in there that maybe I deserved all the painful experiences I had lived through. No wonder I was hurting, disempowered and getting into bed at 5 PM on a regular basis!
Now that’s a big example, but this process plays out in our lives every day. If you text a friend and they don’t reply, do you make that mean that they must be busy and will get in touch soon, or that they secretly hate you and the friendship is over? If your boss needs “a quick word in their office” are you heading in for some praise or a telling off? Does your blood run cold when your partner says “can we talk…”?
So now what?
Let’s take it back to Sara Bareilles for a moment: we can re-write our stories. Just because we believe it now, doesn’t mean we’re stuck that way. I still have lupus, and I’m in a happy and healthy relationship that I trust will last the distance. I know that to have value, all I need to do is exist. My house may not be tidy, but that’s okay.
I rewrote the stories of my past, looking for kinder and more helpful possibilities. I recovered from traumatic events and put the responsibility where it truly lay (rather than shouldering every piece of blame I could lay my hands on). With the help of my coach, I chose to embody new, beautiful beliefs that have let me create the life I’m living now. I’m choosing even better ones to take me into a magical future.
What stories do you have about your life? Do you have some sneaky beliefs under them that are not serving you at the moment, and won’t take you to the delicious future you deserve? Do you long for change and to recapture love for the person you used to be?
Book a free call with me and let's make a plan to rewrite your story and create an incredible future. I’m ready if you are…