The Power of the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Every year, within the month of December, my birth month, I will sit in front of my altar to meditate and reflect on what I accomplished in the last 12 months, as well as what I want to accomplish in the new year ahead. I have been doing this ritual since 2015 and these yearly notes have continued to illuminate and surprise me. However, the last two years of the pandemic has left me cringing at the thought of this end of year ritual, because I have had to face how little I felt could be accomplished within a global pandemic. I was constantly wrestling with a desire to be as positive and productive as I was pre-covid, and it was brutal to suffer the reality of setbacks in my professional and personal life.
But as each year of the pandemic came to a close, I found the will to sit with my notes, to read them and to honor what I did, however small. And the truth is that I actually did a hell of a lot more than I thought.
Even though 2021 felt interminable and I so often felt aimless, when I looked back at all I had actually accomplished, I was genuinely surprised and proud of myself. The story in my head all year said I was falling short of my potential, and I was constantly battling the anxiety that that story had nurtured. But it wasn’t true. Not by a long shot. In fact, in the last twelve months I wrote, illustrated and published my second children’s book, the first having come out in 2020.
I attended, in an actual movie theater, the premiere of a movie I was in. I faced deep family trauma for the first time and began the process of healing wounds with my father. I embraced my gender queerness, and began the process of coming out. I performed live theater again for the first time in 18 months. I became a professional life and relationship coach, completing three certifications, and personally built and launched my own coaching website.
Wait wait wait…what?! I was baffled. How could I have been so wrong about my experience?
Having this realization made me think deeply about how the stories I tell myself often override my ability to acknowledge my successes, or even recognize them as success at all. Even in the face of proof. The tragedy is that I didn’t see or appreciate the work I was doing in any consistent way, and suffered anxiety and depression most of the year because of it. It occurred to me that I am probably not alone in this phenomenon, and I have decided I need to do something about it.
One of my determinations for 2022 is to write about my experience every month in the hopes that it will help me recognize my consistent progress, and quiet the internal voice of negative story telling. But also, to inspire you to join me in the exercise of monthly reflection, with the intention of acknowledging success, however small.
So here is what I charge us with. I have created a Weekly Win Worksheet. At the end of each week, Jan 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th, let us write down 1-3 wins for that week. You get to determine what a win is, so don’t think it has to be something lofty, though it can be. The aim of the exercise is to help you see how much you actually show up for yourself and for those around you. The big wins are great and help fuel our progress. Celebrate it and write it down! But the little wins are great too. They are the day to day gratitude that we often don’t acknowledge. These little moments of recognition go a long way toward mental and physical well being, and that is at the heart of all of this. Let’s reframe the story of our success and lean into gratitude for the work we do. So, if you managed to simply sit down each week to complete this exercise, that’s a win. If you did your laundry the day you said you would, that’s a win. If you tried a new recipe and nailed it, that’s a win.
I hope you will find, as I have, that looking back over a month of wins inspires you to continue this exercise all year long. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Reach out to me and share your wins and I will share mine as well.