I recall several years ago my husband leaving for two weeks to China. It’s not unusual travel for him now, but in the beginning of our marriage it wasn’t easy.
The first time he went we had an 18-month old daughter, and I was five months pregnant with our second. It was winter. We had just moved to a new town. I wasn’t excited about the move. I was eager for my husband to return.
That night I cleaned the house and made a feast. After I put my daughter to sleep, we sat down to talk in front of the fire.
I began telling him all the things I’d done while he was away. The work on the new house. How I took care of our daughter who’d been sick, entertained his mother, and kept up with my own business.
I waited for a response. He said nothing. He simply nodded. Wanting more of a reaction, specifically of gratitude and adulation, I continued with additional details of the laborious past two weeks on my own.
Now I was animated and passionate. I wanted him to know the amazing dazzle that had occurred to pull it all off. My husband’s response: “Were you able to get the water heater replaced?”
What?!?#@! That was it? No “thank you” or “wow, you’re amazing?!” I was unglued. The evening I’d looked forward to was now ruined. I went to bed. I couldn’t speak to him for another 24 hours. When I did, I came back with this conversation.
“I realized when you didn’t recognize or thank me for holding everything down in the past two weeks, the story I was telling myself was I’m not doing a good enough job. That I can’t keep all of this up. I’m exhausted with the house, the pregnancy, our daughter, and my work. I’m not doing anything well. I was afraid you don’t think I’m doing enough either.”
He said, “I don’t know why you would tell yourself that. You’re doing a great job. An amazing job in all areas. I’m very grateful!”
Me: “Then why didn’t you say so? Why didn’t you say something besides ‘did you get the water heater replaced?’ Why didn’t you say, ‘thank you’ or tell me I’m amazing?”
My husband’s response, “I was tired. I’d been up for 36 hours straight after being on an 18 hour flight. I was so happy to be sitting in our new house with you. I’d just eaten the best meal I’d had in 14 days. I kept looking at you, because I wanted you to know I cared and that I was listening.”
How many times have you done that? Ruined a perfectly good time because of a story you were making up in your mind?
This happens all the time with our stories. In the absence of facts or details, we fill them in ourselves. Unfortunately, most often we fill them in with negative and fear-based thoughts…especially when we’re stressed.
The reason I’d been able to re-engage in the conversation from a higher place the next day was because I took a long drive and reflected. It all got down to these two questions.
“What am I afraid of?”
“What’s the truth?”
The answer to “What am I afraid of?” was simple. I was afraid that I wasn’t capable or enough.
My answer to “What’s the truth?”: I’m doing the best I can. It may not be perfect, but it’s enough. I don’t need another to tell me I’m awesome. That’s my own job. I already know it.” I decided to listen to the truth.
What stories are you telling yourself specifically that are keeping you from releasing your brilliance today? What stories are keeping you out of peace or ease?
Here are a few recent stories I’ve heard…
I have to be in the office to keep the organization moving.
My relationship with my spouse is what it is.
I have to take care of everybody in the family.
If I let go of my anxiety I’ll lose my edge.
I’ll have to leave the city to make the next career move I want.
I’m not capable of creating something that great.
This economy isn’t strong enough for me to make a move.
My age is getting in the way of me getting what I want.
I don’t have enough experience for that.
I can’t do that; I have a family to support.
That’s for smarter people with a background in x.
I don’t have enough time.
I don’t have enough money.
I’m not enough.
Ask yourself, “Is the story I’m telling myself true?” Pay attention and be curious of your story.
If you feel stuck or uncomfortable with some area of life, there’s a good chance there’s a story you’re telling that isn’t working for you.
The next questions: What am I afraid of in this situation? What’s the truth?
When you calm your ego and answer honestly, you’ll be lead back to clarity and your next steps. Even if the truth isn’t pleasant, you’re working with a real problem not a made up one.
Being honest with our story allows us to play full out instead of at a half-version of ourselves.
Remember you’re unique. You’re talented. And the world desperately needs the fullest version of you and your creativity at play! Have a knock-it-out-of-the-park kind of week!