Is Your Story Holding You Back

Posted on December 1st, 2017 by Dr. Nancy

Six Ways to Rewrite It and Supercharge Your Power

Often women allow circumstances, routines, and stereotypes to keep them from living their dreams. Here, a licensed psychologist offers insight into how you can rewrite your story, reconnect with your power, and create a fulfilling and purposeful life.

By Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD
Woman With Laptop
The stories we tell ourselves determine how we think we must behave. Change your story and you can transform your life in dramatic ways. Bridget Cook-Burch, one of my coauthors of Leading Women, says we may not even be conscious of the obstacles we create with our stories or of the limitless possibilities that exist when we rewrite them. When Bridget was a single mom, she worked from home and thought it was the only way she could support her children and be available to care for them when they needed her. Soon she found herself in an abusive relationship with a client. His advances became so intrusive she had to hide images and messages he sent from her children.
Like many women, Bridget feared that if she quit she would lose both income and the ability to provide a safe, emotionally secure place for her children. Still, she summoned her courage and fired her client. Without knowing how she would pay the rent or even feed her kids, she rejected the “victim story” she had believed to be true and embraced the realization that she had thousands of possibilities. In fact, in a few weeks she joined a friend in ownership of a large trucking company, where she began to train and manage many men and women.
What stories are you telling yourself? I hope you aren’t having to fend off an abusive client, but you may be limiting yourself in other ways. Are you accepting the stereotypes of our culture? Are you pursuing the path someone else wants you to take? Are you living by default? Or are you pursuing your passion with a firm belief that it is your time to do whatever you choose?
It’s time to take responsibility for your own “story,” your own life. You can stop seeing obstacles and start envisioning opportunities to claim and use your power to achieve your passion and purpose.
Of course, if you’re like most of us, you probably devote most of your time and energy to everyone around you. If that’s true, you may not even know what you care about most deeply. The only way to figure out what your passion is––and to learn how to direct it––is to purposefully rewrite your story and turn your power up a notch. Here are a few ways to get started:
Step out of your comfort zone. Get uncomfortable and make a difference. Every time someone says, “You can’t,” show them you can. Although it may feel painful for a moment, following your passion is a path filled with joy. Why wait? Choose to step out and do something you’re passionate about and you will discover your most gratifying and powerful life.
Start working out. When you feel physically fit and healthy, you naturally arm yourself to take on that next ambitious challenge. Exercise relieves stress, helps you relax, and produces the “happy hormones” that keep you strong and resilient. If you choose to do only one thing for yourself each day, give yourself a loving workout. The less you do, the less you can do. And you want your mind, body, and spirit to be more engaged and energized to claim your power.
Move to Connecting 2.0. Real connecting is not just about attending surface-level meet-and-greets and collecting hundreds of Facebook friends. It requires you to stop wondering, What can I get from you? and start thinking, What can we accomplish together? My most satisfying accomplishments were done with the help of my sisters. Women are hardwired to support and collaborate, and we are much more creative and successful together than any one of us is alone.
Ask your friends where to channel your power. Many women have been doing what others wanted for so long, they simply don’t know what their strengths and skills are. Ask your women friends for advice. In many ways, they know you better than you know yourself. They notice what makes you smile and what you inherently do well. Ask them for guidance in finding a path that fits your talents and inclination.
Stay present for instant power. When you worry about the future and fret about the past, you waste your energy. It’s ironic that so many of us struggle to stay present because it really is the simplest, most natural thing in the world. It happens through the senses—all we need to do is tune in to what we’re seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting right now. Allow yourself to feel grateful for it. Gratitude awakens us, and when we’re awake, we can see our opportunities and rise to our challenges instead of obsessing about our barriers and failures.
This year, do one thing to change the world. When you are able to observe a positive difference in the world because of something you did, you’ll tap into a powerful well of motivation. You don’t have to solve world hunger or found an orphanage. Start small. Volunteer for something you care about or chip in with others to fix something in your community.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama. He impressed me when he said that the future of the world rests in the hands of Western women, if only we would wake up. I believe this and know that changing your corner of the world for the better requires paying attention to the reality around you. It’s an amazing way to access your power.
Once you stop living on automatic pilot and take those first few halting steps forward, it gets steadily easier to connect to your purpose. You’ll begin to notice other women and men around you who are moving in a similar direction. You’ll feel the joy and satisfaction of doing something deeply meaningful. And you’ll want to do more. Together, we can change the world.

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