If Your Life Story Depresses You or Holds You Back, Change It

“The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.” ~Pema Chodron

Too often we let stories from our past define us. We tell them over and over to ourselves and to others until it becomes our truth. What if, without deviating from actual facts, we choose to tell different stories? What if these new stories could bring us more freedom and strength?

Below are some true facts about my own life. I’ll follow each one with the stories I could be telling myself about each one, followed by the story I choose to go with.

Fact Number One

My father abused my teenage mother when she was pregnant with me and left us when I was just a few days old. I’ve never seen him again.

The stories I could be telling myself now:

Men are bad.

Men can’t be trusted.

The reason I can’t hold on to a relationship is because my father left me.

I’m unwanted.

I’m unlovable.

The true story I choose to go with:

They were young. He felt trapped and scared. His fears drove him to behave very badly. He had his own issues from his own childhood.

It sucks, but it doesn’t define me or shape my views of men or myself.

If I’d held onto the negative self talk or views about men, it could have prevented me from being the happy, loving, loved person I am today.

Fact Number Two

In my tween / teen years my mother worked nights in a factory and I didn’t see her before or after school. There was never a parent attending my school music and sporting events or awards presentations and I found my own way home afterward, often walking back in the dark, freezing cold winters of Minnesota.

I got myself up and to school on time, oversaw my own homework, dinner, and bedtimes, and often that of my younger brother too.

The story I could be telling:

My mother didn’t care about me. She was irresponsible. She put me in danger and neglected my needs.

I have to fend for myself in this world or nobody else will. I need to look out for number one. This is why I’m lonely. This is why I never succeeded. I was handed a bum deal compared to my friends. I could have made more of my life if I’d felt supported and had good guidance at pivotal stages of my youth.

The story I choose to go with:

My mother was doing the best she could with what she had.

Being very independent from a young age taught me responsibility.

I’m truly motivated to be present in the lives of my own children, attending their events, encouraging and offering guidance. The past has made me a better mother.

Fact Number Three

The boyfriend I fell madly in love with in my twenties verbally and physically abused me until I was finally hospitalized with cracked ribs. I gave up my career and possessions in California to move to London to be with him. I knew nobody except his friends.

The stories I could be telling myself now:

History repeats itself. I was abused because my father abused my mother.

I deserved it for being such an idiot.

I’m not worthy of proper love and respect.

Men are all assholes.

The story I choose:

I didn’t know my boyfriend well enough before I moved abroad to be with him. I felt unable to move back to the U.S. as I’d given up my job, home, car and life there. I continued to stay with him for too long out of fear and ignorance.

I’m smarter now. I learned what I don’t want in a relationship and it enabled me to recognize what I do want and to find it. I’m stronger and I know myself now. I love myself. I am worthy.

Do you know anybody who’s been dealt a crappy deck and now tells the first kinds of stories? Do they blame past circumstances for their present life? Do they begrudge the people who have mistreated them?

Which stories from your past do you tell yourself and others over and over? Are these stories helping you or holding you back?

Rewriting the script in your head isn’t easy, especially if you’ve been telling it for a very long time.

Here are some ways to begin to dump the old stories and replace them with new ones.

1. Recognize when you’re telling them and press your mental pause button. Stop giving it fuel.

2. Write down the fact, as I’ve done above, then the story you’re presently telling. Now write a more positive interpretation of it. What good has come out of it? What have you learned? How would it feel if you dropped the old story and told a new one? Explore this on paper and see what it brings up.

3. Use EFT Tapping. Emotional Freedom Technique is effective for bringing your story to the surface, getting real about your feelings, then changing the narrative about it. For deep rooted stuff, work with a qualified EFT practitioner.

4. Practice “loving what is.” Have a notebook handy as you read the book Loving What Is by Bryron Katie. Write your answers to her four powerful questions. It only works when you do the work. This book single-handedly healed my relationship with my mother.

Self-limiting beliefs often stem from stories you’re clinging onto that aren’t serving you. They hold you back from true happiness and success.

Begin to bring a gentle awareness to these stories and see if you can give them new meaning. It isn’t about forgetting your past and making things up. It’s about choosing to tell the truth in a less victimizing and more empowering way.

About Kelly Pietrangeli

Kelly Pietrangeli is the creator of Project Me for Busy Mothers, helping women find a happier balance between the kids - and everything else. Mixing practicality with self-awareness, Kelly helps mothers get on top of their endless to-do’s and see life beyond the laundry pile. Grab her free Life Wheel Tool for discovering what needs your focus first.

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  • Stephen Fraser

    I think this is going in the right direction .. It’s good to let go of old negative stories that keep us stuck…as long as the new story you tell yourself is the truth… seeing ourselves and others accurately is the ultimate goal… excusing inappropriate behaviours in others and in ourselves can be just as debilitating as exaggerating them..

  • Thanks Stephen. I still struggle sometimes with the bad behaviour of others, but I’ve learned that the more I cling onto feeing ‘wronged’ and the injustice of it, the harder it is to free myself of it – which only hold ME back (debilitating ME). As soon as I use some of the techniques I’ve described above, I feel a sense of release and relief and FREEDOM.

  • Stephen Fraser

    Yes…of course…our thinking is very powerful…we definitely can manifest a whole new reality by simply adjusting our thoughts…you will have an immediate sense of freedom when you reframe your story along more positive lines but that freedom will be short lived if it isn’t true to what is actually happening…if you want lasting freedom sometimes you need to choose to see things exactly as they are…even if that isn’t all warm and fuzzy…we suffer in direct proportion to our resistance to accepting what is actually occurring…if the reframed story you tell yourself isn’t the truth….that’s resistance to what is…and eventually…the new story compounds your suffering.

  • Courtney

    Thank you, Mrs. Pietrangeli. I fully understand your meaning. It resonated well with me. Bless you.

  • Pin Charger

    Reading through, i could see how beautiful your soul is, i am truly inspired by your story..Life sucks but just don’t let it keep you down holding on to the negative stories. Unfortunately; it is the path most of us choose on a daily basis. If handled positively every adversity your soul encounters brings a renewed strength and purpose.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  • I agree. We can’t simply make up a new story. We need to be truthful to ourselves about the facts, and then as I’ve illustrated above, look for the lessons in those truths and go forward knowing we are not victims of the actions of others. Despite being abandoned by my father and abused by my ex partner, I do not feel like a victim in any way. Even some of my very closest friends don’t know these stories, not because I’m ashamed of them, but because they have no relevance and hold no power over me and my present life. To me, that is sweet freedom. To live in the present moment.

  • I’m so happy it resonated, Courtney. Thank you for letting me know! x

  • Thank you for this beautiful comment Pin! It’s so lovely of you to take the time to share your thoughtful observations with me. x

  • Stephen Fraser

    Beautifully expressed Kelly.. Your sharing and honesty takes great courage … It humbles me when I consider what you have endured…..thank you for staying open and sharing what you have learned.

  • a(me)

    I think the first set of descriptors of each chapter in your life sound like what a tv show would portray them as. Unnecessarily dramatic and critical. I say that NOT as a criticism of you, but as a criticism of tv-thinking, which is something I have been guilty of my whole life. I don’t think this tv-thinking is rare. I think lots of us default to it without realizing it.

    I wasn’t provided with good models when it came to functional relationships or family. I didn’t know how people were supposed to behave in complex situations. So I turned to tv dramas (and such) to help me understand what was happening and what to do. When you do that, you end up making bigger deals out of stuff that is, as you have stated, the best you or the person in question was able to do at the time with the knowledge or experience you had. (Most of us are not evil.)

    Does that make sense to anyone but me? 🙂

  • This does make sense! I am often concerned that if my teenagers watch these reality shows they will think dramas and mellow dramatic behaviour is a normal part of life. Thankfully they have a VERY undramatic mother at home so I hope that helps. I’m sorry you didn’t have good role models when you were growing up and I hope you can view this as an example of how you will not behave. Awareness is always the very first step and you have displayed such an awareness with your comment. Keep going! xx

  • Thank you so much Stephen. I really appreciate that! x

  • Anya Anne Light

    What an amazing post! I needed this today, as I’m making some very big life decisions based upon what I really want and not a repeat of the past. Thank you, my dear Kelly!

  • Kiki

    I can relate to everything you said here so much. The moving to be with someone who turns out to be abusive, the having a mom who was abused and worked so much I never saw her, etc… Its funny I was feeling depressed about some of these things and landed here accidentally… Thank you for the thought provoking words and words I can relate to. <3

  • ShaunTheCHB

    The media has played a very big role in shaping the world for many. For a long time I believed people were evil or were only this way or that way. (all women are selfish, all men are sadistic, that sort of thing)
    I did not have great role models either so the television was my teacher. It ended up brainwashing me. I needed counseling for years to break the images that were put into my head by the media. There are things I still perceive to be true, like most people being evil and only a small exception being good. But I am better than what I was.

  • I really hope it helps to hear another perspective on similar situations Kiki. Do try some of the strategies I’ve suggested above and be proactive about your happiness. Your past doesn’t have to define your present. xx

  • You are so welcome Anya! Thanks for letting me know and wishing you the best with your decisions. Keep an open heart and let it guide you. x