“It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer; it’s what we say to ourselves about what happens.” -Pema Chodron
We all have stories we tell ourselves about the events in our lives. Many of them are negative: My boyfriend left me because I’m not good enough. I didn’t get that job because people think I’m incompetent. My parents were too hard on me because they don’t really love me.
We often give far more meaning to events than they actually had, allowing them to control us and our actions.
Your stories can either leave you feeling helpless or empowered.
Martin Seligman, who coined the term “positive psychology” suggests that we can learn optimism and change those stories using the ABC model. When an adversity (A) happens, we can identify beliefs (B) and the undesirable consequences (C) they create.
So if your boyfriend left you and you believe it’s because you’re not good enough, that will likely leave you feeling down on yourself, and as a consequence, shut down to joy and people.
The alternative is to dispute that story to create a sense of possibility. Instead of believing that you’re not good enough, you can think, “This one relationship didn’t work out, and I can learn from this, but lots of people love me, just as I am, and many more will in the future if I keep putting myself out there.”
This story won’t completely take away the pain, but it will remind you that it’s temporary–and that you are not helpless.
We never are unless we choose to be.
Photo by kelp1966