The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

As a child I loved reading. Once I discovered books, I was hooked. And no they were not high brow! Do you remember Sweet Valley High, The Famous 5, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and Mallory Towers.

I sooooo wanted to go to boarding school and have fun with other girls. I am smiling at the memory of those adventures I wanted and the girl I was.

I recall I decided to write a book around that time. I had a journal with a lock on it. A big chunky lock with a key. I can still see it by my bed, hiding it from my sister. I started the book a few times. I don’t think I ever got past the first few pages.

Tomboy was another word I associated with, so it was probably associated with me. I climbed trees, played soccer with the boys. I always wanted to be outdoors. We used to say that girls are tomboy’s if they don’t fit the stereotype of a “girlie girl’. If you didn’t want to wear a dress you were a tomboy. In the morning I might be climbing a tree and that evening I would be just as likely to be prancing around in my mum’s heels. Handbag slung over my shoulder, strutting through the house, arms flapping around announcing I was off out with my friends or going shopping.

So in essence I was a kid. A young girl doing lots of different things. Having fun dressing up, baking with my mum, reading books, attempting to write my novel, playing sevens with a tennis ball against the wall, building a tree house out the back using all my dads wooden planks and picking blackberries and mushrooms in local fields.

So what happened to that creative girl?

Why in my 20’s and 30’s did I repeatedly hear myself say “I don’t have a creative bone in my body!”. Where did it come from? Did someone say it to me? I don’t remember anyone saying it. Even if one person said it, would it really have meant that I would have started to believe it?? I do know that being an accountant has associations with being square, a little straight, not fun or playful. Again more stories floating around me. Could that have been it??

I speak to women now and they will say “I’m not creative”. And if I ask what they like doing in their spare time they will say mention I love making up my own music playlists, I make the best sandwiches ever, I love dancing in my living room, chopping vegetables, baking or cooking a new dish, doing crafts with the kids, tending to the garden, running a different route each week.

Being creative is when you create something, do something a different way, your own version. Given we are all different we are all creative then. Say we are following a recipe we may decide to add just an extra half teaspoon of cumin, or a little soya sauce for dept of flavour or add a country song in the middle of a chilled playlist. We may add an extra downward dog in our self yoga practice, or sprint longer at the end of a run. Being creative is an expression of ourselves.

So why do we tell ourselves the story of “I am not creative”. This is a core belief we have about ourselves. At some stage it was planted in there.

Core beliefs are thoughts. They are just thoughts. A thought does not make it true. When we repeat them several times we tend to associate and believe them. After some repetition the thought becomes a belief. One we don’t question anymore we just accept it.

So if they are just thoughts that were planted and grew by being repeated – we can change them. Think of them as a seed, the seed flew into our head. It could have blown right through like other thoughts but for some reason it settled in. We watered it by repeating it. Repeating it allowed it to germinate and it become established. It grows into a leaf. The leaf now sits there waving around reminding us that this is now a fact. A core belief about us.

What about if we say to it, leaf I want you to flourish and grow. I don’t want to stay stagnant. I want to grow into something more beautiful. Let’s change colour, grow wider or longer or more vibrant. I want to let light in and change direction. If I am more creative you will have more light, and hope, and maybe even create a beautiful flower.

We all have core beliefs about so many areas of our lives. Do you know yours? And what they mean to you? Do you hear yourself say things and you think – where did that come from?? Or, you will recognise this one, you hear yourself say something as if your parent or grandparent just popped out of your mouth! Most of the beliefs we have are not our own.. That is a little scary. I will say it again. Over 90% of the beliefs in our head are not our own. They are given to us, we didn’t create them. They come from our families, our school, maybe a religion, the government, the media. There are few rare beliefs or thoughts that we have that are truly our own.

Beliefs are how we see the world, the thoughts we have and how we lead our life according to them. Some may appear trivial like “Glasgow is better fun than Edinburgh” or “it always rains on a bank holiday”. Others are deeply personal like “people will only like me if I am fun” or “I can’t get another job”. Societal beliefs include “to be successful you have to own a house” or conversely “you shouldn’t get into debt”. There are world ones where if I know I hear myself start the sentence with “people are so……”.

Some appear at first trivial but they can grow. Like thinking that Sunday evenings are horrid, so that every Sunday comes and you believe it is the worst day of the week. Even though right up to 4pm you may be enjoying your Sunday, you now prepare yourself to think ok now it is going to be terrible. And the “people are so…..” belief is not true. People are not anything. We are all unique and if I look each person in the eye and approach them as a human I would never start a sentence with “people are so….”.

Once I started to notice what I was saying I am at times amused, bewildered and sometimes sad. My approach now is to mess around with beliefs. I imagine myself ruffling fondly the head of the thought and asking “is that true, is it really true? Explain it to me monkey mind, how exactly does that work?”. Some core beliefs of course are bigger ones, some are hard to recognise and those need a different approach.

Changing any belief starts with being aware of it. How to cultivate being creative is writing down all the ways that you are creative now. This will change the dialogue in your head. I am creative now, here are the things I do. It is happening already as you read this. I am creative, I just didn’t realise I am! So I made a list and immediately I said to myself – I am creative. I said to my mind “monkey mind – what stories have you been spinning! No more!. I am creative”.

Everyone is creative. Everyone. There is not one soul on this planet that is not creative. They just need to allow their hearts to open fully.

And then I began to play. I made a list of things I would love to do including learning Spanish, learn to make bread, use lentils in different foods, I have always had a thing for painting (its looks so romantic doesn’t it!), play the guitar, construct a jigsaw (I just bought a 2000 piece!). These are just some examples on my list.

So I have picked one. I would love to sketch. I am in Palma, Spain and the buildings, windows and shutters are beautiful. I want to sketch them! I have never done this. Ever. And I have to resist the urge to say I want to be brilliant at it. When we are kids it is natural to be creative. We make up games. We play. Play with no outcome. Just play. As adults we always want outcomes.

I don’t need to be good at it. I just want to do it. I want to sit in silence and sketch. It will allow me to be present. To notice. To see the small detail. So that is my new invite to myself.

I have to remind myself today about being creative. Even though I now believe it wholeheartedly. I need reminding. I have a mantra that I say to myself. May I Be Creative. May I be Creative. May I be Creative. And some days it is – I am Creative. I am Creative. I Am Creative.

Ok I am off to learn to sketch now! No idea how, I will figure it out!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ah, the stories we tell ourselves. I keep a list of them! I recently sat down and wrote down the stories I’m aware I tell myself and underneath each one I also wrote examples of how they’re simply not true. I keep adding to it, and I keep adding examples and it’s a really powerful exercise. One of the most important pieces of work I’ve done since leaving corporate life (almost six years ago now!) is changing the story I tell to and about myself. Thank you for sharing, YOU ARE CREATIVE! I can’t wait to hear how the sketching goes, I miss painting and look forward to a trip to the art supplies shop, there’s one in London I particularly love! Esther xx

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