Our past is a story existing only in our minds. Look, analyze, understand, and forgive. Then, as quickly as possible, chuck it. – Marianne Williamson
When I was in grammar school, I hated recess. All it brought to me was shame and horror at my seemingly abject absence of one athletic bone in my body. Each day the teacher would appoint two captains who would choose team mates for our daily game of kickball. I was always the last to be chosen – except the day when I bribed a girl with my homemade lunch to choose me first. It only got worse in junior high school where two girls (bordering on bullying) taunted me endlessly at my lack of basketball skills in the gym.
I made it worse with the story I created. I was horrible at sports, I told myself and any one else who would listen. In high school, I stopped even trying to participate.
During college, I took only the minimally required electives for physical fitness and stuck with non-competitive courses such as self-defense – which is a little humorous if you think about it. I should have used that to protect myself from my own story.
After I was married, I became friends with some ladies who enjoyed jogging together. When I was invited to join them, I did. After a few years, I had become a pretty good long distance runner (meaning five to six miles several times a week). Gradually, we expanded our activities into hiking and biking. We often spent Saturday mornings at the Arboretum in Asheville, North Carolina, exploring miles of trails.
And then, one day the strangest thing happened.
At lunch with my friends, one said to me, “You are such a great athlete, Crissy.”
I could have been knocked over with a feather.
I still had my story that I had created and believed for years. I still felt I was terrible at sports and had never once equated that running, hiking and biking also fell into that category. All those years later, as an adult, I still felt that hot, sticky shame of being chosen last for a kickball or basketball team at recess. I still felt nauseous when I remembered team captains begrudgingly saying, “Okay. I’ll take HER,” when there was no one else but me left to choose.
Somewhere along the way, as a child, I made up and lived that story and, as an adult, I was astonished to find it was not true.
I think the ego loves to use our good stories of success to prove that, yes, we are successful. And, accordingly, it protects itself from criticism by creating stories to explain why we cannot do something. Our stories often help us to get out of trying something new or considering a different way of thinking about some issue. They come in especially handy when we need to make excuses.
I love to read the inspirational stories of famous people who did not fall into the easy trap of creating limiting stories about themselves – especially when others doubted their abilities and were critical.
Bethany Hamilton, whose story was told in the movie, Soul Surfer, was a 13-year-old surfer who lost an arm in a horrible shark attack. A month later, she was back on the surfboard. Two years later, she was the champion of the Explore Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championship.
Margaret MItchell submitted Gone with the Wind 38 times before it was published. Gertrude Stein submitted poetry for publication for 22 years before she finally was in print.
Other famous or perhaps more accurately, infamous, rejections include Elvis Pressly who was fired by the manager of the Grand Ole Opry and told he should go back to driving a truck because he would never make it as a singer. Dear Old Colonel Sanders’ fried chicken recipe was turned down 1000 times before Kentucky Fried Chicken became a reality. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star newspaper because he lacked creativity and had no imagination.
What was it that kept these people going? Maybe it just boils down to not allowing others to shape their stories. Instead, they kept believing in themselves and thus, were able to detect that special spark of the Divine that resided within themselves and confirmed they had something to give to the world.
I, for one, am grateful that Walt Disney did not believe the story he was told. Instead, his work and legacy continues today to provide millions of hours of joyful entertainment for the world. I’m especially glad that Elvis did not give up his dream job every time I hear that song, “I Just Want to be Your Teddy Bear.” And I’m inspired by athletes like Bethany Hamilton who could have so easily quit – as I suspect many would – when she suffered a seriously tragic accident that threatened her life and her sport.
Today I am thinking of the stories I tell myself about myself. I need to keep it upbeat and true. And I have to remember that just because I say something about myself (Read “I am not an athlete”) does not necessarily mean it is true. If I am not careful, I will use my stories to set limitations for myself in the future as I have done in the past.
On the other hand, I can acknowledge the stories I have created in the past which are not relevant in the now or in the future and determine for sure, I’m not sticking with those stories anymore.
And by the way, I’m in yoga teacher training now and learning about the union of body, spirit and mind. Yoga is encouraged for nearly everyone, including most all athletes. Like myself. Did I say that? Yep.
I have a new story. I am an athlete. And I’m sorta proud of myself. Before long, I hope to teach others how to become better athletes, too, through wise, tried and true yoga.
The Divine has a lot for me to do. And I feel sure that is the plan for you, too.