You Are Not Your Story.

Have you ever met a person who seems lighter than air, supremely self-possessed and self-confident, who captures every opportunity before them, who doesn’t seem to have any fears? Someone who is able to open doors to reveal a path of fulfillment down which he or she walks without hesitation? 

Even though you may think EVERYONE is more like this than you, chances are this person doesn’t really exist.

We all suffer from moments of insecurity, low self-esteem, fear of failure. We hold in common the continual search for a meaningful place in this world, and the feeling that there might not be anywhere to go, or anyone who cares – the thought that our individual life has no meaning - is the worst existential horror there is.

I look back at the last 4 decades of my life with as much appreciation as I can muster. But amidst my ‘self-reflection with an earnest dash of gratitude’ exercise breathes a gnawing ambivalence, a knee-jerk prevarication toward placing any kind of worth on my experiences and achievements.

Why is it so difficult to appreciate the quiet moments that make up most of our lives? Why do we place value only on the meta-achievements – I wrote a NYT best-seller! I won the Nobel Prize! I made a gazillion dollars!! -  instead of revering the precious little pieces of experience woven together to create the fabric of our everyday? 

What holds us back from liking who we are RIGHT NOW, as opposed to the person we keep clawing forward to become? Will we ever arrive there, and meet ourselves, and fall in love?

My introspective whiteboarding has helped me identify some rabbit holes into which I burrow when I'm feeling less than sure of my purpose. I hope this helps you better embrace the real-time miracle of YOU when all is said and done…

YOU ARE NOT YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS

Achievements are awesome. Accomplishing goals, completing important tasks, earning accolades for feats of excellence – what's not to love? But the slippery slope is when we base our essential self-worth on our achievements. Failing to dissociate our intrinsic value with the accomplishments we’ve earned perpetuates the belief that if we don’t succeed at everything we try, we not only have failed, but we are a FAILURE.

So why do some of us possess this paralyzing mindset, where others can try, fail, learn from their mistakes and try again?

Much of it has to do with how we were raised. If our parents focused only on the quality of our grades, and in so doing we children began to associate our intelligence with our scores, then anything less than 100% was a sign that we must be stupid. But had our parents acknowledged effort and exploration over results, inculcating a sense that making mistakes was a part of the learning process, we might have felt safer venturing into unknown terrain without the fear that a mistake was linked in some way to the value of our character.

If you grew up, like I did, with one or both parents driving you to “get the A”, you may be your own present-day worst enemy. But we can flip the script by raising our own children differently. Check out this Wall Street Journal article on the language we use with our kids and how it can influence their willingness to take risks.

YOU ARE NOT YOUR STORY

My Gen X childhood was, relatively speaking, typical. My parents, mismatched from the start, divorced when I was 11. My dad moved out and my mom went back to work. My brother and I, damaged in our own distinct ways by the split, yo-yo’d between being the closest of comrades and the most bellicose of enemies. Every member of my family dealt differently with the demise of our little unit, but we all have our own story of what happened and how it shaped us.

(not my family... but it could be)

This broken moment in time is not, of course, the only narrative driving my behaviors, but it was the lynchpin connecting many years of sadness and struggle within my family. It still chokes me up to remember how unhappy we all were for so long, and how difficult it was for each of us to get through it with our bruised and weary hearts.

If our past is what makes us who we are, then how much importance should we place on the experiences that may have been less than positive? How much power do we give to the events that scarred us, that stopped us in our tracks and prevented us from moving forward? I do know that constantly looking back with resentment and digging our nails into the stories that caused us harm are actions that guarantee we will never grow.

YOU ARE NOT YOUR STORY. You must let it go.

Whenever I procrastinate, whenever I feel afraid to attempt something I know I’m capable of but refuse to try, whenever I scrunch my face and scream about how unfair life seems, I realize I am holding on too tight, blaming my inertia on a history I can’t possibly change. 

Our greatest gift is the power to create our own story, to move beyond our negative narratives and author a better one, one that expresses the best of who we are. It takes courage and a leap of faith, but taking responsibility for who you are now is the highest form of self-love. We are all magical, creative creatures filled with meaning, so trust yourself to open your heart and let the world hear a new story.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

We, by nature, are beings bound to each other, born of stardust and blessed with the knowledge that each of us plays a small part in the revolving rhythm of our cosmic consciousness. I’m not a religious girl in the formal sense, but I believe that we all are ONE, that we each contribute our energy, good and bad, to the swirling pool of this precious moment in time. We all need love and connection, like we need food and water. Love is required for our very survival. Love is our birthright.

When I’m feeling like I’m about to fly off the earth, when the ground moves underneath me and the anxiety rises, I reach for these yahoos.

Although I’ve made peace that my demons may never shut up, my beautiful family has made those dark voices a mere whisper in the background of the blessings before me. My husband and children, who love me whether I feel deserving or not, remind me that they are here to support me as I battle my fears. They never fail me, even when I feel like I may be failing myself. They believe in me as I learn to let go and grow.

So remember... You are not your achievements. You are not your story. And you are not alone.

You are YOU. You are MEANING. You are a MIRACLE.

Now go tell it.

Xoxoxo – Lara

Pushing Positive

Are you a glass half empty or full type? When faced with a great trial, is it your habit to rise like a phoenix with affirmations that all experience – good or bad - is an opportunity for growth? Or do you cry like a baby, rock back and forth like a monkey and write repeatedly on your mental chalkboard, “LIFE SUCKS. LIFE SUCKS. LIFE SUCKS...”

It’s difficult to see the bright side of a beat down. No one feels it more than me, who has had one of the most difficult years of her life and has been clawing her way through it with a behind-closed-doors, piss-poor attitude. I’m drowning in a self-made sea of negativity and it’s cold down here! So I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can do to sew the silver lining and find the Positive, even if we have to push ourselves there.

WIRED FOR THE WORST

Well thanks, Nature, for making our quest toward the Positive that much harder; our brains have evolved to be pessimistic. Our PESSIMIST PROGRAMMING worked wonders for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, for after hearing a noise in the bush, those who believed it to be a saber-toothed tiger (pessimists) and not a fluffy bunny that would make an awesome pet (optimists) were the ultimate survivors. Our Danger-Is-Everywhere forefathers passed on their genes, and voila! Our present-day attitudes are constantly manipulated by a mind wired toward the Absolute Worst.

Looks like we have our work cut out for us.

PLAYING THE VICTIM

Blaming the world for your problems is SUPREMELY tempting. Even though we know life isn’t fair, we desperately hold onto the belief that it should be, and in turn judge an injustice with fist-shaking, face-scrunching indignation. But PLAYING THE VICTIM is a practice in powerlessness; instead of taking action against an injustice or at least changing our attitude toward it, we surrender to paralysis: passive, unhappy, complaining, playing the blame game as our life passes us by. This certainly isn’t what any of us wants, but it takes a courageous heart to accept that life isn’t fair but it’s worth living anyway. We must bravely quit the Pity Party and take responsibility.

WIPE YOUR TEARS AND PUSH POSITIVE

Now that we know that Positivity isn’t innate but a conscious choice we make in response to our personal hardships, we need practical strategies to get us there.

BUILD YOUR GRATITUDE MUSCLE:

Every night, write down three things that went well that day and their causes. Take time to reflect on them so you go to bed focusing on the positive experiences the day brought. Being grateful for the things that are good in your life is a powerful force against negative thinking, and this GRATITUDE EXERCISE is proven to boost happiness!

UNLEASH THE DRAGON

Believe it or not, NEGATIVITY IS BIOCHEMICAL. Negative thoughts stress the body, producing increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol, and can lead to poor immune and digestive function, increased pain perception, higher risk for heart attack and stroke, even depression. So what can we do when our chest tightens, our stomach knots and we are overcome with negative thinking?

WE RUN THE RAGE OUT.

EXERCISE is one of the most potent methods we have against sadness and depression. When we work out, the body produces endorphins that act as a kind of natural morphine, reducing our sense of pain and producing a euphoric effect that reverses the adverse physical processes of negative thinking.

When I’m angry at the world, I put on my running shoes and load up my iPod with Soundgarden, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. Check out my favorite new artist Gesaffelstein and his insane song Destinations (warning: video contains a wee bit of nudity - those crazy Europeans). Guaranteed to release the rage as you run like the wind.

LOVE THYSELF:

When times are tough, it’s important to maintain a sense of your inner life, regardless of what grim circumstances are circling you in your outer life. Even though you may feel you can’t afford the time or perhaps don’t even deserve it, BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Take a yoga class and get centered. Practice a 15-minute meditation each morning and repeat active, affirming phrases like, “I can…I have…I will…” Take a long walk with your dog (and without your phone) and observe the natural world around you. Self-neglect is a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you don’t take care of you, there won’t be enough strength within you to weather life’s trials and tribulations. So love yourself as if you were a divine and precious treasure – because you are.

We may not always have control over our circumstances, but we do possess the power to choose how we react to them. So best of luck turning that frown upside down, and wish me luck in my efforts to Push Positive!

Xoxoxo - Lara