If you knew B., you would know that he was the ultimate story teller. He’d always had a story to tell, something that had happened this-way-or-that, someone said this then did this, he’d done this or something else, and on and on and on. His stories knew no boundaries of time or space: he would tell stories that had happened in 3rd grade and stories that had happened yesterday.
We spent so much of our relationship and friendship, all the way back to 6th grade at recess, telling and listening to stories from each other, and more often than not, they ended with deeper conversation or a lot of laughter and shaking heads. Stories brought us comfort and connection, brought the dead to life, brought the unseen to the surface. Our stories made the world smaller to us because, finally, someone else understood us when we were being what the world told us we weren’t supposed to be: our vulnerable, true selves.
But only when we were together did these stories have an ending. When we were apart, both in our relationship and proximity, he continued telling stories to himself. I did, too, for a large part of my life, until I realized that the stories I was telling myself in response to most of the emotional pain I’d felt for a majority of my life–that I wasn’t loved, lovable, loving, that I had zero worth to the world, that I was a nobody, that I was too fat and unattractive for the world, that I was a failure as a wife, teacher, daughter, etc., etc., etc.–were really not the truth of my current reality. They were stories I had interpreted through my own lens of my own life, the things I had internalized from the words and actions of others that were not true for the me living in the world today. Through hard work, a few dark nights of the soul, therapy, meditation, yoga, and intentionally seeking joy in life, I began to hear my own lack of self-worth stories less and less, and focused on the reality of what I did have more and more. It was not easy, simple, or painless, like an Instagram Reel would have you believe, but it truly changed my life from the person I was to the person I am today. I’m still made of stories, but they are stories of my own making, not stories I chose to believe in that came from the wounds of others.
This is where our storytelling diverged. Where I branched out, he stayed in place. So many of our discussions were about his lack of worth, his demons, his worries and fears and trauma. Stories from when he was little and unable to love himself. Stories of wanting more but feeling unworthy, undeserving, tormented. And when I wasn’t around to help him process, to get it out (he had journals. He wrote me letters upon letters. He sent pages-long texts. He went to therapy, briefly), he simply believed all the things his mind told him were true. He believed the darkness of his mind over feeling the truth in his heart. He believed his head over the reality around him. He believed he wasn’t loved, lovable, loving, because he’d not heard it enough to strengthen it against the other dark thoughts that had louder presence.
He was one of the most loved, loving, and lovable people in our lives. Just ask anyone who truly knew him. The only person who struggled to love him was himself.
Ironically, B. wasn’t unique in this at all. So many of us fall into the pattern of believing what we think, when so very little of it is the truth. We believe what we’re told, we believe what people do and say about us. We think people are whispering and gossiping about us, and when they do, that behavior is about them and not us. What others say about us (if they even do, at all), is not about our reality, it’s about their perception. It’s how they see us, not how we are. Sounds complicated, and it is. But it’s the difference between healing and staying stuck. For some, it’s the difference between life and death.
What do you believe about yourself that isn’t true? What is it that you’ve told yourself stories about that came from your external world and not your internal truth?
You are loved, loving, and lovable. You are love.