It all starts with a story. As children, we are captivated by stories and the fantastic, mythical places they take us. I remember my enchantment with the characters I grew to love through these stories: a big red dog named Clifford, an imaginative boy who shaped his world with a purple crayon, a magical land that was home to misunderstood monsters. They taught me what it meant to be brave, to use my imagination, to explore.
Whether we realize it or not, this gravitation towards stories stays with us our whole lives. As adults, we are constantly writing, telling, or listening to stories: the 24-hour news, our social media feeds, the gossip exchanged at work or between friends. We also have a steam of never-ending stories being told within our heads. Our doubts, desires, fears, beliefs, and constant narratives of our experience are constantly running through our minds. When you stop to think about it, this all makes good enough sense. What we don’t always realize, however, is just how much we buy into these stories and accept them for absolute truth.
When I was younger, I told myself the story that I wasn’t good enough. I needed to be shown affection and praise by others in order to feel any sense of self worth. This story was shaped by other, smaller stories that were told to me or that I heard through my external world: the times my father told me how proud he was of me, the way my mother’s smile reassured me, my teachers’ assignment of grades that sorted me into a group labeled “gifted”, the pats-on-the-back granted to me after scoring a goal in soccer.
Slowly but surely, my external world validated the story I was telling myself that my own goodness was a direct reflection of the approval of others. As I entered my teenage years, this was amplified by approximately 1.5 billion times. Suddenly I was living in a world with makeup, hair products, razors, scales, fashion, diets, sex, romance, alcohol, drugs. There was an absurd amount of factors now weighing in to the story of needing to be good enough through the eyes of others in order to really be worthy of anything at all.
My first romantic relationship started around this time. It was filled with verbal, mental, emotional and physical abuse, both from his doing as well as self-inflicted. It was a time of deep confusion and lack of self-identity. My only understanding of love was that you must tangibly prove it, and if you weren’t good enough, you would suffer. This was the story that was my truth for many years.
Thankfully, the universe has a way of giving you what you need, when you need it. I’ll never forget the day when I suddenly heard a new story being whispered in my ear, coming from some deeper place of knowing inside me. I was on vacation with my family, watching the sun set into the ocean, when I heard the most beautiful story I’ve yet to know: you deserve happiness.
Since that day, the story I’ve been telling myself sounds something like this:
You don’t need a man or anyone else to define you.
You don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
You create your own happiness.
You create the life you want to live.
You have enough power to make change in the world.
You have all that you need inside of you.
You deserve love and affection, just as much as anyone else.
You deserve to be here.
You are strong on your own.
You are filled with endless love.
You are enough.
You are enough. Those three words still give me chills to speak out loud. The power in those three words could give me enough strength to live one thousand lifetimes.
But even still, that is just another story I’m telling myself. Just another set of words, another belief, that doesn’t really mean anything when you boil it all down.
The hard part is: the truth isn’t something that can be expressed by words. We are a story-loving people. We need stories to understand our experiences and our purpose and make sense out of this world. But in reality, the only thing that’s true is our consciousness, our awareness, whatever it is that makes us US… and as of now, we can’t express that through words. It’s the story before the story. We can try to write it down, but I’m not nearly awake enough to even attempt to do so.
So for now, all I can do is be where I’m at. And right now, that sounds something like all the people in the entire world chanting along in the background: You Are Enough. I’m living in my truth. And I know that it will change. My stories are always evolving and soon I’ll be looking back at this as something I needed to know, but that no longer serves me the same way it does now.
Our stories serve a purpose. They ground us, they support us, they help us make sense of our world. They also lift us up, inspire us, and make us reach for more. So I encourage you to check in: what stories are you telling yourself? Where are they coming from? Can you identify the fear-based stories, the ones that limit you, and figure out a way to uncover the bullshit in that narrative? How can you find truth from a place of love instead?
If you give yourself space to slow down and listen, you will start to find that the answers are within. The truth comes from that place which can’t be talked about – that awareness that exists within us all. The story before the story. If you listen, it will tell you something that rocks you to your core, that lights you up, that gives you purpose to begin another day. And just like that, we’re back to being kids again, being read messages of courage and imagination and love, as we’re tucked into bed for a peaceful night’s sleep.