I identified as “shy” for my entire childhood and some of my adult life. I also identified as being “nice.” Just as most others, those labels didn’t pop up from no where, and when you are told something over and over again, you stick with it. Now, I’m not saying that I wasn’t any of those things but as I have moved through my life I realize that it’s not quite so simple and that sometimes we hold onto these identities way beyond a point to which it serves us or is actually even true.
“I am an angry person.”
“I hate _____ people.”
“I’m not good at being in relationships.”
“I’m a bad husband.”
“I’m a bad kid.”
These are just a few of the narratives that I have heard over the years. And when tell ourselves these narratives over and over again, they become our truth.
So what happens when the parent, who believes he is an angry person, has a child who doesn’t listen to him? Do you think he will respond with patience and curiosity or anger?
What happens to the woman who enters into a new relationship who believes that she is bad at relationships? Is she likely to connect well with her partner?
What happens when the 12 year old child, who believes that he is a bad kid, is redirected by his teacher at school? Do you think he will accept the redirection and move on with his day or is it likely to escalate?
You know those narratives that I held, that I was “shy” and “nice?” They sound simple enough, right? The narrative of being “shy” didn’t cause too much trouble for me. As I grew and matured, I felt less and less shy and attributed it to get older and feeling more self confident. And of course, the narrative of being “nice” served me. Or did it? The narrative that I was “nice” served me in a lot of ways but it also disabled me in my ability to advocate for myself and stand up to people who made me feel uncomfortable. And doing something that was not viewed as “nice” got such a reaction out of people around me which reinforced that I could not speak up to others. And for someone who was also “shy,” getting any attention felt too scary.
So ask yourself, what narratives do I hold for myself? And then ask yourself, is this narrative serving me?