The story we are telling ourselves is crucial to living our ThirdThird, ages 60-90, with grace and purpose.
Recently, I experienced a short period of being uncharacteristically melancholic. I am usually the one who is confident and optimistic and who can find the positive in most circumstances. I’m usually encouraging others to find the sunshine.
But I was in a funk. Questioning myself, doubting my choices, and generally feeling low. Not my usual approach.
I knew I needed to figure out what was up.
I carved out time to think. I went to a place I would be uninterrupted. I took my journal and began to reflect over the past several weeks. How had I arrived at this sad place?
As I have been writing my next book of Mantras for Your BEST ThirdThird, I traveled back in time through my journals to a decade of hard lessons.
I was criticized and misunderstood in our small social community. The 1980s were not bright and cheerful years for me. I learned a lot of solid life skill in those days that have stood me well in the past several decades, but those lessons were not harvested easily.
As I revisited the challenging relationships I had had in my 30s, I sunk back a bit into thinking that I am a difficult person.
In those same recent weeks, I started learning a new system of personality assessment and, guess what? The number I am on the enneagram is “sometimes hard to take.”
In a discussion group of women interested in learning more about our numbers based on the enneagram, others were described as helper, achiever, peacemaker, enthusiast… while my number is “challenger.” How unattractive!
I started to think of myself as difficult and unlikeable. So strange how these things sneak up on us!
The truth is that my approach to life and my personality have stood me well. I have true friends, more than two thriving businesses, respect from peers, and great love from my husband and children.
For a few weeks, I slipped into a common and easy place of telling my story from a negative perspective.
I saw myself as the Victim. Poor me. Misunderstood, not encouraged, stifled, and abused.
The story I was telling myself, reflecting back on a time of difficult growth, was factual. It is a fact that I have had people in my life who were not positive influences. It is true that I have a strong personality. But it is not true that my story is one of a life of missed opportunities.
I was framing my story, unconsciously, with myself as a victim, and it almost sidelined me.
Until I figured it out.
We are telling our story all the time, and we can choose to do it from a number of different points of view.
For a while there, I was the victim in my story, suffering from others’ lack of maturity and lack of understanding.
At times, I have been tempted to become the villain. Maybe I deserved the mistreatment? Maybe my own challenging personality repelled people and made me unlovable?
But, in all truthfulness, I prefer my story with myself as the Hero. The overcomer who learns and grows, survives and thrives.
The challenge we all have is to be alert to which story we are telling ourselves and to be proactively framing it to design the life we want in our 60s and beyond.
For me, it was an afternoon of reflection that got me back into my preferred cheerful and optimistic story. A few simple steps got me there.
I realized I had slipped into a state of melancholy, and I knew I didn’t want to stay there. I needed some time and space to figure out how to get my feet back under me.
Looking back, I considered my influencers over the past few weeks. Negative experiences are good to learn from, but they can still hold power over us if we are not alert.
I made a list of the FACTS of my life with myself as hero… a long list of solid relationships and accomplishments that are good and that I am proud of.
Finally, I took a long walk and breathed deeply. I filled my mind with gratitude for all the lessons (hard ones and easy ones), for all the people (ones I’m glad to know as well as ones I’m glad to have in my history, not my present), for all the knowledge and wisdom and experiences that have brought me to HERE.
A few days after my day of reflection, one friend said I was “lighter.” An unsolicited comment that I am “sweet” made me smile (sweet!). A card in the mail thanking me for supporting a friend reminded me of the real me – the hero.
How are you telling your story today? Can you consider reframing it with yourself in a new role? If you tell your story with you as the hero how might that change your approach to life? Let’s have a productive conversation about the real people that we are.