I was reading an old journal of mine recently and came across a quote by happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin. She said, “Perhaps we can try to unlearn some of the facts that are no longer true for us.” I don’t remember now what she was talking about, or the context, but in this case, I don’t think it much matters.
So often, when there is creative work we want to do, we have a list of excuses at the ready for why we can’t begin. These excuses are often related to the innermost things we believe about ourselves.
- “That’s just not something I do.”
- “I can’t take that painting class because I don’t know how to paint.”
- “I’m not the kind of person who gets up on stage and auditions.”
- “I’d really love to start a blog and showcase my writing, but it’s just not really my thing.”
How many times have you repeated a similar excuse to yourself? How many times have you fearlessly declared these facts out loud, thinking, if you say it loud enough then perhaps someone will believe you? I certainly have. (*And here is my promise to you readers, I am never writing about something that I myself have not felt, experienced or lived through!)
Let’s assume all those awful things you think about yourself are true. (They aren’t.) But go with your beliefs. Let them be the facts. But try to let them be the facts of who you were yesterday. I don’t know one single person who has stayed the same from the time they were born to the time they became an adult. People change. You are going to change because it is a fact of life, so why not take the tiniest bit of control over your changes?
Don’t beat yourself up over the things you believe. If you already believe you aren’t good enough to write that book, or learn that song, getting mad that you feel that way won’t help. Those beliefs already make you feel bad enough. Stop there. But you do have a choice each day, each moment, to change some of the facts (and therefore, beliefs) about yourself. If you accept the facts about yourself, then you can try to change them.
Sometimes just thinking about all the work that will have to go into changing our thinking and undoing all the reasons why we believe the things we believe can stop us before we even start. So don’t undo anything. Don’t worry about going back to your childhood to figure out where the belief that you could never be a real musician came from. Don’t examine and over analyze why you think your poems are stupid and awful and should never see the light of day. Accept that yes, you feel like a fraud, or yes, you feel like you aren’t good enough or worthy enough or creative enough. But then please, take the next step and let those “facts” be the facts of yesterday. You don’t have to delete your life or scrub it clean before you start over. (That’s just another way to keep ourselves from getting started!)
Sure, yesterday maybe you weren’t the person who wrote your thoughts down. That doesn’t need to be true for you today. Yesterday, getting up on stage for that audition wasn’t really YOUR thing. That was a fact, sure. But it doesn’t have to be true for today. Yesterday, you were not the person who submitted your story, showed your photos or read your poem out loud. Hell, yesterday, it may not have even been your thing to even write your poem down on paper, preferring to keep it in your head where no one would ever find it. Those were yesterday’s facts. (#AlternativeFacts, if you prefer.) Today, does that fact still need to be true for you?
Replacing Your Facts
In the book Start Right Where You Are by Sam Bennett, Sam writes about 65 small ideas and tasks you can undertake to help yourself move forward, change patterns, think differently, and well, start.
Task #22, Delegation for Recovering Perfectionists, talks about repeating the mantra, “That’s not my story” to yourself, whenever you encounter someone complaining about a problem they have. For example, when talking to an actor friend who complains about how difficult the audition process has been for them, instead of 1) beating yourself up because you already aren’t good enough to be an actor, and then 2) deciding that you shouldn’t even attempt to audition because, well, if so and so is having a hard time, then you surely will, why not stop that little hamster wheel in your head from spinning and tell yourself, “That’s not my story. That may be their story, but that’s not my story.” Try not to let yourself get brought down or stuck completely by listening to someone else’s facts about themselves. Make sure not to replace your own facts with those of someone else.
Often when we don’t feel like we are good enough to put our work out into the world, or to even begin the thing we want to do, we compare, compare, compare, often against people who may not even be heading down the same path as us. Letting them have their accident somewhere else, in the words of Richard Carlson, (author of the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff empire) is a small, but important way of taking control over what is true for us, and what maybe used to be true, but isn’t anymore.
There will be lots of things in life that we can’t control, so step up for yourself when it comes to the things you do have a say over. You can start fresh each day, not erasing your past, but accepting it and then taking the steps to replace the facts about your past that no longer serve you.
Becoming more and more yourself is a life long process, so make sure you are part of it, and that you don’t let things just happen.
– – Brittany Forbes
Brittany writes in Canadian, loves in English, and dreams in French. She writes about travels and various other journeys over at Letters To Rayelle.