Some stories just aren’t true

Several years ago, I was undergoing a course of treatment at the Royal Women’s Hospital, and part of it included seeing a counsellor. I was pretty dubious about it; I didn’t have any issues to unpack.

And yet, the first session saw me crying like a loony on the tram ride home. Why?

Because a narrative I’d held about myself, my body and my relationship was suddenly held up to the light, examined and shown to be what it really was: a story.

A story I had created and told myself – over and over again. And the story was none too kind to myself either.

I think we all tell ourselves these narratives – or we get told them by others and soon take them to be true.

One of the defining things about my childhood and teen years was that I hated sport and was really unco-ordinated. My lack of physical grace was a family joke.

It was also a self-fulfilling prophecy, because once that narrative was written, I never tried hard, never practiced to get better – I just avoided sport altogether.

Turns out, actually, that I’m not such a retard after all. I’m now one of the fitter people I know. I can bench-press half my bodyweight (pretty good for a girl). I played in a netball team and wasn’t the worst on the court. I’ll never be a great athlete, but nor I am the worst.

It annoys me to see how much I was trapped by that narrative when I was younger. What finally got me out of it? Vanity. I started going to the gym once I turned 18 and stacked on weight. Been going ever since.

Unfortunately, many of the narratives we tell ourselves are negative. One of my favourite song lines is from an Indigo Girls number: ‘darkness has a hunger that’s instiable / and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear’.

It’s easier – possibly even lazier – to subscribe to the stories where you’re not good at that stuff, or you always mess up that thing, or life always treats you that way.

If you read the first post on this blog, you’ll see one  – the ‘bad father’ narrative. My dad is an awesome guy and has been an amazing father (except for that time when he bought me a really crappy Nokia and then told me it was my birthday present. And he was actually running Vodafone at the time).

I’m sure he’s made mistakes, but hell, who hasn’t? And it not about the mistakes – it’s about what you do afterwards to fix them. It’s about the intentions and integrity with which you live.

So, maybe it’s hard to undo those narratives by yourself. Maybe it takes another person to question them in the first place. But it’s certainly worth the conversation.

By Belinda Thomson

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