Level Letters: You Are Only Confined by the Stories You Tell

You are only confined by the stories you tell.

You can be nearly anything. You can change and grow and evolve, and last year, week, or decade’s you does not have any power over you today unless you’ve decided they do. You are becoming at every moment. You can have suffered trauma and be healing. You can learn new things, have new revelations, and realize stories you used to tell no longer serve you.

I’ve long thought about how the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves impact us, but this morning, I was struck by how the stories we tell ourselves about others also effect us.

I had a dream in which I was back in high school, but two of my present-day friends were also in my class at the (partially underwater) boarding school we all attended. Realistic? No. Vivid? Yes.

In the dream, these two friends were cheerleaders and I saw myself so clearly feeling left out—like I wanted to be part of that.

My first thought: “Well, why can’t I? Just go try out.”

My second thought: “I could never.”

Why? Because of the stories I had told myself about the whole activity and the people who do it.

(Cheerleading friends: keep reading. You come out ahead here, I promise.)

In the dream, it was much more clear cut than it sometimes is in real life: I was jealous. I was afraid to try, or afraid of what people would think. Because I was jealous, I told myself—and maybe others—that cheerleading was kind of silly. Decorative, basically. Not challenging. For people who weren’t quite gymnasts or dancers. Oof.

Maybe that sounds cruel, or maybe it sounds totally benign. Who cares what I thought of someone else’s sport?

And there’s the rub: I cared. My choices were shaped by the story I had told. All those judgements I’d made about the girls and guys dancing and flipping? They had (blessedly) no impact on those I was judging, but they had limited me.

The whole dream, weird as it was, got me thinking: what else have I unfairly judged? What have I created a story of “less-than” around? What, in so doing, have I shut down in myself? People are wonderfully complex and startlingly simple; I had made up a story of superiority over the activity because for whatever reason, I felt like I couldn’t try it.

I haven’t even thought about cheerleading, or realized I held any preconceptions about it, in many years, but man, that hit like a ton of bricks.

We build walls to feel protected, to feel safe—to avoid the pain of being made fun of, or failing, or feeling unwelcome—but I’m learning ultimately, we only confine ourselves. The stories we tell ourselves (about anyone and anything) shape who we are. When I am kind, accepting, and generous with others, I am also kind, accepting, and generous with my truest self. I’m only really free when I let others be exactly who they are and in so doing, become more myself.

Of course, judging others can hurt them when from the scrutiny grows unkindness, but it most certainly hurts me, every time, whether I feel it right away, or ten years down the road after a weird dream. The next time I start to tell a story about someone or something, I’ll pause and question my own narrative. I’ll ask myself what I’m afraid of. The next time I feel myself start to build walls, I’ll ask myself if I’m really keeping myself safe, or just holding myself back. If ever again I think a cheerleader just wants to be a dancer or a gymnast, I’ll gently correct myself. Maybe they love to dance and tumble, so they’ve found the perfect thing for them. I’ll be grateful there are so many ways to move and be alive, and be really glad my own old judgments didn’t steal any of their joy.

You can change the story anytime.

You are only confined by the stories you tell.

Let’s tell some good ones.

– LL


Marco Polo App
Think of it as video texting, or video voicemail. Great for those friends you need to send a longer message than Snapchat, but with whom your schedule rarely aligns. It allows us to exchange stories and little everyday moments that texts don’t do justice!

Muddled Strawberries on Peanut Butter Toast
Remember our peach kick? We’ve moved along to strawberries and are once again living for simple snacks. This time: cut up your strawberries pretty small, throw ’em in a bowl, toss in a little sugar (just do it), and mash em up. Throw that on top of peanut buttered toast. PB & J, but make it bougie. 😉

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Comments 2

  1. I’d love to get your emails! Your mom Cindy will refer to your articles & I always enjoy the content!
    Thank you!

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