You are not their stories either

Stories are like flypaper

Stories are like flypaper

So we’ve already talked about the fact that you are not your stories, right?

About how you’re way more than all of that stuff that you tell yourself about yourself.

But I want to rap about stories again.

Because digging around in this story thing is a big part of what I do.

Because it’s important.

And because stories are a source of major stuck for so many people.

Stories are sticky. Like flypaper. Or quicksand.

They stop us in our tracks. And trip us up. And hold us back.

Stories have shaping power.

They can twist us and turn us and tweak us in all directions.

And when the stories we’re hanging out with are helpful, that rocks. But when they’re not so helpful, it sucks tons.

Bumpity bump bump

And, seriously, our own stories can be sticky enough.

All of that stuff that we keep telling ourselves all frakking day. Sometimes at full volume.

I suck. I can’t do this. I’m not as good as so-and-so. Their thing is better than my thing. I sucksucksuck.

But when we bump into other people’s stories about us?

Schweet jeezus.

It can get mondo sticky with the quickness.

Especially when the stories people have about us are the same as the ones we tell ourselves.

You suck. You can’t do this. You’re not as good as so-and-so. Their thing is better than your thing. You sucksucksuck.

Nightmarish scream-ey coaches

When I was a little tater tot I had a coach who told me that I basically sucked shit at sports.

And by told me I mean got in my face and screamed that I was the worst player he’d ever seen as loud as he could in front of like thirty people.

I already felt like I sucked at sports. So his you suck dovetailed perfectly with my I suck and left me with a story that I suck at sports. Which I’ve repeated endlessly ever since.

Plus I picked up some extra ack around how horrifying it is to be humiliated in front of large groups of people.

(Thanks coach!)

Boot meet ‘nads

And then when I was 15 I took a painting class with a local painter. After looking at my painting, he told me that I could be really successful in New York.

Because in New York bad art was good art.

I was an uber sensitive kid. Who was already shy about sharing his art. And I only took the stupid class because a friend begged me.

So this guy’s comment felt like a swift kick to the ‘nads that totally reinforced the idea that I was a freak show and that my art I was weird and awful and lame.

Get real dude

And I remember the time I talked to a friend about my plans to do this sound thing full time.

Their response?

That I was pretty much crazy because no one would ever pay me money to beat a drum.

And that I should seriously think about getting a Real Job instead of pursuing this particular flavor of madness.

In other words, get real dude.

Loud. Loud! LOUD!

Obviously the coach and the art teacher and my friend had clear opinions about me.

I suck at sports. I did bad art. Thinking I could bang a drum for money is kooky pants.

And they voiced their opinions loud and clear. With the emphasis on the loud.

But sometimes people’s stories about us are way more subtle than that.

Less in-your-face. More implied.

Like the little eye-roll-and-a-sigh thing a friend does when you’re talking about some ouch-ey experience.

Like your mom telling you that you’re the smart one instead of the pretty one. Or the pretty one instead of the smart one.

Like someone sending me an email telling me they don’t get the ninja thing because, uh, kids like ninjas.

This stuff is way less loud, but no less sticky.

Because they’re full of stories about us that totally suck.

You should toughen up and get over it already. You can’t be smart and pretty. You’re immature for liking what you like.

It’s all about the fit

And whether it’s loud and in your face or more passive-aggressive roundabout, it still feels like people are saying really awful, ouch-ey things about you when they hurl their stories your way.

But here’s the thing.

They’re not.

Because you are not their stories.

You aren’t the things they’re saying about you. Because they’re not even really talking about you.

I mean, I know it seems like they are. And they might even think they are.

But, really, they’re talking about three things:

  • Their stories about the world
  • How you do or don’t fit with those stories
  • What kind of stuff that stirs up in their inner bits

So what feels like a commentary about you is really about how neatly you fit the stories they tell themselves about how things are.

Not about me. Rinse & repeat.

Like the painter who said my art sucked?

He had a very clear story about what art should look like and what it takes to be a successful artist.

And I’m pretty sure that also he had a story about how much it sucks teaching painting to 15 year old kids.

Totally not about me.

And my friend who said I was crazy for trying to do this sound stuff?

They had a story about how you can and can’t make money. And how it’s way safer to work for someone else than it is to do what you love.

I also know that underneath the you’re crazy thing there was a genuine concern for me. Wanting to make sure that I’d be ok and not end up broke and homeless.

Not about me. Again.

And the person who wanted to tell me they didn’t get the ninja thing?

They had a story about what people who do sound-ey stuff should look like. And ninjas totally weren’t a part of that story.

Plus this was a really obvious case of go fish.

But that’s still not about me.

Kicking up some inner ack

I didn’t fit the stories these peeps had.

Which created some ack-ey argh-ey stuff within them. Which they lobbed my direction.

But it totally wasn’t about me.

It was about them. And their stories. And their ack.

So even though it sounded like they were talking about me, they were really telling me what they thought was true about the world.

That doesn’t have to be true for me.

And, chances are, it probably isn’t.

Ack Handling 101

So what do you do when you feel like someone is dumping their ack in your lap?

Keep reminding yourself that you are not their stories.
And that they’re really talking about themselves, not you.
And that what’s true for them doesn’t have to be true for you.
Then go forth and find some other Fs.

And if you need some extra funk-be-gone mojo, crank up your favorite tunes and do some serious non-serious shaky butt.

Or do the AHHH thing.

Or drop a comment here.

Because I get how much this stuff sucks.

And sometimes having somebody else to remind us that the stuff other people say about us isn’t really about us can be helpful.

And I’m totally down with that.

Flickr credit – ThisParticularGreg

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20 Responses to You are not their stories either
  1. Emma Alvarez Gibson
    June 10, 2010 | 10:21 am

    So good. So good. I needed this. Thank you!

  2. Linnea
    June 10, 2010 | 12:38 pm

    Every time I think you’ve outdone yourself, you write another post so dead-on I can’t find words to comment.

    Wow. Just … wow.

    This one’s going in the bookmarks.

  3. Christine (Blisschick) Reed
    June 10, 2010 | 1:36 pm

    Okay, let me preface by saying that I totally own my Inner Geek. I LOVE her, actually. I am a Sparkle Geek and I am proud.

    BUT WHAT THE!? With the not getting the Ninja thing!?

    HELLO!?!?!?! Ninjas, first of all, ARE adults. Second, they are part of this huge, noble, wise, amazing ADULT culture. And I could go on and on.

    I feel bad for people who don’t have more Imagination of the Big Kind when it comes to the stories they tell themselves about the world.

    So sad.


    And thank YOU for yet another rockin’, told-slightly-in-a-Buffy-voice story (and THAT, my friend, is a HUGE compliment, regardless of your gender!).
    .-= Christine (Blisschick) Reed´s last blog ..On the Road Again… =-.

  4. Josiane
    June 10, 2010 | 2:06 pm

    Though I’m getting much much much better at remembering it’s their stuff and not being impressed with it, a reminder is always welcome. 🙂
    .-= Josiane´s last blog ..Not totally random hair story =-.

  5. Amy Crook
    June 10, 2010 | 2:16 pm

    Such a great reminder — both of the original sentiment and this one. It can be so hard to separate myself from the stories that have accumulated over the years.

    Clearly I need more ninjas and punk rock to help out with this. 😉
    .-= Amy Crook´s last blog ..Broken Rainbow =-.

  6. Chris Anthony
    June 10, 2010 | 3:16 pm

    I love this, Fabeku. It’s a great lesson imparted within – yes – a great story.

    It also reminds me of Pace and Kyeli’s “I am not green” from The Usual Error. The title hints at the great practical exercise they have to complement the ones you suggest. 🙂
    .-= Chris Anthony´s last blog ..Sometimes, you got nothin’ =-.

  7. Michelle Leisy
    June 10, 2010 | 3:20 pm

    The adult in me totally gets this. The kid in me not so much. I just hope I can teach my daughter this lesson instead of her having to figure it out later.

  8. Noura
    June 10, 2010 | 3:52 pm

    I totally *puffy heart* your wisdom and the way you lay it out. It’s much needed stuff. Thank you again and again.

  9. chicsinger simone
    June 10, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    O yes, o yes, o yes. Hell to the yes! Thank you SO very much for perfect words at the perfect time.
    .-= chicsinger simone´s last blog ..Money, Cartman, a new color, the F-bomb and a monster who is just learning to type =-.

  10. Joan Bright
    June 10, 2010 | 9:41 pm

    Whoooooo!!! This is so perfect and so perfectly timed. Shaky butt is the cure for ack, ok. Gonna do it more, way more. Gonna do it seriously, and in a definite, not-so-serious manner. Actually, have found myself able to do it publicly at our friend’s 60’s band’s concerts lately, thanks to improved movement thanks to Network Spinal Analysis and SRI, and totally can’t believe how good it felt to be able to dance again, after over a year, maybe even longer. So good. Didn’t have time to worry too much about whether I looked cool or skinny enough to dance..just did it and had a blast.
    Thank you for being here and reminding me, reminding us all, that it is not about us…it’s other’s stories about life. Not mine. Thank you. I love this. You do rawk, for real.

  11. Elana
    June 11, 2010 | 12:56 am

    Okay, seconds before I hit publish on my latest post this post of yours popped into my inbox.

    It’s kooky! And yeah kookier, it was drums I studied.

    Are you like my long lost ninja half-brother?

    Thank you Fabeku!

    big sunny smiles! you rock!

  12. Lucy Viret
    June 11, 2010 | 1:33 am

    I will first echo Linnea: wow. This is seriously awesome. Have I mentioned lately how much I love your voice, and how much smartness you have?

    Both those things are true. (Well, okay. True in MY story. But it’s a happy story in this case!)

    I’ve had my share of other people having stories about me that didn’t jive with my story… so this was a neat reminder.
    .-= Lucy Viret´s last blog ..Why Doctor Who made me cry this week. =-.

  13. Sarah
    June 11, 2010 | 5:19 am

    Wow Fabeku, this post is powerful and came at just the right time. (How did you do that?!)
    Anyway, thank you. 🙂

  14. christine
    June 11, 2010 | 6:01 am

    I have needed to hear what you have said so eloquently…..for years. I am stuck in the “i am what people have said/ say I am. ” I have been physically and emotionally battered and it has left me a shell of the person I wish to be. I am 41 and still trying to find my place in the world….and for that I am saddened and angered. saddened because I have so little time left to turn it around…and angered for letting others convince me that I am what they say. thank you for a message so profound at 6 am
    I am without words to express how much your post spoke to me so very early this morning.

  15. Joan Rowlands
    June 11, 2010 | 8:35 am

    Yeah baby!! Awesome sauce post – this really spoke to me with all the icky ack stuff going on at the moment. So tomorrow, its gonna be all about me – out with the singing bowl and the drum and shaking that ack away!
    Thanks Fabeku – you rock!

  16. Kelly Parkinson
    June 11, 2010 | 2:21 pm

    One thing I’m noticing lately is that our stories completely change based on how we’re feeling. So the same person could read the same piece of copy, say, and depending on how they’re feeling, have a completely different reaction to it. Their stories change based on how they feel, too. And the story I tell myself about their reaction changes based on how I feel. It’s a completely dynamic and unpredictable process, which makes it EXTRA SUPER important for me to take care of myself. Because otherwise, it’s so easy to get sucked in, and they need someone who isn’t sucked in. That’s why they hired me to begin with.
    .-= Kelly Parkinson´s last blog ..A bribe you can believe in =-.

  17. Natalia
    June 11, 2010 | 4:03 pm

    Rock on, this post is awesome!

    Being aware of your internal dialogues is often imperative for self-healing. Nice suggestions for how to tackle these tricky bastards.

    .-= Natalia´s last blog ..‘I could feel the words bubbling up inside me’ =-.

  18. Fabeku
    June 13, 2010 | 12:15 pm

    *waving hi! to everyone*

    @Emma – Totally welcome! Glad it had some goodies for you.

    @Linnea – Aw, thanks. You are the sweetness!

    @Christine (who I always want to call Mizz Blisschick) – Sparkle geek! Rawk! And your position on ninjas has just made you ever more awesome. And I totally didn’t think that was even possible.

    @Josiane – I find reminders really helpful too. I figure the more I hear it and say it and hang out with it, the faster I can unhook myself from someone’s ack-ey stories.

    @Amy – It can be hard to separate yourself from those stories, can’t it? Some stuff seems to fall away fast. Other stuff feels like it peels off in layers. But I swear the ninjas help it to peel off faster. (That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.)

    @Chris – Thanks! I’m glad you dug it. And thanks for the link to Pace + Kyeli’s awesome. It fits purrfectly here!

    @Michelle – Yeah, it can take awhile to filter down through the various bits of self. And the ouchier they are, the longer it might take. There are parts of me that still don’t totally get this. But they’re definitely getting there. I think it goes back to that reminders-are-helpful thing.

    @Noura – Puffy hearts! Ok, that calls for chocolate. And happy dancing. And yays.

    @Simone – Hell to the yes… YES! You make me smile.

    @Joan – I love that you’re able to break out the shaky butt in public. That can be so hard to do. And by hard I mean terrifying as hell. But, man, is it awesome. And extra huge yays for not worrying about looking cool or skinny or any of that. Go you! Like Gaga says Just dance! Gonna be okay! Da da doo-doo-mmm!

    @Elana – You studied drums? *swoon* We might totally be long lost ninjakin!

    @Lucy – Thanks muches. I appreciate that. And it’s awesome that you’re clear enough to get when someone’s stories doesn’t mesh well with your story. Because I think so much of the feeling lost thing happens because we’ve gotten tangled up in someone’s story that isn’t a great fit for us. So very, very cool.

    @Sarah – Oh yay! I’m happy to hear the timing was good.

    @Christine – I’m so sorry about all of the hard. Big sorries. I think feeling sad and angry is totally normal, given what you’ve experienced. And it’s totally ok too. And, for what it’s worth, I believe that you can definitely shift out of the hard stuff and get back to the gorgeous that is you.

    @Joan – Bowls! Drums! A day dedicated to you! Yes, yes, yes. That sounds absosmurfly brilliant!

    @Kelly – Ooh, great point! There is this wild fluidity to stories. And, yeah, feelings seem to be a big key to that fluidity. I also totally agree with what you said about how, given the fluid thing, taking care of ourselves becomes even more important.

    For me, if I can get my hands on a story about me that I know is true I have something to hold onto when things go up and down. It’s kind of like riding one of those spin-you-around rides. If you have a fixed point to stare at, you get less dizzy.

    @Natalia – Thanks! And you’re totally right about the helpfulness of being clear about the inner (and outer) chatter-ey stuff.

    Big thanks, as always, for all of your smartness and sharing and general fabulousness. To borrow Noura’s brilliant phrase I puffy heart you all.

  19. Molly Gordon, Self-Employment Coach
    June 15, 2010 | 1:49 pm

    Dude–I mean Ninja–you are so on the money with this one. And I do mean money. One of the most damaging stories you can believe is the story that you can’t make a living–or that it isn’t nice to charge enough to make a living–at what you love. Not a good story to believe, yet seductive as hell.

    Thank you for slicing through this in your loving and–dare I say–goofy way.

    Your fan always,

    .-= Molly Gordon, Self-Employment Coach´s last blog ..Why are you okay with being less than? The shadow side of "good enough" =-.

  20. Fabeku
    June 21, 2010 | 10:49 am

    @Molly – I totally agree with you about the money story.

    That one is so seductive. And crazy damaging too. And it seems kind of virus-like too. It’s contagious and ewww.

    Totally welcome for the goofy slicing.

    And big thanks to your awesome self for all the faboo work you do helping people to say buhbye to that story.

    And the fan thing?

    Back atcha. Big time.

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