Most people think the problem with the stories we tell about ourselves and our lives is they aren’t empowering enough. The real problem is we only know how to tell one story—victim or hero—as though there’s only one choice when in truth, we are both and many more. The truth of our power, liberation, and wholeness is in our capacity to tell and experience more than one story about ourselves and our lives in any given moment.
There are multiple ways to experience any moment, and not just if there’s another person involved. Each moment is multi-faceted and there are so many ways we could tell it back to ourselves and/or others. While I think it’s important to shift the frame of how we view our lives to be more empowering, it’s more important that we hold the complexity that ALL the layers can be true at the same time. If we only get to choose one, whether empowering or not, we’re still caught in a very limited framework.
In some ways, this is where my I Am A Woman Who… movement was born. At one of my Sacred Sovereignty women’s retreats, we did an exercise where each woman stood in front of the room and filled in the sentence stem “I am a woman who…” with pieces of her life experience, ranging from the empowering to the deeply painful and everything in between. The context was that they embrace ALL of themselves—the painful, the weak, the triumphs, the shame, as well as the times of success and grace.
What came out of it was deeply moving and profound. The women in that room stood up and shared everything from calling the police on their father as a child to making $100K a year, to raising amazing children alone, to creating amazing partnerships for over 20 years. They named the truth of their painful, challenging, hard experiences and their success, power, and achievement, and every mundane thing in between, because they are not separate, they all exist within the same human.
We are all of it. Every single one of us. And most of us are many things, all at once, in the same moment.
I don’t believe our real power comes from simply re-writing our life from a more empowering perspective, but in being able to see the full truth it, without negating either the pain or the glory. Here’s a simple story about this from my own life:
I was planning a trip to Brazil recently with my family and hit some challenges around getting a visa for my son. My son, who has a different father than my daughter, had his visa rejected because his father had changed his name (it’s a long story – watch the video for all the hilarious details). Going back and forth with the Consulate trying to get his visa issued was an enormous pain in the butt. I sent and resent them the same documents multiple times, explained to them over and over again why he had a different name, and was nearly ready to call the whole thing off. In the end, I spent countless hours scanning and emailing documents, going back and forth with the Consulate over email, and calling on the phone. My partner (who is Brazilian) and I even spent a full day at the Consulate in San Francisco, and I had to pay for my son’s visa twice over. Anyone would agree this was a frustrating experience and one that I had every right to complain about. But at the same time, I realized I could just as truthfully tell a magical story about this situation. Frankly, it was a miracle that the name-change documents for my ex-husband even still existed! Let alone that they were still in the home next door to mine, when he’d been in the process of moving! The fact that I had these physical documents in hand, that I had a day to spare to go to San Francisco, that my ex was available that day to receive a phone call verifying the story that I told them. The number of miracles that occurred throughout the whole thing was equal to or greater than the obstacles. In fact, I know it was greater because we got the visa and spent an amazing 3 weeks in Brazil as a family!
The point is not that I could tell either story, but that I could tell both, to myself and to others. I had a very challenging experience and in the exact same moments that I was being challenged, I was also having a magical experience of total synchronicity. Where we get into trouble is thinking we can only tell one story.
I have countless examples (and I do share more in the video version), including the story of my childhood – which I could just as easily tell from the perspective of how hard it was to grow up as the only child of a single mom on welfare, in a podunk ‘town’ full of off-the-grid-drug-dealers, as I could from the perspective of being blessedly born into a Buddhist Monastery and raised within a community of deep practitioners, learning the value of silence and meditation from before I could walk. They are both true and equally important for me to acknowledge.
When we are able to tell all our stories simultaneously, we allow our true wholeness to arise. An inner willingness to hold all of it, a recognition that we are big enough, wide enough, and vast enough to be the multitude of things, that we don’t have to choose the painful story or the empowering one—this is true freedom. We get to choose both and everything in between. All of it can exist within the same story, and within the same human.
So, rather than simply claim a more empowering story, we can own, see, hold, express and tell the whole story of who we are. In doing so, we truly become victorious owners of our life.
Want to go into detail? Watch the full video: