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It’s time to Rewrite your Story

Feature Image: Lex Weinstein

HI, I’M SCARED, WHAT’S YOUR NAME ?

I currently live in a small surf town and one question I’m asked a lot of is ‘do you surf?’

And my answer, up until recently, was always the same. Always a variation of: I mean, I’m trying. But I’m scared of big waves so it’s kind of hard to progress with so much fear.

When the waves got bigger, I got out.

I’ve always seen it as a simple explanation of my situation. Until someone recently spoke to me about identity narratives.

Psychological studies show that if people hear a lie, or repeat a lie to themselves, over and over again enough times, they will slowly start to believe it’s true. So, remember in school when you used to say ‘I’m not good at Maths’ or ‘I’m just not very good at English’? Usually the reason that happened was because you had a teacher you didn’t engage with one year, or you were distracted (cause, I mean, boys exist), or you found one topic challenging and lost your confidence. From there, you decided ‘I’m just not very good at that.’ And from there you wrote that into your identity, like it was a fixed, unchanging thing.

Photo @noateepee

You repeated the lie enough to yourself and others that you started to believe it was true. And from there, you started to limit yourself.

But recently I wondered, how many of these little facts we have about ourselves are actually just badly-written post-it notes of bullshit? Something we wrote a long time ago, that we were too lazy to go back and fact-check?

I can’t meditate. My mind won’t sit still.

I can’t just quit my job!  

I started yoga but I stopped because I’m not flexible. Maybe i’m just not a yoga person. 

Or maybe truths that are a bit further into the shadows.

I can’t open my heart fully because everyone I love always leaves me. I’m one of those people that’s hard to love and easy to leave.

I’m not one of those brave people that does crazy things.

I don’t think I really deserve to be happy.

By repeating your limits to others (I am scared of this, I am okay but not the best at this… Etc) as a facet of your identity you never have to fully extend yourself to your true potential, because no one expects you to.

“By repeating your limits to others (I am scared of this, I am okay but not the best at this… Etc) as a facet of your identity you never have to fully extend yourself to your true potential, because no one expects you to.”

Mine was: I’m scared of the ocean. I’m not brave enough. I don’t trust my own body enough to not panic when shit gets real (and out there, it can get real within five seconds.)

This has been my story. This has been my badge. For why I never really committed to surfing since I wanted to start at thirteen. But the thing is, this story kind of sucks. It’s a little bit boring, and a little bit lame, and as a writer I don’t want to be the mother of stories that are boring and lame. I want to be the mother of epic stories, great stories, stories of being awake and alive and brave.

Also, it’s actually a bit of a lie. I’m from the South Coast of Australia, I grew up in the freaking ocean. Somewhere along the way, for a reason now forgotten, I wrote fear into the story of me and the sea.

Photo: Gelika Heirbaut

IT’S TIME TO REWRITE YOUR STORY

So recently I started rewriting this identity narrative. I mean, I wrote the damn thing, didn’t I? I wrote the fear, the lack of faith in myself, the self incompetence into my story. I wrote that into my self identity, which in turn became how I presented myself to the world. Despite whatever happened to me, I wrote that fear with my own hand.

So don’t I have just as much power to remove it? Start a fresh page, a new page. And through what I say and do each day write a new Caitlin story?

A story where I am brave, and I can handle my fear when it seems like the ocean’s single purpose is to kill me (and flash my nipples to the whole line-up.)

A story where I have as much a right to be out in the sea on my board as any other person on this earth.

A story where I face the world open and brave, not like I’m constantly waiting in anxiety for the other shoe to drop.

Look at your story. Look at the ‘facts’ of your life that you’ve repeated to yourself over and over until they’ve become true. Pinpoint the excuses you have repeatedly used over the years that have kept you playing small. Really put a microscope on the fucking thing. Hold it up to the light.

Look at your story. Look at the ‘facts’ of your life that you’ve repeated to yourself over and over until they’ve become true. Pinpoint the excuses you have repeatedly used over the years that have kept you playing small. Really put a microscope on the fucking thing. Hold it up to the light.

With this in mind, it possible things aren’t quite what you thought after all?

Are you sure you can’t meditate?

Are you really not brave enough to book that flight? To quit that job you hate?

Are you sure you can’t start yoga? Because last time I checked, half the people in every class can’t even straighten their legs (me included). That’s the whole point of being a beginner, no?

You say you don’t dance in public. But what if you were to get up and dance? What then?

You can rewrite yourself as the brave one, the courageous one.

It all boils down to you.

So now, when people ask me if I surf, my new answer is a short, clean:

Yes.

About the Author:

Caitlin is a journalist and writer from Australia. She’s into collecting and sharing the stories of other human people. Mostly women’s stories. You can find her at @caitlincreeper

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