Hump Day Crush: The Stories We Tell

Storytelling is in our nature.

We do it to avoid unpleasant things and to make ourselves appear more enticing to others. We do it because we want something to be true. We do it to admonish ourselves. Sometimes we do it knowingly. Other times it sneaks up on us and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Regardless of the reason, the stories we tell can impact our relationships.

The most important relationship a story can effect is our relationship with ourselves.

If we tell good stories, good things can come into being. Good stories are based on truth, fact and good intention. They focus not only on what we want to bring into being, but on how we’re going to do it.

If we tell bad stories, bad things can happen. Bad stories are also known as lies. Lies are based on false pretense, illusions and negative emotions. They focus on things we want but that are improbable (at best) and often have no process of achievement behind them.
During those oh-so-important socially formative years known as the tweens and teens, I told a lot of stories. Some of them were good and hopeful, but most of them were lies I told myself. Most of them were attempts at explaining and justifying actions of myself and others without taking responsibility or seeking understanding.

The most negative and self-destructive of those stories were planted in my mind by my peers. I was, without a doubt, a bit socially awkward. And I most definitely did not fit the appearance mold of the “popular kid” in any way. As such I was predictably the target of some teen-age stigmatizing and hazing. Nothing too blatant and rarely anything physical. No, my peers were a little more creative than that.

They convinced me I was in love with perhaps the most unattainable girl in my class. I’ve told part of that story before. The important part here is that they weren’t completely at fault–I let them do it. I bought into the story. Why? Because I wanted so badly to believe it was true.

That deep desire–not a bad thing in and of itself–lead me to lie to myself. That one lie planted the seeds for dozens more that would undermine my social interactions for years. Some days I look back on those years and I’m amazed I survived. When I look back, though, I can see pretty clearly the bad stories I told myself and what I had to do to get on a less tragic track.

What did I do? I took a step back from myself. I looked at myself like I’d look at a character in a story. There really is nothing quite as odd as looking at yourself in the third person omniscient and for the first time seeing a bigger picture. Taking that stance pulled me above the blinders and roiling emotions that were confounding me.

Once my character was in context, I could begin to weed fact from hope and illusion from reality. It takes being very honest and tough on yourself to do that. That’s why a key part of any personal development is a willingness to face some hard truths and to let go of illusions we’ve wrapped ourselves in.

For me, the truth was I could have fit in if I had really wanted to. Deep down, however, I really wanted to be my own person and do things my own way. The social pressure of that tender age pushed in the opposite direction. The resulting conflict was the fertile ground where the bad story seeds grew.

The first relationship we have to get straight is the one we have with ourselves. We have to learn to be honest with ourselves, no matter how much it hurts or how much it shatters our cherished image of who we think we are. Very often we will find that we aren’t who we think we are and we’re not fooling anyone but ourselves by pretending. That’s something we can only see when we’ve taken that step back and looked at the whole story we’re trying to tell.

Once we have ourselves in context, we can more easily separate reality from fantasy. That ability–one that admittedly takes a lot of practice and is never quite fool proof–is the key to learning lessons from your crushes.

There are few stories as intriguing in our lives as those of love lost, found and never had. Through them, we can learn even more about ourselves and those around us. That’s what the Grown-Up Crush is all about–learning from our own stories.

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