Letting Go of Our Old Stories

letting go, old stories, intention

Letting Go of Our Old Stories

I often find inspiration in the writings of others, particularly when the writer manages to capture the essence of something that resonates with me. Jonathan Fields is one of those people who comes at his topics in an unusual way. Take this story about two people who were asked to draw a cat, an article that’s gone from his site–but let’s pretend it’s still there. The first, a business-type, drew a stick figure cat, like we drew as kids. The other, an artist, drew a real sketch of the cat in front of her.

The difference is that the artist was trained and practiced not just in the art of drawing, but in the art of seeing. Dropping the filters, leaving behind the childhood patterns and imprints that stopped her from observing what was actually right in front of her. The objective image, rather than the conjured illusion of sight.

The conjured illusion–those imprinted images from our childhood, our marital arguments or the critical first boss. The images or words we’ve held tightly in place all those years. The ones we’ve allowed to seep into our image of ourselves. The artist placed herself in the moment and recreated what she was seeing. By being present she wasn’t letting those old voices, or illusions, control her.

It’s possible that you have an old voice or image stuck in your head. An utterance that you heard and held on to–that has shaped your trajectory through life. Mine came from my mother and it had to do with all the things I did wrong when it came to boys. Boys wouldn’t like me for being too assertive. I would look prettier if I wore more makeup. Blah, blah. I allowed those criticisms to become my story. I heard that voice and I held on to it for far too many years. They started up again when I divorced–same message, different words.

Maybe you’ve heard so many scary stories about menopause that you’re convinced your journey will be awful. Or childhood teachings about sex still make you feel shameful when you desire sex. Or you believed the boss when he called you incompetent.

Dani Shapiro, in Moments of Being, talks about her inner tension as a writer. “…be sure the voice I am most listening to is my own”. How will you know it’s your own voice and not the tape playing in your head? It may feel calm, it may incite passion or a frisson of delight. You may feel a little nervous at the energy surging forth.  Our inner voice is never negative. It may challenge us and nudge. But never berate or scold. That’s not our true voice. That one is a learned pattern, a co-opting of someone’s else voice.

You can start to challenge, and erase, those unhelpful voices by being present to what your body feels. It’s a process of letting go. Allow yourself to hear the old story, but don’t act on it–I like to visualize it as a wave coming up on the beach. I caught myself recently saying something to a friend and realized that I was using ‘my story’ not telling my truth. And, those are two different things–particularly if you’re a storyteller. So used to telling that story that I didn’t even know I was doing it. I caught myself and was able to say wait that’s not really how it is.

Equally damaging is the habit of not fully hearing praise or kind words. We deflect the compliment or pretend we didn’t really hear it.  I was on a webinar with Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder last week. He asked us to jot down the message we wanted to convey to our reader/client/buyer. I wrote mine down and shared in the comment box. He saw mine first and read it aloud calling it powerful.  He said it gave him goosebumps.  All the moments of self-doubt, the moments of ‘you’ll never be good enough’ melted away as I took in that affirmation. I felt his connection and allowed myself to absorb it. It cancelled out the old story. It’s not that I’ll now walk around with his praise as my new story; what happened was that some barrier disappeared. It was immediate. Tears flowed and I got the energetic charge that comes with feeling the rightness of something. It’s hard to explain but when it happens we know it.

Before I went to bed that night I shared the story with a friend. After saying good night, as I settled in to my bed I had a little giggling fit (much easier to do when there’s not another person in bed wondering if you’re going mad) and then a few tears and more giggles. It was ecstasy. Finding that moment of true accord–when what you know you want to do with your life feels like a right fit at that exact moment.

To let go of our old stories we have to be aware of their existence in the first place. And, then we get to simply make them disappear. It begins with not stepping into the old story. Let it wash over our toes and slide back into the ocean. We remain intact, firmly grounded in the sand–discarding that old myth we’ve taken on. It’s the beginning of seeing and living with eyes wide open.

Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

  • Carol Cassara
    Posted at 09:58h, 16 June Reply

    Not everyone is willing to take the hard look, but you’re right, we have to know ourselves to get rid of those voices.

    • Walker
      Posted at 10:17h, 16 June Reply

      No they aren’t. As I’ve been known to say, “I’m comfortable with my discomfort”. We are often afraid of getting uncomfortable, even knowing that the change might be far better!

  • Erica Jagger
    Posted at 11:03h, 16 June Reply

    I love this post, Walker. I agree, I think the meaning we make from the stories we tell ourselves has the power to hold us back or push us forward. Kind of like the “victim” and survivor” narratives — how it make someone to feel to think of themselves as the victim of trauma or the survivor of trauma. These little phrases going through our heads mean so much. Re-framing lousy narratives is tough, but so important.

    • Walker
      Posted at 12:05h, 16 June Reply

      Thank you Erica. There is a similarity to the victim/survivor label. We can re-vision any of our stories, our successes and our “mis-steps”.

  • Laura
    Posted at 11:56h, 16 June Reply

    Wow. Just wow. I’m taking a break from my real job this morning and reading this…so glad I work at home because this made me cry because I realized in a couple of areas in my life–just recently–I’ve listened to the *wrong* voices.
    “…be sure the voice I am most listening to is my own”. How will you know it’s your own voice and not the tape playing in your head? It may feel calm, it may incite passion or a frisson of delight. You may feel a little nervous at the energy surging forth. Our inner voice is never negative. It may challenge us and nudge. But never berate or scold. That’s not our true voice. That one is a learned pattern, a co-opting of someone’s else voice.

    • Walker
      Posted at 12:07h, 16 June Reply

      Oh Laura. I’m sorry and glad. Nothing changes until we see it and own it. Isn’t it amazing how that little moment of insight rocks us to our core! Thank you for sharing that. I now know this was the right post for today!

  • Lynne
    Posted at 16:50h, 16 June Reply

    Wonderful, Walker. For the most part I am able to listen to me, though I was blessed with great parents and a great spouse. My sticking point was comparing myself to my peers and once I stopped, my voice boomed.

    • Walker
      Posted at 20:50h, 16 June Reply

      That’s pretty fabulous! Awareness is such a powerful tool! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Connie McLeod
    Posted at 17:01h, 16 June Reply

    Thanks for taking us all along on your journey.

    • Walker
      Posted at 20:50h, 16 June Reply

      Thank you Connie; we all have stories to share with the hopes of providing something of value to others. It’s how I feel when I read others’ works.

  • Mindy
    Posted at 18:06h, 16 June Reply

    It has taken me a lifetime to learn to listen to recognize AND, more importantly, listen to my own voice. The gift of discernment is huge. Thank you, Walker, for a wonderful post.

    • Walker
      Posted at 20:53h, 16 June Reply

      Yes, yes, yes Mindy!!! I’m right there with you–discernment is the perfect word!

  • Brian Buchbinder
    Posted at 20:39h, 16 June Reply

    I’ve learned to take compliments in a way that’s better for me and better for the person doing it. I will generally ask someone if they are willing to hear what I call an “appreciation” but I don’t require it of “civilians”.

    Very simply. When I receive a compliment, whether I believe it’s “merited” or “true of me”, I take a breath, pay attention to the giver and say “thank you.” That’s it. I take in the compliment and the intention behind it, and the person who gave it feels like I heard it and received it, rather than batting it away.

    • Walker
      Posted at 20:54h, 16 June Reply

      Yep. I get it. I try to just breathe and say thanks as well. I have a friend who nudges and if she compliments me and I don’t fully get it she’ll push the point! Thanks for sharing this–always nice to see/hear a male voice.

  • Linda Crowe
    Posted at 14:59h, 17 June Reply

    Wonderful post, Walker. Thank you for sharing it. And yes – those little messages – bad or good – are powerful.

    • Walker
      Posted at 13:00h, 19 June Reply

      Thanks Linda. They are powerful and once we ‘own’ them they lose their power over us. Don’t you think?

  • Cathy Chester
    Posted at 07:29h, 24 June Reply


    First I want to say what a strong and gifted writer you are. Your imagery lead me through the exercise of what you are discussing. That is not always an easy thing to do as a writer, but yet you do it beautifully.

    Yes, our old stories haunt us, and letting go of them would free up a lot of emotional baggage. I’m going to use the ocean visual because it sounds perfect for my needs. Marci Rich just introduced me to Dani Shapiro, but I’ve been too busy to take a look at her stuff. With you cementing Marci’s suggestion I’ll try to take more time!

    Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I think this is also true of our old stories. We can rediscover and redo our stories as we evolve; we are not the sum of our old stories. Like our names, we are who we are because of our spirituality and what is inside our souls…

    I just love this post.

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:36h, 24 June Reply

      Cathy, thank you. I find that when I’m writing something that speaks deeply to me my writing is better. The ocean visual was a therapist/coach’s suggestion and being a water baby, it resonates for me. Sometimes I name the waves as they wash in- “ah, that’s sadness, that one is frustration.”

      Glad this came at the right time for you.

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