If a Cauliflower Can Become a Pizza… Then You Can Become Anything
I. AM. The most powerful two words in the English language. Why? Because they create your reality, yes, but also because they determine your vitality.
American poet and feminist, Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” You see, humans are the most sophisticated chemical factory on the planet and the number one ingredient in the lab is our stories.
I remember in one of my early days of graduate school, at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (which has to be the LONGEST name ever for a school), learning one of the most valuable lessons of my life. Our professor, Ben Naylor, walked to the front of the room and placed a water bottle, filled to the brim, on the table next to two chairs. He then asked three volunteers to go to the front of the room where he instructed them to only do a few simple actions and to otherwise remain completely neutral (or as much as one could). They could only sit, stand, enter, exit, pour, or drink. They could not speak or impose any emotions or “story” onto the scene. We all watched in complete confusion while these actors began to do these seemingly mundane acts. But after watching for a few moments, low and behold a story had begun to emerge. Suddenly, we saw relationships, situations, settings, other worlds. We only realized upon conferring with each other at the end of this exercise that we had each seen something a little different. We had each projected some part of ourselves into the story. The lesson: the only storyteller in your life is you.
Let that sink in! Your life is autobiographical. You are the storyteller, the author, the actor, and the audience - you are the star of your show! Your life is your story, so you get to write it and edit often!
Now, every storyteller has a little baggage. So let’s be real about it... the hurt and pain that you keep with you from your past keeps you down, and stops you from being the boss-ass-bitch that you were meant to be.
I'm not simply talking about your attitude. Of course, negative thoughts and feelings burden your conscience, but that’s not where it stops. Think about it for a second… negative thoughts, feelings, or emotions — even if they are attached to a distant memory — create stress in your body. And stress makes very real physiological reactions — changes in heart rate, respiration, hormone release — which can all cause harm to your biology over time.
There was a famous study conducted by researcher Ellen Langer, in which Langer took a group of men living in their 70’s and 80’s and had them spend a week as if they had taken a time-machine back two decades prior. Their physical surroundings, the music, their language, everything around them changed - they were even encouraged to talk about what had happened to them twenty years ago. The interesting part is that even the men themselves had started to believe what was happening around them. After the week was over, their mental sharpness, joint flexibility, posture, and gait all tested superior to that of the control group. The men had changed their internal story from “I am old” to “I feel like I did twenty years ago.” Your body hears everything that your mind says! That simple mental storyshift had real life implications on their physical wellbeing!
I’m sharing this, from the perspective of a storyteller, but also as someone who’s been there and come out on the other side. Major kidney surgeries, a tonsillectomy, internal bleeding, broken arms, broken ribs, asthma, psoriasis, Lyme disease, and a lifetime of chronic sinusitis, colds, bruises, stitches, and burns — and guess what? I wake up everyday and choose a story of vitality. Because it’s always possible if you write it into your story.
So, how can you begin to change YOUR story? Here are my top tips for changing the story of your vitality:
1. Limiting beliefs
Ask yourself: what is true about me?
When we’re born, we’re perfect. And then throughout life, people tend to put their opinions onto us - family, friends, teachers, or just life’s experiences. It’s funny how certain memories can become ingrained in our minds, particularly emotional memories. Emotional intensity predicts whether an autobiographical experience will stick in our mind or not. Ok, what does that even mean? It means that the more intense an emotion (positive or negative) that is experienced in the moment, then the stronger the memory will stay with us or the more likely the memory is to become part of our story or our beliefs about ourselves. So, for example, that terribly embarrasing moment in grade school where you might have felt dumb, or less than, have a SIGNIFIGANTLY higher likelyhood of becoming a memory that sticks with your autobiograhical story than other moments from the same age.
Here’s an example of a limiting belief: I am a disappointment to my parents.
Here’s how your brain continues to perpetuate that belief: I’m afraid to do new things or put myself into vulnerable situations because I may continue to be a disappointment like I was that one time...
Here’s how you can reframe that belief: My past has led me to this moment, where I can be everything that I was always meant to be. I realize that the only person that I have disappointed is myself because I’m not trying. I AM capable. I CAN do anything!
Rewriting the past is a bit like turning back time in a nightclub with Cher - you’ve just got to let yourself dance freely, stop judging yourself, and remember to not take life too seriously. And to not be too serious about not taking yourself too seriously. Seriously. The other giant leap that has to be made is forgiving the people that have harmed us and most importantly, forgiving ourselves. Humans are walking around exchanging words, glances, and communication with each other all day, but we’re only ever saying two things - either ‘I love you’ or ‘I need help’. By acknowledging the pain that other people carry with them, forgiveness becomes easier. But more importantly, by acknowledging your own pain, you give yourself permission to forgive yourself and ultimately, to love yourself. When we’ve truly forgiven ourselves and the people around us, we tend to feel a sense of gratitude for having experienced the hard moments that we have. It’s that feeling when you look back at a trial or tough moment in your life and you can say, “I’m so glad that happened to me… I learned so much!”
3. Declare it
Finish your “I am” statement everyday. In the mirror. Remind yourself of who you are. I am beautiful. I am fierce. I am healthy. I am wealthy. I am successful. I am unstoppable. I am fearless. I am courageous. I am pretty. I am strong. I am abundant. I am rich. I am determined. I am focused. I am a powerful creator. I am grateful. I am blessed. I am a fighter. I am more than enough. I am a champion. I am ME. Your biology will hear you…