The Stories We Build For Ourselves

I recently heard a radio show that told the story of a man who came to the states as an immigrant when he was a child. A teacher saw how brilliant he was and brought him to a special school, which in turn got him a scholarship to Harvard.

 The main gist of the show was that this man didn’t tell the story from the perspective of “I’m a genius, I got what I deserved because of my hard work.” He chose another story, a story that involved extreme gratefulness for all of the people that had contributed to his happiness as a person.

His wife said that he is the most positive person she has ever met. That when he gets news, even hard news, she sees him choose how he will respond to it. That he will respond to it with the attitude of “my life is beautiful no matter what.” What a concept: that our attitudes don’t have to be something that are forced upon us but are something we choose.

Listen to this beautiful quote:

“These stories we tell about ourselves, they’re almost like our infrastructure. Like railroads or highways. We can build them almost any way we want to, but once they’re in place, this whole inner landscape grows up around them. So maybe the point here is that you should be careful about how you tell your story. Or at least conscious of it. Because once you’ve told it, once you’ve built the highway, it’s just very hard to move it. ”

I heard this and started thinking about my infrastructure, the one I have built for myself over the years. The story that I tell and the story that I live in.

I have had some disappointing things happen this week. I got my hopes up- and they came crashing down. I did things that I regretted and have been obsessing over them.  And the story, the infrastructure, that I have built around myself is crashing in on me, suffocating me.

Here are some of the stories I have told myself:

I am a victim.

Everyone who I love leaves me.

No one likes what they see when they really get to know me.

My mind is not healthy.

I am alone. I will always be alone.

Honestly, some of these infrastructures are not my fault. They were built up when I was a child. The truth is, humans helped build my story and hurt me deeply, building up my ideas of who I am and what the world looks like.

But now that I am an adult, I can give myself a new story, especially if I work hard every day to change the story I was given when I was young. I may have been a victim as a child, but now that I am an adult I am a volunteer. I am the only one who can tear down the old stories and can retell them and make them beautiful.

It takes a lot of work to do this. We need to bravely tear our way through these walls that are built up around us. We must tell ourselves “God never leaves you.” “You are beautiful” “I am thankful for my life.” Even when things are at their darkest, it is our choice.

Deuteronomy 30:19 says “Today I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live.”

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is what am I doing today, this very day, to choose life as the infrastructure I am building? Infrastructures are built one brick at a time, and every day we add onto it, for the good or for the bad.

What story will you choose to live in today?