Dec. 28, 2022

The Not Good Stories We Tell About Ourselves

Who else was in tears laughing at Kelly this week? 

If you haven't listened yet, I won't spoil it - please do. In short, Kelly is an incredible storyteller who takes her own embarrassing moments and shares them to empower others (wearing sequins pants = choosing brave). As someone who once had a blog that literally focused on doing the same, I truly resonate with Kelly.

Our worst moments are so humiliating in live time, that most often we think "I could never tell anyone this." To this, I say nope. 

These cringe-worthy anecdotes we collect throughout life, when shared, make us recognize that we aren't alone. It makes us more relatable. It deepens connections. It highlights that we are all, as a matter of fact, so ridiculously imperfect. I love people like Kelly - and the people who don't simply haven't learned to embrace this in themselves.

In 2012, I served as an orientation crew leader to lead new freshman through their first week at college (God bless them). As I attempted walking and talking at the same time while guiding them through Boston, I proceeded to walk into a pole. As I laughed it off, one of my students said, "Molly, you seem like a really fun person to be around." This is one of the most on-brand moments I've ever had: that is exactly how I wanted the stupidest things I did to be perceived. They didn't make me humiliating - they made me fun. And they made great stories.

And that's exactly what Kelly wanted us to take away from it: the stories we write become the life that we live.

My life would be so much more miserable if I saw these moments as reasons to believe I'm a failure. And there are times the mean voice in my head tells me that: "Why can't you just grow up and be graceful like them? She's so refined. Why can't you just carry yourself that way? You're immature. You're too loud. You're clumsy, and everyone can see it." I'll never forget the day someone told me "you remind me of a young Sandra Bullock... just... more klutzy." 

So I reframe it: "You are hilarious. The things you do make people laugh - and the people who don't appreciate it are projecting self-consciousness about their inability to embrace the less serious side of themselves. That being said, you are lucky. And I'll take any kind of Sandra Bullock with 'just more' anything."

I know this is a particularly funny example, and that some embarrassing moments really are painfully humiliating. Maybe you said something that you later realized was ignorant or ill-informed. Perhaps you accidentally spilled your boss's hot coffee all over their laptop. That text that was supposed to be about them but instead went to them? Yeah. Been there. We can hate ourselves for it, or we can tell ourselves that we aren't the first or last to do it, and we're learning. No one is exempt from learning.

What would it look like if we re-wrote our stories?

If "too sensitive" became empathetic.
If "high-strung" became detail-oriented.
If "awkward" became unique.
If "anxious" became protective.
If "angry" became passionate.
If "lost" became on a journey.

Have you written something about yourself that has become the life you're living - and do you need to rewrite it? If so, it's okay. We're all, on some level, working on a draft.

- MJ