Stories we tell ourselves: When did I get so afraid?

Recently I realised that in my own head, I’ve been telling myself I’m an adrenalin junkie.

It happened when my family and I went to what’s known in the German-speaking part of the world as a Seilpark.

Lib High WireThat’s me up there, balancing on the high wire. I look pretty Mission Impossible if I do say so myself.

It didn’t start out like that, though.

As I approached my first flying fox at maybe only 15 or 20 metres off the ground, I had a real, unscheduled moment of panic.

Not just: ‘Oh heck, what have I gotten myself into?’, though.

More like: ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I shouldn’t be up here.’

Mission Impossible not so much.

I pulled myself together pretty fast, but I had to actively engage my presence and will-power to force myself to breathe and to *feel* it in my body … to get out of my head.

So I stepped out … and it was fine. I had a blast.

But then came the self-criticism. 

‘What?! Seriously, what?! You gave birth, woman! Twice! This is just a flying fox!’

I even felt sad after that. Because, you know, poor me. Getting old. Getting pathetic.

Something's wrong! by @libby_ol

You see, it was not a comfortable experience to be confronted with a fear I’d never experienced before in my life. I’ve always kept up with my fast downhill skier pals. I’ve ridden the fastest roller coasters, jumped off the highest diving-boards.

Maybe it was partly about getting older, or being more aware that unless we move our bodies every day we lose the battle to stay fit. Maybe it was seeing my daughter launching herself blithely into the forest canopy, headed towards adulthood … without needing her mum.

To be frank, I don’t think it matters. The important part of it for me was that I noticed the story I had in my head. And I noticed it wasn’t a helpful one. It set up expectations about how I would behave … about who I was. And (when I didn’t behave as I expected) who I wasn’t.

In the branding and marketing worlds, I see a lot of content about the importance of ‘knowing your story’, or your pitch. I’ve peddled this line myself, and I still do, when I teach Story Fundamentals workshops, and when I do consulting, because it’s a fabulous skill to acquire, to be able to ask the right questions and separate plot from theme, or goals from values.

It’s great for personal branding. Great for clarifying web content. Great for finding the plot of your novel and the soul of your story.

But I’d recommend revisiting your IRL story frequently. Take a look at how you talk about yourself on your personal website or your blog. Listen to the things you say about yourself.

Because it’s so easy to get stuck in a thought … or a narrative. And it’s easy to let that story guide our actions.

I don’t think of myself as an adrenalin junkie any more. But I haven’t really looked for a replacement story. I’m just taking it as it comes.

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