Lessons in Badassery III: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The Book: You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Jen Sincero. Running Press, 2013.

I skipped a lot of things this week: the gym (twice), a few meals, and the Thursday adventure I intended to write here.  Mea culpla, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

In my defense, I was actively and attentively* doing exercises from You are a Badass.

*See “Procrastination” below

The chapters for today’s adventure all deal with some pretty heavy stuff: the stories we tell ourselves, procrastination, overwhelm, and fear.  The main exercise in this portion of the books is to identify the stories that hold you back, determine their false benefits to you, and then replace them with a better story to tell yourself.

I. DID. NOT. WANT. TO. DO. THIS.  Of course, I did/do want to do this exercise for my long-term well being, but it seemed, once I really read the instructions, like the self-help version of a colonoscopy [Disclaimer: I’ve never had a colonoscopy, so I don’t actually know, but it does seem rather unpleasant]. It’s good for you, you gotta do it, but MAN OH MAN wouldn’t it be nicer to avoid it?

You see, examining your stories, the ones you tell yourself about yourself and why you aren’t where you want to be in certain areas of your life is f**king terrifying uncomfortable.  This is where you hold the mirror up, look yourself in the eyes, and say, “This is what I believe about me.”  And I did not want to, no sir, thank you, and GOOD DAY!

Quick recap of how this relates to the chapters on overwhelm and fear:

  • Overwhelm: There are a lot of stories, and this seemed like, and still seems like, a very big project.
  • Fear: I’m terrified of what I think of me, of what you might think of me, of these stories I’ve made my truth, and of the vulnerability it takes to look in that mirror. Oh, I knew the stories were there, lurking under the surface like some giant monster that might eat my psyche.  Something like this:


Look at those teeth! So sharp and pointy! I believe this is called a gigantosaurus.

Clearly, the answer to this conundrum, this fear and overwhelm, was to just do it procrastination!  Rather to my detriment, that is something at which I excel.  It’s amazing how you can find 1,000 things that you have to do right this very minute before you can possibly begin the Thing You’re Supposed to Actually Be Doing. The procrastination took the following forms:

  1. Yoga, because I “needed to center myself” first.
  2. Sleep, because I “needed to be better rested” first (one night I even went to bed at 7 p.m.).
  3. The gym, to “get that out of the way” first (but hey, I finally went!).
  4. Rearranging my whole. damned. apartment. Because I “needed the energy to flow better” first.

This could have gone on for days…for weeks…for a lifetime.  After four days though, I decided I didn’t really have anything that important to keep me from doing it, now that I’m centered, rested, worked out, and surrounded by good-flowing energy.

So…my stories. There are 25.  And this is probably just a preliminary list.

Jen tells us to be very aware of phrases such as “I should,” “I always,” “I never,” “I can’t,” etc.  I had a couple of those, but most of my stories start with “I’m too” or “I’m not”.  That was interesting to note.  They also fall into four main categories.  I tell myself stories about:

  • my chronic singledom
  • my less-than-ideal finances
  • my calling in life/being what I really want to be when I grow up
  • my body

Remember, these aren’t fun, happy fairy-tale stories.  These are the things that hold us back from the lives we want to be leading.  Here’s one from each category:

  • I’m not interesting enough for anyone to want to be in a relationship with me.
  • I can’t do the things I want because I don’t have enough money.
  • I’m not smart enough to write a whole novel.
  • I’m too old to have a really great body.

These are the stories I find myself telling myself.  AND THEN I knew I was gonna have to blog about it?  Quite frankly, it’s a surprise I only put it off for four days!

Part two of the exercise is to then identify the false benefits of continuing to tell yourself these stories by doing a sort of stream-of-consciousness journal about them.  Rather than making you read all of that, it boils down to “things are terrible, and I am not good enough, and the benefit of this terribleness is that I don’t have to try and I get to be right for thinking that things are terrible.”

These are stupid stories.  They come from habit and from upbringing and from anxiety.  Who knows if they’re even true stories.  But I don’t want them to be.

The last part of the exercise is to let go of those stories and create new ones to replace them.  I haven’t gotten there yet, but once I’ve procrastinated a little more (I really do need to do laundry!), I’m gonna make up a story about being a badass magical unicorn.  Which, by the way, I now have one of those tattooed to my body.

One more time, go buy this book.  Seriously.

Next Time: The Final Lessons in Badassery


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