I’ve created an eight week course called The Empowered Women Project, and my current group of women is absolutely blowing my mind with their insights, breakthroughs, and willingness to get vulnerable. I am frequently moved to tears by the posts in our facebook group as they share their struggles, apply my material, and arrive in powerful new places.
One of the practices I teach is how to rewrite a disempowering narrative or belief.
The idea behind this practice is that everyone has deep-seated beliefs (both conscious and unconscious!) that inform our choices and behavior. Our beliefs feel “true” to us based on our unique life experience and mindset, but in reality we can really never know the objective and universal Truth about most things. Therefore many of our beliefs are just stories we tell ourselves based on own biased interpretation of the world, and often those stories hold us back.
Re-writing your narrative is about challenging those beliefs and stories by naming them, examining them, discovering how they’ve served you, deciding that you no longer need them, and then letting them go.
Anywhere you feel stuck, struggling, or frustrated, there is probably a limiting belief or disempowering narrative standing in your way.
When I teach people how to break apart and rewrite disempowering narratives, a big part of the process is understanding that the old stories served a valuable purpose. We don’t hold onto stuff for no reason. While it may not seem that way at first, all of our limiting beliefs offered us a gift at some point.
For example, if someone believes that she’ll never find true love, she might never put herself out there, and end up feeling depressed and lonely. If she decided to examine and rewrite that story, she might acknowledge that the old belief actually protected her from trying and being rejected. What a gift that was! But now she might decide she no longer needs that protection, because she’s finally brave and strong enough to face potential rejections in service of finding true love.
The following is a post written by Lisa Ziviello, one of the amazing women in my group, explaining the inner process of rewriting her long-held and deeply-rooted belief that she’s not pretty. I’m sharing it as a real-life example of how powerful challenging your beliefs and rewriting your narratives can be, and how much courage, vulnerability, and emotional labor go into this kind of deep inner work.
I left her entire post as is, because I found that she guides the reader through her reframing process with specificity, clarity, and playfulness.
I Feel Pretty…Stuck.
My disempowering narrative is “I’m not pretty.” I know this without a doubt. This “story” has been around for as long as I can remember. Probably since about 2nd or 3rd grade when I was often mistaken for a boy due to my short haircut.
But whenever I try to work out why I think this disempowering thought, it goes something like this…
Jessi: Think of a narrative or belief you’re struggling to let go of.Lisa: I’m not pretty. Variations include: I don’t feel pretty, I’m not attractive, andI know I’m not a hideous troll, but I don’t think I’m pretty.Jessi: How does this narrative or belief serve you? People don’t cling to things that don’t serve us in some way, so try to identify what believing in that narrative offers you.Lisa: I have no f@cking idea.Jessi: <insert helpful advice here to help me get unstuck>
But of course Jessi can’t insert the answer. No one can. I have to find the answer. And so when I can’t figure it out, I give up, and kick the can down the road…until the disempowering thought stops me in my tracks again.
Recently, I met a woman named Janett through the Empowered Women Project group. Her Facebook post about how she struggles with comparing herself to other women that she feels are prettier than herself resonated with me. It hit me so strongly, I not only replied to her post, I asked if we could continue to talk via private messenger. As we chatted, it felt like she was voicing everything that was in my mind. Her disempowering thought was that by not being pretty enough, she would go unnoticed and unloved. Yep. Exactly. We chatted and shared and I felt like she truly understood what I was feeling. I felt safe to talk and think and keep thinking without giving up like I usually do. And I ended up saying something I’ve never said before.
“I’ve made it impossible to ever be beautiful.”
And here’s how I’ve done that. In my mind, I created a set of criteria for what makes someone pretty, beautiful, or attractive.
So you can see, of my 10 criteria, I meet 2. 2! And 1 isn’t naturally me. It requires me to alter my natural curls. And 1 is consistently a struggle for me. So when a zit or two crops up and my curls are big and messy, I’ve got 0 things that make me pretty. 0.
I’ve made it impossible to be pretty. So my declaration of “I’m not pretty”—based on my criteria—is a correct statement. And by continuing to believe this statement, I get to be right.
Holy $hit! I get to be right! Of course I’m not going to drop my narrative! Who wants to admit she’s wrong and has been wrong for nearly 40 years?
(Can your hear my head exploding?)
Ok, so here’s another part of this disempowering narrative. My “higher self” says that pretty is not important. It’s not essential to being beautiful and attractive to others. But another part of me just isn’t buying it. Here’s the vicious cycle I get stuck in…
Now, the one positive of this vicious cycle is that I do remind myself that looks don’t really matter and that being pretty doesn’t really give you more value. I remind myself (again, thanks to Janett) of the things that do make us attractive and beautiful: warmth, kindness, intelligence, a sense of humor, openness, confidence, making others feel good by sharing the very best of you. Sure, looks are a part of it, but only in a surface-level and temporary way.
But see here’s the thing, things like confidence and being “big” and open around people, those things take work, especially for me. And being pretty (according to me) is just something you are or you’re not. No work involved. And not only that, in my mind, not only does being pretty equal having value, being noticed, and having worth. Being pretty means you get those things without having to do or be anything else. You don’t have to be kind or confident or warm or funny. You just automatically get your value. In essence, you don’t have to do any work.
Still with me?
So by believing that pretty is the easy path to value, worth, and attraction and by consistently chasing and focusing on that path only, I’m avoiding the important work that really matters. By sticking with this narrative, I get to be lazy. I get to avoid doing the work. I get to avoid doing the work it takes to be a better, stronger, and beautiful human being.
And here’s the final “kick me while I’m down” narrative.
If I’ve accepted that “being pretty” is just one, small component of what is needed to be beautiful and attractive, then what’s the problem? If I know there are a laundry list of other things that really matter, then why am I stuck? Because somewhere along the way—from the age of 8 until right freakin’ night—I made it a necessary component. One that cannot be left out. So if I’ve made it impossible for me to be pretty, and being pretty is necessary in order to have value, then in effect, I have made it impossible for me to have value.
Well, no wonder I keep giving up. Believing you have no value (and no shot at ever having value) makes it hard to want to work things out. And by buying into the thought that “being pretty is a vital component for value,” I give myself permission to stay stuck. It allows me to stay small.
By believing that I’m not pretty, I get to be right, lazy, and small.
So, let’s take it from the top one more time:
Jessi: Think of a narrative or belief you’re struggling to let go of.Lisa: I’m not pretty. Variations include: I don’t feel pretty, I’m not attractive, andI know I’m not a hideous troll, but I don’t think I’m pretty.Jessi: How does this narrative or belief serve you? People don’t cling to things that don’t serve us in some way, so try to identify what believing in that narrative offers you.Lisa: By believing I’m not pretty based on impossible to meet criteria that I’ve made up, I get to be right. By believing that being pretty is the “easy” path to value and worth, and focusing only on that, I get to avoid doing the work that really matters. By believing that being pretty is a vital component to attraction and beauty—and then denying myself that component—I get to stay small.Jessi: Do you want to stay small?Lisa: F@ck. No.
I am passionate about helping women learn to love their bodies. That includes unlearning what a woman “should” be, feeling empowered and confident in yourself, embracing your authentic power, and creating a life so kick-ass and beautiful that you hardly have any time or energy left over to think about how your body looks. 😉
That’s why I created The Empowered Women Project
— for women like you, who are sick of being judged for what you look like, and want to focus instead on all the amazing things you can do and be. Click here to know more
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