Tell yourself a different story
Words by Erin Sullivan of Erin Outdoors, photos by Ali V. This post is the second in a four-part series on BLDG25 about challenging yourself and living adventurously.
We all have stories we tell ourselves, and they are not always true.
After college, I became a full-time adventure trip leader for teenagers. I would see the stories they told themselves every time we faced an obstacle.
“I can’t hike up this mountain.”
“I don’t know how to cook. Dinner is not going to be good if I cook it.”
“I am not a good leader, and I can’t facilitate a group discussion.”
My participants would prove themselves wrong in some capacity 100% of the time. At 16 years old, the high schoolers on my trips were climbing mountains. They were making themselves dinners that were delicious, and they were leading their groups in thought-provoking, enriching conversations and debriefs.
In high school, I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer. I told myself that it was too big of a dream– I was scared to let myself down, so I thought it would be better to abandon the goal altogether.
In my adult life, I am acutely aware of the stories I tell myself, and even now I make things up about myself: about my capabilities, my creativity, and how the world perceives me.
If you were told you were going to die in a month, you might abandon the stories you tell yourself. You might stop making the excuses that hold you back from living bigger and better.
You think you look bad in that dress? I guarantee someone thinks you look beautiful.
You think you aren’t good enough for that promotion? Work hard and check in with yourself constantly, and if you’re not growing in your current job, maybe it’s time to look for a new one.
Challenging the stories we tell ourselves takes courage and an incredible amount of compassion. Being kind to yourself is not a skill society teaches. Self-work takes work, patience and love.
If you think you can’t climb the mountain, whatever that means to you, I challenge you to see what happens if you tried. What would happen if you abandoned the stories you’ve always told yourself about how you “can’t”? What would happen if you moved beyond your excuses and gave yourself the chance to fail?
Most of the time, the worst that could happen is not nearly as bad as we think it is. Failure is an opportunity for learning, and provides more growth than your excuses could ever give you. Next time you hear yourself saying you can’t do something, challenge it.
Climb the mountain. I won’t be surprised when you get to the top.
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Erin runs a blog called Erin Outdoors, which is a documentation of her experiences traveling and out in the backcountry. For more about Erin, check out her blog at erinoutdoors.com and her Instagram at @erinoutdoors, and be sure to follow her on FP Me for even more inspiration!
Ali V. is a photographer based in Boulder, Colorado. Find her more of her work at Ali-V.co or on Instagram at @alisonvagnini.
Man, I sure don’t look so pretty/sexy when I go hiking ;-) Awesome shots though, I wanna get in the mountains now!
That was so inspiring. I tend to hold back at times.
Thanks for this great encouragement
Love this blog post. So inspiring and gives you that little boost for when you are feeling low. Thanks for sharing!