Skip to content

We all have a story – the narrative we tell ourselves about our lives based on our past experiences. This story shapes our identity and our beliefs about what we are capable of. Unfortunately, the stories from our past can often hold us back in the present and prevent us moving forward into the future we truly desire.

Many of us cling to old stories that no longer serve us. Stories of trauma, failure, rejection, or injustice. These stories trap us as victims, convince us we are flawed or not good enough, and lead us to self-sabotage. Even positive stories from the past, like early success or talent, can limit us when we cling too tightly to one version of ourselves. As time passes, our stories can become outdated. What was once true for us may no longer hold weight over the person we have become.

Here are just a few examples of how your past story may be affecting your current trajectory:

  • You explain away opportunities or positive events in your life as flukes, exceptions, or ‘too good to be true’ based on old stories of inadequacy or unworthiness.
  • You self-sabotage relationships, health goals, career progression, or personal growth out of fear of failure, betrayal, or repeating painful history.
  • You dismiss compliments, downplay your strengths, avoid risks, and set small goals – influenced by old stories of what you were capable of.
  • You ruminate on your mistakes, failures, abuses or injustice in the past – perpetuating stories of being damaged, stained, or limited by your history.

The problem is, when we stay stuck in old stories, we reinforce them as truth again and again. We filter new experiences through these stories, cherry pick details that validate them, and ignore evidence that contradicts them. Soon we are unable to see our lives through any other lens.

The Story of Cinderella

With any set of facts, we could tell thousands of stories. Since most of us know the story of Cinderella, let’s use it as an example.

Facts:

  • Cinderella’s father remarried a woman with two daughters after his wife passed away
  • Cinderella did chores around the house
  • The stepmother said words
  • The sisters said words
  • Cinderella said words
  • There was a prince
  • The prince held a ball

Optional Stories:

  1. Poor Cinderella was mistreated by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters every day. She was forced to clean the house from top to bottom while they went to balls and parties. “It’s just not fair!” Cinderella cried as she scrubbed the floors. No matter how hard she worked, her stepfamily was never satisfied. They called her names like “Cindersmella” and laughed at her rags for clothes. Cinderella felt helpless and alone, wishing on stars that someday her life would change.
  2. Cinderella brought her troubles onto herself. She was given a roof over her head and food to eat by her stepmother, but she didn’t appreciate it. She was lazy and resentful about doing chores, when she should have been grateful for what she had. Cinderella felt entitled to go to the ball even though she didn’t earn that privilege. Her stepfamily saw that she needed to learn respect and humility before being rewarded. Maybe if Cinderella worked harder and complained less, she would have been treated better.
  3. Though dealt a difficult hand, Cinderella persevered with grace and courage. Even when her cruel family tried to break her spirit, she maintained hope and continued to dream. Against all odds, Cinderella found a way to attend the ball and meet the prince. Her resilience was rewarded when the glass slipper fit and she lived happily ever after. Cinderella’s story inspires people to overcome adversity through faith in oneself. Though the world tries to hold us down, we each have the power to transcend our circumstances.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves Become Our Limiting Beliefs

Here is the great secret: The past does not dictate the future, unless we let it. Our stories are just that – stories. And there are always many ways to tell the story of our lives. We can shift from stories that limit us to stories that empower us, if we have the courage.

Let’s return to Cinderella. Imagine her backstory of hardship, servitude, and oppression at the hands of her cruel stepmother. This story may have caused Cinderella to develop beliefs like:

“I am weak.”

“I don’t deserve nice things.”

“I will never get out of this situation.”

“There’s no point trying to change my life.”

“My dreams will never come true.”

These beliefs then prevented Cinderella from pursuing her dreams and improving her circumstances.

But Cinderella could choose to rewrite her story and develop empowering beliefs instead:

“I am resilient.”

“I deserve happiness.”

“My future is unwritten.”

“I have the power to change my story.”

“Anything is possible.”

This shift in narrative allowed Cinderella to dare to hope for a different life. And that hope fueled her courage to pursue the prince at the ball, ultimately changing her trajectory.

Your Past Does Not Have to Be Prologue

The key realization is this: you get to decide how to tell the story of your past. You can shift the narrative whenever you’re ready.

Your story can be about all the ways you’ve been mistreated or about how you learned how to love and take care of yourself.

Your story can be about all the ways you’ve failed or all the things you’ve learned.

Your story can be about all the mistakes you’ve made or the amazing amounts of courage you’ve had to go after your dreams and tackle things you’ve never done before.

We don’t have to change what happened in the past to change your past. Because your past only exists in your mind. It is the story you choose to tell about the things that happened.

Here are steps to rewrite your self-limiting stories:

1. Identify stories from your past that are limiting you. What narratives, assumptions or conclusions did you internalize?

2. Challenge their validity. Do these stories align with who you are today? What evidence contradicts them?

3. Release attachment to the past version of yourself. Acknowledge how far you’ve come.

4. Ask what “else” is true. What alternative stories or truths were overlooked?

5. Rewrite the narrative with empowering language. How else could this story be told? Consider making yourself the hero of the story, on a hero’s journey.

6. Reinforce the new story through daily thoughts, words and actions. Give yourself permission to believe the new story.

With consistent effort, you can reshape your inner narrative. The past will lose its grip, freeing you up for new choices and direction. I know because I’ve done it myself.

Jeni’s Story: From Damaged to Healed

For 15 years I told myself I was broken – emotionally damaged from events in my adolescence that left me feeling unlovable, inferior and ashamed. This story shaped my self-image and sabotaged my relationships. I acted insecure and needy, unable to trust that anyone could truly care for the real me.

But the person I am today is not that hurt, angry teenager. When I realized I was still acting from my old broken narrative, I decided to take my power back. Here is how I rewrote my story:

Original Story: I am damaged and unlovable because of things that happened in my past.

Revised Narrative: I am a strong survivor who has overcome great challenges. I am worthy of deep connection and unconditional love.

Original Story: I can’t let people get too close because they’ll hurt me.

Revised Narrative: I can set healthy boundaries in relationships. I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Original Story: I will always struggle with low self-worth because of my past.

Revised Narrative: My past does not determine my self-worth. I can choose to value myself and cultivate confidence.

The shift was difficult at first. I still heard echoes of the old stories reverberating through my mind. But I was determined to show up differently, especially in my intimate relationships. As I shared more of myself vulnerably, I realized I was lovable after all. My new story became self-fulfilling, and over time felt just as real and true as my old damaged narrative once did.

I had to mourn and release my old story incrementally before fully embracing the new one. But the payoff was worth it. I broke free of limiting patterns and built deeper, healthier relationships. I gave myself permission to dream bigger and trust in my potential. Most importantly, I felt at peace as my actions came into alignment with my new beliefs.

Questions to Consider

  1. What story are you telling about your past?
  2. Why are you choosing to tell this story?
  3. How else might you tell this story?
  4. What’s in the way of choosing a different story?

Say Goodbye to Your Old Story

Maybe there is a past version of yourself you need to leave behind today. Picture yourself handing your old story back to your previous self and saying goodbye. Then imagine stepping forward into your new story with excitement about the chapter you will write next.

The past will always be part of your journey, but it doesn’t have to drive the vehicle. You can take the wheel at any point, flip the script, and set the course for a new destination.

Capture this moment right now. Make the choice to no longer be defined by your history unless you allow it. Take the power back. Rewrite your story. Then go out and boldly live it.

Live Free. Love Life.

Thanks for reading Live Free. Love Life! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.