5 Reasons to Let Go of Your Story


Is it possible for privileged socialites to live in abject poverty and complete isolation? Can you imagine living in a 28-room mansion in East Hampton and turning it into a squalid dump?

Two women managed to do just that. Their story is depicted in an HBO movie and a 1975 documentary called Grey Gardens. While the movie was entertaining, the documentary was painful to watch.

Both the mother and daughter were miserable and resented each other. The mother claimed the daughter couldn’t do any better and the daughter believed she had to drop everything she was doing to take care of her mother.

They were stuck in the same place, hiding behind their stories for decades. In the mean time, their quality of life continued to deteriorate and they became complacent to their deplorable living conditions.

Their journey made me realize how important our stories are in the way we live our lives.

Which comes first the story or the reality?

Most people think they experience something and then they form a story about it. This may be true when we are children. As we grow, we form certain beliefs (stories) about ourselves and everyone and everything around us.

The kicker is when we keep repeating the same stories to ourselves we tend to create or attract situations that reflect what we perceive as our own reality.

So in effect, your story creates your reality not the other way round.

If someone thinks they are a slob, their house is going to be a mess.

If someone thinks they can’t do something, they won’t.

When you think you don’t deserve what you want, you are not going to get it.

When we collectively think that our world is a mess, ridden with wars, disease and poverty, we plant the seeds of our fears.

What is your story?

If you stop for a moment and think about your life, what is your story? If you were to write about your life describing your inner most thoughts, fears, struggles, challenges and painful experiences what would you say?

Are you a victim? A martyr? Do your parents hate you? Do you consider yourself unlucky?

Write every description of yourself you can think of.

Think about your experiences and how your story showed up in your life. Count how many times you said to yourself “I knew it!”

You are hiding behind your story. We all do it at one point or another.

5 reasons to let go of our stories: What we can learn from Grey Gardens

Repeating the same stories has a huge impact in our lives.  Here are the lessons I took from watching the Grey Gardens women. Think of how they have affected you.

1. Not taking responsibility. Both mother and daughter never took responsibility for their own choices and actions. They blamed each other and the husband/father for his lack of financial support. When you think of yourself as a helpless victim, you can’t move forward. You will stay stuck waiting for others to change and come to the rescue.

2. Living in the past. For all the decades the two women spent living together, they lived in the past. The played old music records, rehashed the same stories and looked at pictures that were more than 30 years old. They escaped their present lives and compensated with memories.  Escaping to the past deprives you from experiencing true joy now and clouds your days with a false sense of wellbeing based on what was.

3. Inaction’s price tag. Inaction breeds more inaction. Just like consistent action builds momentum, consistent inaction is the foundation of complacency and stagnant or deteriorating conditions. In the case of Grey Gardens, the women just stayed at home and did nothing. They became okay with garbage piling up, raccoons and cats invading their space and accepted living with no running water.  Inaction is the number one killer of good habits. If you don’t do something for a while (like working out), gradually it will go unnoticed and you can kiss the habit goodbye.

4. Stunted growth. When I watched the documentary, the daughter was 56 years old but she acted like she was in her twenties. The mother was treating her like a child too. Because both of them were stuck in the same place and time stood still, they never grew as human beings. Their bodies showed signs of aging but emotionally and mentally they did not grow one bit. I would even say that their mental and emotional state worsened.

5. Emotional pain. Throughout the documentary both women were dwelling in what happened. They interrupted each other, yelled and complained.  Repeating the same stories over and over compounds the pain and resentment.  The mother and daughter had a bond of some sort but their interactions were not healthy and it made them both miserable.

I’m in no way condemning or judging the Bouvier Beale mother and daughter. Their journey is theirs; maybe part of it was for us to learn from their experience. If you haven’t watched the HBO movie or documentary, I highly recommend that you do.

Can you let go of the story?

What if you eliminated the story all together? If you were to take every statement you wrote about your journey so far and made a conscious decision to let it all go. What would happen? Today can you just be you? No history, no attachment to certain events or experiences.

Who would you be without your story?

How would you feel? Are you lighter? Do you see things differently?

The stories are the accumulation of thoughts from one perspective—yours. They may be true to you but they may not be the complete truth. There might be other meanings and reasons that you are unaware of.

To live your life reading and repeating your stories undermines who you truly are and what you can become. You are not your thoughts, not your stories, not your experiences.You have a choice in every single moment to scrap the old story and start a new page, if not a page at least a paragraph or two.

So who would you be without your story?

Can you start rewriting a better more empowering story?