Letting Go of Old Stories

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

letting go of old stories

I have a confession.

I am a trained life coach.

It’s true.

I received my training and started coaching 10 years ago, long before I wrote a book or started a blog about happiness.

Coaching was my full-time job, and I loved it. I did business coaching, working specifically with people in the network marketing industry. (I made my first $10,000 in network marketing before I was old enough to drink, and I did a ton of live training at national events.)

But I rarely talk about that chapter in my life.

I treat it like a dirty little secret.

I’m more likely to talk about how I trashed my marriage than how I built a successful coaching business once upon a time.

Over the last six months, many people have asked me if I do any one-on-one coaching.

My response has been instinctive and immediate.

“Absolutely not. No way. I can’t do that.”

“Why not?” some would ask.

And sometimes I would tell them my story.

I had a client who bought the largest package I offered. She said she wanted to make changes. She gave herself assignments and goals. She never followed through.

And then she started missing our calls. She just wouldn’t show up, and she dodged my emails.

I never heard from her again, and she left hundreds of dollars in unused coaching hours on the table.

I felt horribly guilty. I felt like a fraud and a cheat. I hated having this woman’s money and knowing she didn’t get what she needed from it.

Rationally, I knew I was not responsible for the actions she takes or doesn’t take, but I didn’t have the boundaries I needed to deal with that emotionally.

I don’t have good boundaries.

I don’t know how to not take responsibility for other people’s stuff.

This was the story I told over and over again.

Last week I was speaking to my accountability partner from my local mastermind group.

The first time she met me she said, “it sounds like you’re not just a writer and a speaker, but you’re really a coach.”

“No,” I told her.

When we got together last week she asked me about my reader survey. I admitted that several people asked if I would offer some one-on-one coaching.

“Why can’t you do that?” she asked.

And I started to tell her my story, the story I’ve been telling myself for a decade now.

I don’t have good boundaries.

I don’t know how to not take responsibility for other people’s stuff.

And as I said the words, I realized that I wasn’t saying them because they were true, but because they were familiar.

The truth is that I have learned to be very good at setting boundaries. I have learned to have great faith in other people’s abilities to handle their own stuff, and it rarely even occurs to me any more to take responsibility for it.

I wrote a book and an entire section is dedicated to that balance of responsibility.

That old story stopped being relevant, but I never stopped telling it.

I didn’t even notice how ridiculous I must have sounded telling it, like a beautiful woman who tells her friend that she’s always been picked on for being awkward and pimply.

Click to Tweet!

Click to Tweet!

Like the woman with a master’s degree who insists she never finishes anything.

Like the writer who jokes that she is not creative because she doesn’t paint.

Like the marathon runner who says he isn’t a jock because he didn’t make the football team in high school.

Like the working mother of three who tells everyone she is lazy, while her children are well-fed and properly clothed and her house is fairly clean and she keeps the bills paid every month.

The stories we make up about ourselves stick, even after we’ve outgrown them.

They become like old fairy tales, so well memorized that we don’t even have to look at the pages to remember the ending. We know how it goes; we no longer need proof.

But we are not old fairy tales.

As long as we are living, we are still stories being written. We are growing and evolving and changing the ending.

Re-reading old chapters only holds us back, stops us from really enjoying the progress we’re making.

“You know what, I’m done with that story,” I told my accountability partner.

“It sounds like it’s about time.”

It is about time, about time moving on and me going with it.

What old stories are you ready to let go of?

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  1. daniel says:

    The other day I was in a conversation about food and hunger (helping at a dinner function, talking about if everybody got enough) and we started talking about childhood eating issues. I mentioned how I don’t do hungry very well because of how I grew up off and on at times on food stamps. As the words are leaving my mouth I’m thinking “shut up, this sounds dumb and irrelevant” and I really need to stop using that.
    daniel’s most recent post: For The Hair

    • Britt Reints says:

      Old stories about food and/or money can be REALLY hard to let go of!! Good for you for being aware of the words coming out of your mouth. :-)

  2. jb says:

    excellent post. really. so true. will have me thinking all day…

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