Change the Story

Someone described me recently as “a confident, outgoing mom and a successful writer.” I looked around for who they could possibly be talking about. I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly far-off that description sounds to me.

I’ve realized in the last year that no matter what happens to me and no matter how I change, in many ways I’m still telling a very old story of who I am.

And I think I might not be the only one. And I want to start telling a new story.

A friend’s mom came to town this weekend. She’s great and difficult, both, and my friend was debriefing the visit with us the next day. Someone asked, “how does your husband deal with some of your mom’s rough edges?” And she said, “Well, what’s helpful is that he doesn’t automatically turn into his twelve-year-old self when my mom’s around. But I still do.”

So true, right? There are people and situations that take us back to old, old stories, and even though we’re moms now, not children, or even though we’re business owners now, not adolescents, we find ourselves acting out stories that haven’t been true for a long time, or stories that were never true to begin with.

Two things were true about me when I was growing up: I was smart and I was overweight. Those two things defined me more than anything else. I was the unattractive person in an otherwise attractive family, but my mind was quick—it was easy for me to remember things, and it was easy for me to be funny.

And so that’s what I became—everyone’s chubby, funny friend. I was easy to be around, agreeable, capable. I knew how to make other people feel comfortable, how to draw them out, how to tell self-deprecating stories about myself. I learned to be the punchline.

But I’m finding that story and that identity aren’t helpful for me these days. Because what that story really says is, don’t worry, just be friendly and pleasant. Make a joke. Don’t worry about really achieving anything, or doing anything hard, or being great in anyway. What you are is a sidekick, a wing-man, a support character in someone else’s story. What you are is a punchline.

And because I’ve believed those things about myself for so long, I sometimes don’t expect myself to be anything other than a punchline. I don’t push myself the way I could. I don’t ask for opportunities or promote my work. Essentially, I don’t take myself and my life as seriously as I could.

This old story isn’t helping me anymore, so I’m writing a new story. This new story says I can and do work hard, and that I’ve developed my skills as a writer and speaker over the last several years. It says I might have more to contribute than I thought, and that being funny and pleasant might not be the highest things to aspire to any longer.

Even as I write these words, I can feel myself sitting taller, squaring my shoulders, growing up.

I’m changing the story.


Is it time for you to let go of a story you’ve been telling about yourself for a long time?

What’s that old story?

What will you write as your new story?

39 thoughts on “Change the Story

  1. Love this post, Shauna. My husband’s family always describes me as “sweet Ruthie” and it feels so strange because the story I always tell about myself is . . . well not sweet! Some pretty major ppl in my life told me over & over that I wasn’t friendly or nice when I was younger, and somehow that is the story I always tell.

    CHANGE THE STORY! How empowering!

  2. So often, Shauna, your words resonate in the dark and dusty places of my heart. Those places I’ve closed because it is just too painful to revisit.

    Truly, I’m not sure why reading your words quicken my pulse today, but I do think I have some heart rooms that may need to be explored.

    Thanks for your candid honesty and how God uses it to encourage me to open up to honest living.


  3. Oh how I love these brave bold words. Sitting a bit taller with you as I re-write mine. This is so very timely because I have been thinking a lot lately about that old narrative. I don’t like a good deal of it and I don’t think it is particularly “true” or “fair”. Getting my pen out and re-writing my story right along beside yours :)

  4. Praying: May the Father be the Author, the Son be the Word and the Spirit be the Editor… as we be the paper, the reader, the buyer and the search engine for the content.

  5. Wow…this is my favorite thing that you’ve written. (And I love your work, so that is a compliment!) Something to really think about. Thank you.

  6. I was just having this conversation with my hair dresser! Growing up I was always the girl who was teased for one trivial thing or another… This turned into some not-so-trivial teasing that offended me in more ways than three. But that offense transformed me from the girl who let everything roll of her back (to a degree that was faulty) into a girl who wouldn’t let some bratty cheerleader come in and disrespect me.

    Nowadays I refuse to allow those people to stick around in my life. Offend me once blame’s on you, offend me twice blame’s on me. The third time the relationship is toxic to my soul and no more reason to foster that ugliness.

  7. Shauna, I love this post and your writing, because you are vulnerable and real. I think we all have those “identities” that we become familiar with because of things in our childhood. I love how Jesus can tell us the fullness of who we are made to be, but it definitely has taken me years listening to Him to begin to believe who I was really made to be! One way He made me was to be a writer. I am finally (after 30 years) beginning to live out that dream, and I would love anyone to check my blog out The purpose of my blog is that young women would find who they were created to be and step into the incredible future God has for them!

  8. Shauna, this post could not have been more perfect for me today. I was sitting on the couch this morning, wondering how I was going to get everything that I have to/want to do because I just feel, very deep down, that I am not worth it. That I don’t deserve the things that I want or strive for in life. There is a message, a very old story, that I keep replaying in my head. No one is really making me still live it except for me. I spent the whole morning making a list of Things I Want + Deserve. Now it’s just a matter of changing my attitude. It’s an everyday battle, but hearing I’m not alone and reading your words today really helps. Thanks!

  9. Wow! This really hit home for me and made me understand myself and my behavior better. So excited to hear you speak for our women’s group soon!

  10. Love this, Shauna. I am in the midst of this right now and it is so good to be reminded that I’m not alone. Even though I’ve lived many years from home and even obtained a Master’s degree, when I moved back to the area late last year I discovered that when I was around those who saw me grow up I felt like that young girl or insecure teenager again.

    For a while I simply wished it would go away, and now I’m coming to realize that it is a process and a daily practice to affirm and live into who I have come to be, particularly around those who might want to still see me as that young girl. It’s hard work, but I want to live my new story, whether those from the old one join me or not.

    Thank you so much for sharing and calling me back to my new story again.

  11. Hard, though I tried, I cried at the end of your post. At heart I am a writer, I wrote a novel for fun one Summer in my early teens and late teens on my Dad’s word processor. I journaled my pain and my hurt and even today I journal but I don’t write the novels or the other stuff as much. My mother told me to go to school for something that would pay the bills. Two Master’s and a Bachelor’s later, I have been part of a writer’s group that i don’t bring writing to because I don’t know how to own my story as a writer. I feel that I have to live the lie that I can’t write and be happy, even if it barely pays the bills. But maybe, just maybe, I have what it takes to write AND love it AND pay the bills, too. So what kind of story have I been telling myself? That I’m the nice girl, the one who hears other’s stories, bears their burdens, hurts, fears and pain. But I don’t know how to let others bear mine. I’m afraid to be open for fear of rejection because my mother was emotionally unavailable and my father’s mental illness and parent’s divorce kept distance there.

    What is my new story? That God can use my writing for a purpose. That my sense of humor may not be understood by all but some people get it, and some people even like it. Moreover, I can share the truth about what is in my heart. Because it matters. All of our stories matter.

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your story. For inspiring me to live up to the email I created in college to make sure I’d never forget who I was (“write_stuff”).

    Doesn’t get more awesome than that!

  12. I needed this with my whole soul today. I am tired of people thinking poor you…you always get the short end of the stick. Because I don’t. Bad things happened. Really bad things happened today, but that does not mean God destined me for a life like this…so I am done acting like it. Done. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  13. This is such a powerful post! I’ll bet most people feel that they need to change their old stories. We change so much as we grow but it’s hard to reveal that to people who know us best.

  14. Beautifully written. I resonated so much with your words. So refreshing to hear your story and your vulnerability. Thank you.

  15. I’m speechless and thankful that God has rewritten my story. You have a gift my friend. Thanks for sharing it.

  16. As I read your post this morning at 4 something in the morning, I got a bit of confirmation. I’d been mulling over what I needed to do the make my life more of what I desire not just accepting whatever happened to me. Yesterday, Tony Robbins was on Dr Oz and gave change your story as a key to changing your life experience. Then your amazing post this morning- Yes, it is time to give up the old story and claim the new story as mine and as my truth. Thank you!

  17. Thanks for sharing. I so needed to hear this!!!!!! It just takes you by surprise when you least expect. Will I ever grow up?

  18. What a lovely post. I too am telling a new story… one where I am whole and true… just as I am. I want to celebrate all that I am and not what I am not. I love being me. I look forward to celebrating me. Thank you for this wholehearted reminder!!! :-D

  19. Your writing has stopped me in my tracks-to ponder, pray, wonder, breathe, be renewed. To have new eyes. I started Bread and Wone last night and stayed up ’till midnight! And I’m a mama to two under two so that’s saying a lot :) Thank-you.

  20. You are so very, very not alone. I was the loudmouth tomboy, spreading dirt across my Laura Ashley dress when I should’ve been playing house. Lately, I’ve been hearing friends use words like “gentle” to describe me. My mind does a double-take. Do I believe gentle? Do I deserve gentle? I’ve been ushered a season of trusting the good, the gentleness, that they see. I am trusting my heart will catch up with the woman I’ve become.

  21. Shauna,
    You are smart and beautiful. I’ve always thought so.
    And a woman whose words inspire and strengthen those around her. I’m blogging today about hospitality, how it’s been a spiritual practice for our family (and much more do-able than family devotions ever were).

  22. Oh the truth in these words. Embracing a new story, a true vision of who I am now, and putting away the lies of the past. Thank you for sharing your heart and pushing us to know our own hearts better.

  23. Shauna–you’re right on with this one. It leaves me thinking about how my own daughters will grow up into adulthood feeling similar things I’ve felt. Then, it leaves me with an earnest hope to fight for something better for myself and for them.

    thank you

  24. Exactly what I needed to read today. Excellent. Today I am grateful for the ability to observe and the willingness to change.

  25. I don’t know if I would recommend it, but moving 5000 miles to a different country where no-one knew me, or my past or my family helped me to see my old story more clearly and to start deciding what the new one would look like.

  26. Since I read this, I have started occasionally leaving links with my comments on other blogs to relevant posts I wrote on the subject. I felt weird and self promotey at first but I have gotten a lot of page views (comparatively) from it and even a couple nice comments/tweets.
    No more in the shadows hiding myself. I am me and I am a writer :)
    Thanks for this post about changing your story.
    And on that note, one moment when I did a symbolic action to change one part of my story:

  27. I started changing my story about four years ago, and since that time it’s been an ever-evolving tale. I have learned that it is never too late to become who you were meant to be, and that change is the result of countless tiny steps toward that person.

    Also, that most of the time it’s harder than it sounds, and worth more than I ever imagined. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post.

  28. I am so glad I took the time to read this post (and that I picked up + read Bittersweet!) because I was the overweight, semi-smart (looked smarter on the outside!), and quiet sidekick friend. And it’s funny because while I’ve lost weight and have changed on the inside and outside (and finally found myself!) I still find myself clinging to that old identity when I’m scared or in an unfamiliar situation. Thank you Shauna for pushing me beyond those old identities. We are made to be who God created us to be, and with change I’m finally loving the person God created me to be! :)

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