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  • Gary Borland

#13 The Stories We Tell

The stories we have about ourselves impacts the present and the future. When we can see a story for what it is, everything changes.

Before I started school, my early recollections were of being confident in a world that was there to be explored – one great big adventure. I spent a lot of time outdoors creating and embarking on great adventures in this amazing world – building things, play acting everything from cowboys and Indians to a submarine commander and even an astronaut (using the space helmet I got as a Christmas present). I was using my vivid imagination to invent for myself who I could be. The possibilities were endless!

In those early years, I was unencumbered by contact with anything that really got in the way of inventing who I could be, or what I thought about myself - then I went to school. On my first day, I ran down the drive of our house in my new uniform, tripped and fell onto a low concrete post at the end of the drive – my head split open quite badly. So, a number of stitches later in my forehead without anaesthetic (which made me feel very brave for not crying), a change of clothes and a drink, and I was at school – not the best start, as the excitement had now gone.

Not long after I first started school, like most other children, I came into contact with a world that created different experiences that quickly started to dislocate my view of myself and my place in the world. Suddenly the possibilities no longer seemed ‘endless’. I began to form opinions and beliefs about myself and about others, with some particular experiences feeding a story about myself that quite quickly moved from being a story, to being ‘true’.

Not being picked off the wall early for teams or sports by other children further eroded my confidence in the belief that I could be whoever and whatever I wanted to be. I had already made some decisions about me and what people thought of me. With hindsight, it’s clear they were mainly interpretations, but at the time – cold, hard facts! In class, I was easily distracted, and it seemed to me that school was really getting in the way of my ‘big adventure’ to explore the world around me. I wasn’t interested in a lot of what I was being taught, and the ritual of parent’s evening started to take on a certain predictability. ‘He’s bright enough’, my parents were told, ‘but doesn’t really put in any effort unless he happens to be interested in what we’re learning’.

In primary school exams, I would sometimes try to copy the people either side of me as, yet again, the fruits of my inattention in class revealed huge gaps in my understanding. It didn’t take long as a 7- or 8-year-old to arrive at a decision that I wasn’t very clever, not very good at sport and that most other people were better than me – not just at sport and schoolwork, but better than me as a person.

That part of my story shaped much of my teenage years and well into adulthood until I started to see other evidence that maybe this was just a story and not actually ‘true’. Stories about ourselves profoundly impact our lives. Unmasking those stories profoundly impacts our future.

How much would you benefit from unpacking the story of your life and creating a new future?


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