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7 steps to reframing your story and radically improving your life

Have you ever caught yourself feeling distressed or guilty about something you have done? Even when no one was hurt or it wasn’t your fault?

Have you ever felt that you were not good enough? Not smart enough? Not beautiful enough?

If you have, this guide to reframing your life story is for you. With constant practice, reframing will radically change your life for the better.

Some call it negative thoughts. I like to call them unhelpful thoughts. It is not your fault that you have these unhelpful thoughts. Events that have occurred in your life, the people around you, and especially your childhood experiences shape how you see yourself and the stories you tell yourself.

These stories accumulate over time and help establish our self-identity, influence our life decisions and guide our actions. They also give meaning to our lives. In other words, the stories you tell yourself create your life. Now do you see why having a helpful life story is so important in your quest to live the life you want?

What has happened in the past and how you reacted to it is history. There is nothing you can do to change any of that. However, sometimes how we felt after an event affected us so much that it gets carried along as emotional baggage, burdening us. But moving forward, retelling your life story – not to the world, but to yourself, is entirely in your control and 100% your responsibility.

The stories you tell about yourself and the things you believe about yourself can be limiting. For example:

  • I’m stupid
  • I always lose
  • I am not (fill in the blanks) enough

These limiting and sometimes false beliefs either prevent change from happening or disallow new ideas to blossom.

Imagine if you had different beliefs about yourself.

  • I am intelligent
  • I don’t always succeed but I always learn something from it to help me succeed later

Intrigued yet? Do you want to reframe your life story? Read on.

What is reframing?

Reframing is a term from cognitive psychology, meaning seeing something in a new way, in other words, with a new frame around it.

Reframing your life story is very similar to reframing an old picture. The picture is exactly the same but you have changed the frame with which you use to look at it. Reframing can breathe new life into an old picture and reframing your life story can definitely improve your life radically.

Retelling your life story to yourself is seeing the same events that shaped your life in a different way and from a different perspective. The key to remember is that we are the storytellers and we can spin our stories in any direction we want so that they serve and support us rather than tear us down and stop us from achieving what we want.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right” – Henry Ford

Is retelling my life story even possible?

YES! You can retell your life story. This doesn’t mean rewriting the past or lying to yourself about what had happened to you. It DOES mean rewriting how you feel and think about what has happened to you and how it had changed you as a person.

It is not the impartial world that influences us, but how we represent and interpret the world. What really matters isn’t what happened to us, but the stories we tell ourselves about what took place and how it has affected us.

Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (this is an affiliate link) explores how our conscious and unconscious thoughts affects us and how something as simple as wording (stories you tell yourself) can have a powerful impact on our ability to improve. Dweck’s book shows us the power of our most basic beliefs and how they influence what we want and whether we succeed in getting it.

“Today you have the opportunity to transcend from a disempowered mindset of existence to an empowered reality of purpose-driven living. Today is a new day that has been handed to you for shaping. You have the tools, now get out there and create a masterpiece” – Steve Maraboli

Who needs to reframe?

Anyone who has thoughts that they think are unhelpful to themselves and that is hindering their ability to move forward in life and achieve what they want. In short, anyone who wants to see themselves in a better light.

As author Wallace D.Wattles put it, “Whatever you habitually think yourself to be, that you are.”

For my mom tribe, these groups of moms would definitely benefit from reframing:

  • Pregnant moms-to-be who are having low self-esteem due to their changing bodies
  • New moms who are overwhelmed and anxious with the massive overhaul to their lives and the sudden change in their relationships with their husbands or partners
  • Moms who are stressed with trying to do it all and be everything to everyone

What benefits do I get from reframing?

Getting caught up in everyday problems can be like being on a hamster wheel. You don’t realize after a while that all you are doing is reacting. This can block us from getting ahead and will keep us thinking the same unhelpful thoughts over and over again.

Reframing can ensure you are moving forward and not getting fixated on the ‘problems’ in your life.

My favourite example of reframing :

Journalist: How does it feel to have failed seven hundred times?

Thomas Edison (yes, the Thomas Edison): I have not failed seven hundred times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work.

It is amazing what reframing can do 🙂

Sign me up! Where do I start?

I have broken down reframing into a step-by-step guide but I don’t have to tell you that the human mind is complex and we are all unique beings. Some of these steps might not apply to you and some others you might not find helpful. Take this as a guide to help you on your own self-journey to retelling your life story.

Step 1: List down your current unhelpful beliefs about yourself

Your current mindset is responsible for the person you are today. However, very often you can be unaware of the mindset you have.

Write down all your beliefs about yourself and ask yourself if these beliefs are helping you grow as a person. Categorize them into helpful or unhelpful beliefs.

Go back over your life and think of those events that may have determined a current mindset or belief. Childhood experiences are especially important because most of us develop long-standing beliefs about ourselves based on those experiences which we didn’t understand then and we have just kept going on believing what we believed as children.

When you bring these old experiences up again and review them (read Step 2 below) with adult eyes, your awareness and understanding of the situation will change and therefore your belief about yourself based on this event will change as well.

Step 2: Focus on each unhelpful belief and ask yourself these questions

  • Where did I learn these beliefs or knowledge from?
  • What event caused me to think this way?
  • Is this unhelpful belief the objective truth?

If it isn’t the objective truth (hint: the answer is always NO since our beliefs are never objective), then how can I change this unhelpful belief to a more helpful belief?

Step 3: Reframe specific events in the past which has continued to affect you today

Think of events that have happened to you that have stuck in your mind and you just can’t seem to shake off.

Focus on one event at a time and for each event, write down all your current thoughts and feelings about it. Write honestly and for yourself. Pour out everything onto paper. As you write, the story starts to take shape and you will realize recurring themes that have affected you so significantly.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • How has this event affected me?
  • What have I learnt from it?
  • What have I lost and what have I gained from going through this event?
  • How can I think of this event and how it has affected me in a more helpful way?

Step 4: Reframe current events as they are unfolding

So far, steps 1 to 3 have focused on how you can reframe the effect that your past has had on current you. From step 4 onwards, we will focus on how you can practise reframing in the present and future.

Regardless of what is going on in our lives, we can always reframe our situation. No matter how ‘bad’ things appear to be, we always have a choice to make ourselves feel better by changing the way we view our problems.

As Kim Schneiderman, author of Step out of your story: Writing exercises to reframe and transform your life (this is an affiliate link) says, “there are many ways to tell the same story, and we should always try to find the best version of the story – one that makes us feel hopeful.”

The next time you notice yourself feeling frustrated about a situation or perceiving something to be ‘bad’, pause and notice this thought. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the difficult situation that I am currently facing?
  • What is the outcome that I am after?
  • What have I done so far to achieve the outcome that I hope for?
  • What are the unhelpful thoughts or beliefs that I have about this situation?
  • Are these thoughts absolutely true? (hint: the answer is always NO)
  • What other alternative possibilities or thoughts are there? Which thoughts are more helpful to help me move forward with the situation?
  • Could this be worse? Think of something worse to compare it to.
  • What is the silver lining?
  • How can this situation help me to learn and grow?
  • How can this situation be resolved realistically to achieve the outcome I hope for? (Provided the outcome you want is realistic and achievable)

Think how the experience will help you move forward and remember that failure is always a pre-requisite for success. Seeing failure as a learning opportunity immediately converts it into something helpful. After all, the more you learn, the better and smarter you become.

Step 5: Changing your self-talk from a disempowering story to an empowering one

When I initially started in my part-time job after my first child, I lacked confidence and was convinced I was in over my head. I would visit potential clients to introduce myself and my services, but without conviction, because I had already told myself I wasn’t good enough to be there.

However, I soon realized that the root of my problem wasn’t that others didn’t believe in me, but that I didn’t believe in myself. Why did I not believe in myself? Because I had told myself the story that I wasn’t good enough.

So I changed my story. I was energetic and passionate about my job and my clients. I had all the skills needed to benefit my clients. Once I started telling myself an empowering story instead of a disempowering one, how people perceived me (more likely how I perceived other people perceiving me) changed and my career took off.

According to a study published in the Frontiers of Psychology in 2016, positive self-talk increases pleasant emotions and the intensity of effort people put into an activity. Empowering self-talk can give you the motivation and power to go for your dreams and change your life.

What disempowering stories are you telling yourself? How can you turn these disempowering stories into empowering ones?

Step 6: Take action to create new stories

If you want to be a good person, go out and help someone. If you want to be good at writing, start writing something. If you want to live more sensually, start incorporating more sensual habits in your life.

When your actions align with what you want to belief about yourself, it will all start to fall into place.

Step 7: If you fail, dust yourself off and get back on the horse

Anything that requires change takes time to develop. It takes conscious effort and a lot of time to change something as deep-seated as your mindset but it is worth it.

One thing is for certain, you will ‘fail’ sometimes to practice reframing, especially when you need it most. The key is to dust yourself off and continue trying. Don’t give up.

Final words

When you consistently challenge your ‘automatic thoughts’, you will eventually master your mindset. You will be able to make new healthy choices to look at events in your life from a different perspective and have a better outlook on life.

These changes will not only affect you but will also impact those around you, maybe even inspire them to retell their own life stories .

“Sometimes when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place” – J. Lynn

As with every worthwhile habit, reframing is an ongoing practice but you just need to keep trying every day. And one day you will wake up to the realization that you automatically think helpful thoughts and that your life has improved significantly.

I am challenging myself to practice reframing for the month of June. Join me in my free Sensual Mom Tribe on Facebook. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and I will send you a personal invitation link to the group.

Let me know how the practice of reframing has benefitted you in the comments below.

Sharon James

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