By Cordes Simpson

Everyone has a story. What’s yours? What do you tell others? How do you describe yourself? Do you say that you are the kind of person who wants the best of everything because you had a terrible childhood? How about telling friends that you are very competitive because you grew up with seven brothers? Or maybe because you grew up with seven brothers you got very little attention or notice because you were the good kid.

Now think about why you tell that particular story. What is it that you want others to know about you? Your stories about past tragic relationships let others know that you’ve been hurt several times, so please do not hurt you again — and that you may have trouble with commitment and trust. Perhaps you tell stories about overcoming the odds and making great achievements. These stories can let others know that you have perseverance, courage and confidence. Some stories people tell are an attempt to prevent others from making you angry or to apologize in advance if you come across as too aggressive or are easily misunderstood.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, I just tell it like it is. I am not going to sugarcoat anything. I am brutally honest and don't pull any punches. What you see is what you get, I am not hiding anything. So if I hurt your feelings that’s tough.” A member of one of my therapy groups introduced himself that way. Another member responded that it sounded like a personal problem and that he might need to work on it. She continued to let him know that he was in the right place and that they would all help him by calling him on it so that he could have more friends. The angle with those types of “warning” stories is they usually are attempts to cover up awkward social skills and insecurity.

Sometimes people make up stories that they have had a normal childhood with a loving, unified family when truthfully it was just the opposite. When this occurs, people are trying to avoid judgment, pity or a perceived weakness. Maybe the story is about how popular you were in high school when you weren’t, so that people will want to be with you; or you were popular and you say that you weren’t so that people won’t expect too much from you and you can escape pressure and stress.

Do you sometimes worry that your “cover” story will be blown? What if you were to give up or adapt your story so that you could live more genuinely? What would it be like if you let go of the negative stories, just packed them up along with the old, outgrown clothes, toys and pictures? You aren’t pretending that events didn’t happen or that they didn’t shape who you are. Instead you are just closing that chapter, putting the book on the shelf or sticking that box in the attic. You have already been there and done that. Next! Now is the time to live the next chapter of your life and, guess what, you get to write it.

Martha Beck, one of my favorite life coaches, says, “The past doesn’t exist except as a memory, a mental story and though past events aren’t changeable, your stories about them are. You can act now to transform the way you tell the story of your past, ultimately making it a stalwart protector of your future.”

In the next article, we will continue this discussion by looking not only at what are secret stories and silent stories, but also how to make the transformation to new inspirational and uplifting stories that you create to be part of your reality.          

Cordes Simpson, MAT, MA is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Charleston. She uses primarily CBT and EMDR to help people manage mental illness, trauma and substance abuse. She also mentors people interested in re-focusing their lives. To contact Cordes, please e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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