I did a story makeover. Here's what happened.
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do." ― Brené Brown
I love makeovers. I also love a hot pursuit. There’s something so tantalizing about transformation, the idea that, even in the smallest way, my reality could merge with my ideals.
Even if makeovers don’t give you a tingle of lust, chances are, you, too, challenge yourself on the regular. I’ll bet your heart beats just a little faster when you imagine being you, only better.
I’m wondering, have you noticed how often we’re stopped in our tracks midway? How many exciting new paths we abandon—for reasons both explainable and utterly mysterious?
My first-ever piano recital happened when I was seven. It was inside a musty church basement with creaky floors and folding chairs. Still, what I saw was a stage set for glory.
After what felt like forever, my turn came. I strode out to the baby grand, smoothed my newly-homemade floral dress, and started playing.
Out of the far corner of my right eye, I could see heads nodding in unison as my fingers danced across the keys. Then suddenly, I struck a sour note. My right pinky searched for the right place to go, but I ended up hitting another wrong note, and then another.
Soon, my whole body froze. What felt like hours passed by. The only way I could break the silence was to start over.
So I did. For a total of three times.
The head-nodding vanished somewhere along the way. And in the end, I, too, disappeared ghost-like from the stage without reaching the end of the piece.
Nobody spoke on the car ride home.
If you’re familiar with Brené Brown’s work, you already know that our brains don’t like ambiguity. We want our worlds to make sense. So at times like this, we grab for the first-available explanation about what happened.
I am not a star. I’m an embarrassment.
From this day on, pursuing goals took on a new meaning. Reaching for a seat on the student council, trying to get a boy in my class to notice me, interviewing with a world-renowned corporation—every time, I was trying to wash away that yucky, “there’s something wrong with me” feeling.
The successes got me doubting, in a benevolent kind of way. I could say to myself, “Maybe it is okay for me to shine.” But inevitably, the brain-hijacking would return.
The challenge could be as trivial as flossing my teeth 21-days in a row. On day 17, it’d dawn on me that I’d totally spaced out the last two days. And I’d be seven-years-old all over again, sitting in the car thinking, I am not a star. I’m an embarrassment.
Would you like to hear the good news?
Every other time I’ve examined my recital story, I was focused on replaying the moment of failure. It hadn’t occurred to me look closer at the car ride. It turns out, all these years, I’d mistaken my parents’ lack of words for punishment, aka “the silent treatment.”
This seems like an excellent opportunity for a story makeover. To re-imagine the scene taking place in the backseat of the station wagon.
You’re seven, sitting in the car. Your stage performance 20 minutes ago wasn’t the dazzling show you thought you’d put on. After a period of quiet, one of the grown-ups says to you:
“I know things didn’t turn out like you’d practiced. I saw how much you were struggling on stage. Your heart might be really hurting right now. But I want you to know this: you’re worthy of glory. It’s okay that you want to shine on stage. How your performance turned out today doesn’t change how worthy you are of having what you want.”
I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think mid-goal brain-hijacking will ever be quite the same anymore.
Your turn now. Think of a time you endeavored, and things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped. What happens when you put your scene into that same script? The grown-up voice could come from an imaginary figure. It could come from you.
What was that like? I hope you’re feeling lighter, more spacious. At the very least, I hope you’re breathing a little bit deeper.
Because you are the star of your life. You are meant to shine.
Oh, and by the way, I still think that transformation is totally worth lusting after.
PS. While I'm at it, I'm giving a makeover to the music playing in the station wagon.