Stories I Tell Myself

We all use paradigms and stories to organize information and to give it meaning.

I’ve been Facebooking with a bloke about the similar stories we tell ourselves about being unwanted. We both had certain rejections in our childhood from other kids and we find ourselves replaying these incidents in our minds and perhaps re-enacting them.

Again and again, I return in my head to the following stories to make sense of life:

* The Uninvited.

In second grade, my classmate Gavin Brown had a birthday party. I was not invited. My best friend Wayne Cherry, however, was invited. I was playing at his house and his mom intervened with Gavin’s dad and got me invited to the party.

As I rode my bike into the bush with the other kids, they made sure to let me know that they hadn’t wanted me to come along.

I guess I keep remembering this story because variations of it repeat in my life. I’ve become convinced that many people, particularly the cool people, are not going to want me around. I steel myself for their rejection and figuring they won’t like me anyway, I don’t take care to keep my behavior and speech within what’s appropriate and often bring about the rejection I figured was heading my way anyway.

There’s something in me that gets excited about pushing people out of my life before they can reject me from theirs. I get a great charge out of saying and writing provocative, even repellent, things. I get giddy, all tee hee, and ignore the consequences of my words.

* The Victim

I had a job where I worked a varying number of hours each week. At the end of the week, I would add up my hours and give the boss my invoice and with but one exception, I always got paid that day. Occasionally, I’d have to wait around ten minutes after work to get my check. To try to avoid such a wait, I’d find myself reminding my boss through the afternoon to give me my check. Often I’d yell this out in front of other people.

“It’s not all about you,” he’d reply. If I didn’t remind him, I feared I would either not get my check that day or have to wait around off-the-clock for my money.

“I’m screwed either way,” I’d find myself thinking on these afternoons. “If I say something, he’ll complain. If I don’t say anything, he’ll complain that I didn’t remind him. It will bloody serve him right if 5 p.m. comes and he hasn’t given me my check and I just leave anyway and then he’ll feel bad. I don’t mind getting hurt if I can wound him.”

Hurting myself has long been an appealing option for me if I think I can use my wound as a way to induce guilt. It’s such a primal desire, it goes back as far as my earliest memories.

* Unworthy of Love And Good Things

One hot afternoon by Dora Creek in Cooranbong, Australia, I was swimming at the point with my friend Wayne Cherry. A mother was with her kids and she offered us ice cream. It was a hot day and the prospect enticed me but I said no for some strange reason. I just didn’t want to say yes to what I wanted most.

In sixth grade, when I came to America, the most beautiful girl in the class, Cindy, dropped a note on my desk and asked me to go with her. I got frozen and couldn’t respond for a day or two, and then I just teased her, even though connecting with her was what I wanted most in the world. I couldn’t say yes to what I wanted most.

I’ve had jobs and been offered raises and I’d say, “I don’t deserve that.”

Something in me feels unworthy of receiving love and other good things. I’m familiar with misery. I’m not so familiar with joy and connection. Perhaps that world scares me?

* The Supplicant

I don’t like asking for help, but find myself doing periodically because I haven’t made the choices that would provide me with a solid bank account and health insurance and support system and strong community, etc. So I often get into a desperate mode and I find myself saying in my head, “I’ve got to survive. I’m just in survival mode now. I’m just going to steel myself, surrender my dignity, and ask around for help. I’ll put it on my blog or Facebook. I don’t care about my honor.”

My therapist said I reminded her of a hungry infant who was convinced the best would run dry so he was sucking all he could get right now.

* I Have To Be Passionate About My Job/Subject To Succeed

I believe I have to be passionate about my job or my school subject to do well. I tell myself I’ve never done well at things I wasn’t interested in. I’ve never had an interest in science, for example. I’ve had many jobs where I could find little to be excited about, so I just showed up and did the tasks in front of me, while dreaming of a better day.

* If I Just Had That Girl, I’d Be Fine

Sometimes I meet a woman who takes my breath away and my whole being becomes convinced that if I could just have her, everything else in my life would be fine.

I’m hoping that by writing these stories out, I can see how irrational and self-defeating they are and I can more effectively challenge them when they come up for me in the face of some setback.

A friend says: “I always thought you should create a book for young people based on your youth experiences – that would be a really positive contribution to youth culture as I felt really alone with my experiences until I listened to you. I’m sure there’s plenty like me who would benefit from that and feel more comfortable with what they are going through.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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