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The Most Dangerous Stories We Make Up

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Excerpted From Rising Strong

The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity

Lovability: Many of my research participants who had gone through a painful breakup or divorce, been betrayed by a partner, or experienced a distant or uncaring relationship with a parent or family member spoke about responding to their pain with a story about being unlovable—a narrative questioning if they were worthy of being loved.

This may be the most dangerous conspiracy theory of all. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past thirteen years, it’s this: Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.

Divinity: Research participants who shared stories of shame around religion had less in common than most people guess. No specific denomination has emerged as more shaming in my work; however, there is a strong pattern worth noting. Over half of the participants who talked about experiencing shame in their faith histories also found resilience and healing through spirituality.

The majority of them changed their churches or their beliefs, but spirituality and faith remain important parts of their lives. They believed that the sources of shame arose from the earthly, man-made, human-interpreted rules or regulations and the social/community expectations of religion rather than their personal relationships with God or the divine.

Our faith narratives must be protected, and we must remember that no person is ordained to judge our divinity or to write the story of our spiritual worthiness.

Creativity and Ability: In Daring Greatly, I write, “One reason that I’m confident that shame exists in schools is simply because 85 percent of the men and women we interviewed for the shame research could recall a school incident from their childhood that was so shaming that it changed how they thought of themselves as learners. What makes this even more haunting is that approximately half of those recollections were what I refer to as creativity scars. The research participants could point to a specific incident where they were told or shown that they weren’t good writers, artists, musicians, dancers, or something creative. This helps explain why the gremlins are so powerful when it comes to creativity and innovation.”

Like our lovability and divinity, we must care for and nurture the stories we tell ourselves about our creativity and ability. Just because we didn’t measure up to some standard of achievement doesn’t mean that we don’t possess gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. Just because someone failed to see the value in what we can create or achieve doesn’t change its worth or ours.