I ditched school in the fourth grade to see the Spice Girls with a friend and her older sister. We waited outside in the freezing Chicago winter for hours and they never showed. Worse still, as I arrived at school the next day all of my classmates were telling me how mad the teacher was that I had ditched. I loved my fourth grade teacher. She was a comfort and inspiration. I am positive that I went on to study poetry in college because of her influence. She read us poems that she had written to her mother, who had passed away. She even cried in front of us.
I had never met another adult, who I wasn’t related to, who I felt so strongly connected to. So on that shameful day after the botched Spice Girls escapade I felt lower than I had ever felt in my short life. The second I saw her face I started to cry. At that moment she held me tight in her arms and let me know everything was okay, she had just been worried about me. She was loving, forgiving, and had expressed none of the anger my classmates had described. But the idea of letting her down was traumatic. It was so traumatic that I still remember the scene vividly in my mind’s eye even now as an adult. And yet, this was not a traumatizing situation. Now I think it’s pretty awesome that I skipped out on school to see the best band ever. But in future, anytime a teacher showed the slightest sign of disapproval there was nothing I could do to keep from crying.
I remember getting a C on an important Spanish test in high school and running out of the room lest my teacher see how ridiculously distraught I had become. The positive side effect of wanting to please my teachers was my straight A record in school. Deeper than that is an issue common to many people, in many walks of life: the need to please. For me, my need for approval came from the story that I told myself about how bad it felt when a teacher was angry with me. My actions were motivated by trying to mitigate an imagined pain.
The stories we tell ourselves, and believe in, have tremendous power to shape our behavior and our lives. What stories do you tell yourself? While not all stories are negative or fearful, such as “I am awesome and can do anything I put my mind to,” they still cannot compare to reality. It is impossible to get a true experience of reality when it is seen and felt through the filter of a story in your mind.
I can see in my own life that I could be held back, from relinquishing stories about myself, because of the fear of what life would really be like. I might think that living out life according to a story I have about my life will protect me from something worse. The problem with that logic is that it’s just another story. True expansion, freedom, and possibility await right on the other side of your story. The mind might feel lost, because you are letting go of thought forms, but you know that you are not your mind. And no loss of thought, opinion, or story actually has any power to take away from you, because you are life itself. You are the platform that allows stories to arise.
I never quite got over my need to please my professors; I ended up Suma Cum Laude in college. But getting good grades never did anything to increase my learning, creativity, or fulfillment. I only gained the temporary high of meeting the needs of the story I was telling myself about having to get good grades. Life went on after my school years ended. Those grades don’t mean anything anymore. All that I am left with is my true self; greater than any story I could ever tell, and more abundant than any need I could ever conceive of.