O Style | What Narrative Is Holding You Back?


A few years ago, a good friend said to me, “You know, Olivia, it seems to me that you surprise yourself.” What she meant was in no way to diminish my excitement or drive. It was the opposite. She indicated that I have all the qualities to achieve what I set my eyes on, but I seem not to believe it enough. In other words, to celebrate me enough, despite having come this far.

Ouf! I had to sit on this one for a bit. Just when I thought I had stripped myself of all my Imposter Syndrome stuff, I received a gentle, loving nudge that reminded me I still exhibit it in some shape or form. This time it wasn’t showing up in the opportunities or risks I was taking on. It was in the way I chose to instinctively minimize the value of all the hard work I had been doing and not recognizing and acknowledging my accomplishments and momentum.

And the more I thought about it, the more apparent it came to me that there was this (awful) narrative I kept playing in my head. It can be summed up as if there had been an award for “Least Likely to Succeed” back in high school (as there is for “Most Likely to Succeed”), that award may have gone to me. (Thank god there isn’t such an award because, ouf, what damage that would do! Children and young adults need all the encouragement and positive motivation they can get. Period.)

But, how awful, right?! RIGHT!

Looking back, I now understand that my expressing interest in the arts was not adequately nurtured and directed. I was made to believe that there was only one box, and that’s the one I had to mold myself to fit. Times have changed quite a bit now, but back then, the cookie-cutter approach was the new black. For. Real.

One example — as we moved into high school, students had to choose between two “curriculums,” one focused on Economics and the other on Literature & Languages. As a freshman, I remember being so dead-on hesitant as I felt incredibly limited and constricted with having just these two selections. After much debate with my parents, who really tried to help me figure out my life (LOL), I went for Economics at first and later decided to transfer to Literature. However, still, I never felt in alignment and to be asked to make that choice so early on in my education felt very rigid and left zero room for exploration, individuality, and self-expression. I had friends who thrived in that type of environment — but that wasn’t me.

Instead of focusing on celebrating what sparked my curiosity, what made my heart sing, or gave me real joy and meaning as a teen, I was made to believe that I probably didn’t know myself well enough and that the school system knew best. That good grades were proof of “being most likely to succeed.”

Brittanny and Patsy both addressed in their blog posts that our brains are naturally wired to protect us, and they take their job so seriously that they often blind us from the real truth, and become cumbersome as they hinder our growth. Mine had been using the old narrative to protect me from disappointment and failure, giving me just enough safety net to justify why something may not be working or panning out in my favor.

That old narrative needed to be understood, accepted, forgiven —and finally bid ADIEU!

Because once I understood where my old beliefs stemmed from, I decided it was time to create a new story, a new narrative where I am the hero of my own story. Because indeed, I am. HELL — I AM BADASS. Despite all the roadblocks and systems in place (i.e., the status quo establishment), I managed to find my way back to my truth. My trajectory may have been far from linear, but I have made it this far, and I am exactly where I need to be. Aligned and Very Much Likely to Stay Succeeding. Can I get an AMEN!

Tell us in the comments, What is an old narrative that is holding you back? What can you do today to create a new script?