For this post, I am going to offer an exercise that is rooted in mindfulness and narrative practices. This is an exercise I would offer to someone who is having trouble with self-compassion, or may rely on intellectualization a lot. This exercise can be conducted with a client (as a therapist), or something that can be done on your own. You may even want to record your interview!
Have you ever listened to the podcast/radio show How I Built This with Guy Raz? It is a great show where Guy interviews a business mogul about how they established their successful business. He asks his interviewees to speak to their humble beginnings, mistakes made, risks taken, and everything that lead them to where they are now. At the end of the interview he also asks them about what they see for the future of their business. The common thread in all of his interviewees stories are that they have had multiple failed attempts at success. They have taken risks, made mistakes, and have received help and support from a variety of people in their lives. Ultimately, every interviewee gets to speak to their particular resilience. In less than an hour Guy is able to capture how someone built the legacy that they have. How awesome is that?! This concept very much applies to a narrative exercise that can be used for working on our own broader stories.
Envision being interviewed on a podcast about who you are and how you have got to the place that you are in. Right now you might feel that you haven’t really accomplished anything. Maybe you are feeling like you are actively struggling with where you are in life. You may even believe that you are a complete failure. Don’t worry, this exercise is still for you.
These negative beliefs do not necessarily need to be challenged. However, let’s assume that if you are continuing to show up for yourself, even in reading this, that you are resilient and you are a survivor. You are a work in progress (as all of us are). How might you talk about your journey? How did you get built? What is left to be done? What is your next project? Write out, record, or talk out your answers to these interview questions and prompts:
- Tell me a little bit about your upbringing and what your initial interests, drives, hobbies and passions were. Who supported you in these things along the way? What were your first aspirations? Who were your inspirations?
- How was your view on life or success formulated growing up? What were you taught was possible for you?
- What mistakes, risks, or trouble did you get into? What have these experiences taught you about yourself? What did you learn about life?
- What does success mean to you? Choose a couple roles you might speak from (relationship with self, as a partner, child, parent, employee, citizen, or academic) to describe how you became successful, or are noticing success within these roles. Did anything about your previous experiences or risks you took inform you in this success? If you don’t identify as feeling successful, what has allowed you to stay strong enough to continue working on yourself right now?
- What is the next step for you in continuing to build the best you? What changes will be made and what would you need to make these changes? Who do you need to connect with for these endeavors?
If someone is really struggling with self-worth and self-esteem, try conducting this interview in third-person. (Ie. Jesse grew up..) This can help to access a narrative in a less threatening way.