Families tell stories to socialize one another to the beliefs, values, and norms that come to guide daily life, and women are often known as the kinkeepers of the family stories(Koenig Kellas, Holman, & Flood-Grady, 2019, p. 215).
I’ve been thinking a lot about the narratives that I grew up with. The stories that were told and the ones that I had observed and internalized. Growing up, my mother would tell me stories about her childhood. She would tell me stories that later on in life I would appreciate. These stories were filled with hidden lessons, cautionary tales, and details about what it was like for her to grow up in the 1980s. Retrospective storytelling refers to research on participants recollections of storytelling in the family (Koenig Kellas, 2017). This heuristic has an underlying premise that the stories we hear and tell can have significant lasting effects on our beliefs, behavior, and health (Koenig Kellas, 2017). Retrospective storytelling gives us a chance to make-sense of the stories that are being told to us and they give us time to reflect on how they affect our relationships..
“Our partners do not belong to us; they are only on loan, with an option to renew—or not. Knowing that we can lose them does not have to undermine commitment; rather, it mandates an active engagement that long-term couples often lose. The realization that our loved ones are forever elusive should jolt us out of complacency, in the most positive sense.”- Esther Perel
One day you will meet the man of your dreams. You will fall hopelessly in love, get married, and have kids. Life will be perfect… Yeah, okay. I’ll be the first to admit it that I do live in a lollipops and candy world (according to close friends and family), however, the narrative of how love and relationships are supposed to go, even I don’t subscribe to that… anymore. I was raised to be independent and to think that you can only count on yourself.. I think that being in a long term relationship that didn’t end the way I’d hope did a number on me. I believe that my past experiences with not only just in relational to my family members but also close friends shapes how I see it. I subscribe to the philosophy that love is a practice it’s not a feeling. It’s a choice we make every day. I know for sure that the narrative most of us grow up hearing isn’t real. But that doesn’t mean the pressure of those expectations of trying to conform or live up to that narrative isn’t present in our society.
“It so often happens that somebody says ‘change your life’ and you repaint your car rather than re-wire the engine”- Pico Lyer
The above images only showing a small amount of the work that has been done over the years. My journey to self-love and acceptance has not been easy and there are some days where I question if I will ever make it too the end. The story I grew up hearing about weight, health, and body image was that it was important to take care of yourself, however, when you don’t have the means or the access to the necessary information to be “healthy” it’s harder to prioritize that. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started to notice that boys didn’t like me the way they liked my friends and automatically I assumed it was because of my outward appearance.. This message of “I’ll be worthy of so and so’s love after I lose 20lbs” stuck with me for a long time and it was the ultimate motivator that started me on my fitness journey. It didn’t sustain me though. Long after those feelings of infatuation fading; I knew that if I was going to change; it had to be for myself and only for myself.
I found out slowly but surely that you can change your outward appearance, you can do whatever you want but if you don’t work on your mental health and how you truly see yourself; nothing has or will change. That was back in 2013, its now 2020 and I know the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s not about what you see on the scale. I started out at 195lbs and I’m down to almost 145lbs however, that is all about consistency and making the choice to show up every day for yourself. The hard part that I still struggle with is my mind. Am I any happy at 145 than I was at 195? Maybe. I can do a body weight pull-ups and I can run faster than I did before. But are my relationships better? More importantly, is the relationship I have with myself better? Healthier?
Readers, I encourage you to think of some stories that you were told growing up and reflect on how you think they could have help shape your identity today? These stories/ memorable messages could have been implicit or explicit and although I focused mainly on my family and friends, think about how your environment and culture plays a role too.
Thank you for reading,
Family stories teach members essential life lessons about gender roles, ethnic identity, finances, emotions, illness, and self-worth (Koenig Kellas, J., & Horstman, H. 2015)
Koenig Kellas, J. K., Holman, A. J., & Flood-Grady, E. (2019). Retrospective storytelling between mothers and daughters. In A. M. Alford & M. Miller-Day (Eds.), Constructing Motherhood and Daughterhood Across the Lifespan (Vol. 14, pp. 215–232). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
Koenig Kellas, J., & Horstman, H. (2015). Communicated narrative sense-making: Understanding family narratives, storytelling, and the construction of meaning through a communicative lens. The SAGE Handbook of Family Communication, 76–90.
Koenig Kellas, J. L. (2017). Communicated narrative sense-making theory: Linking storytelling and well-being. In D.O. Braithwaite, E. A. Suter, & K. Floyd (Eds.), Engaging Theories in Family Communication: Multiple Perspectives (pp. 62-74). NY: Taylor and Francis.
Title Inspo: Another lifetime by Nao