The Heroine’s Journey: From Old Story to New. How to Shed Limiting Beliefs that Keep You Playing Small

I just recently met with Heather, a client of mine whose dream is to write a novel. This goal is all she thinks about. We dug into the high cost to her of not pursuing this dream in terms of her family, her finances, her sense of self and even her health.

She’s got a deep and burning desire to express herself through writing and yet, why do all the other distractions tend to take her away from making it happen?

A lot of what came up was stuff around the old story she was living. Here are some of the elements of that story that had such a grip on her:

  • Being successful and writing a book is for other people, special people – not like me.
  • It’s selfish to write and it’s a waste of time.
  • There are more important and practical things I should be doing besides writing (housework or taking care of my family).
  • My stories (that I wish to write about) are not worthy or important enough (I’m not important enough).

We also got into how it even felt “dangerous” for her to sit down and write. She might be upsetting the apple cart with her husband, her mother (who has passed on) and her friends.

We discovered that pursuing her dream was scary stuff and that it required stepping out of a role she had cast herself in (her old story).

But she was also aware of the larger story that was pulling her forward and the more she could release the old one, the more powerful that force of attraction (of the Larger Story) became.

What was Heather’s Larger Story?

Joseph Campbell referred to this as the hero’s journey and I believe we’re all called to follow our own hero or heroine’s journey into a bigger version of ourselves.

I’m sure that you’ve already been through some experiences in which you recognize this to be true. Perhaps you’ve overcome several major obstacles or you’ve had to rise to an occasion to face a set of circumstances that challenged you and drew upon strengths within you that you hadn’t previously been aware existed?

In those moments, you stepped out of what I refer to as “the small story” and into the “Larger Story” of who you are.

Most of us have built up stories about ourselves over time. You may see yourself as a mom, a daughter, a wife, a patient, someone who suffers from a particular disease, an employee or a business owner. You may have a story about what you deserve in life, what you’re allowed to want, or perhaps what your duties or obligations are.

Although these stories aren’t necessarily bad, they can often times limit and constrain us to a very small vision for our life. They don’t represent the full truth or the more expanded version of who you could be or who you already are deep down. While these ways of seeing ourselves are based on some truth, when we attach our identity to them too narrowly they often prevent us from opening up to greater POSSIBILITIES.

I like to frame that larger story within the context of the hero or heroine’s journey.

There are three phases of the heroine’s journey

1. The first phase involves a departure from lands that are known and familiar, and the breaking away from the group or tribe to follow one’s unique path.

Many of the women I work with experience this “call to adventure” as they start to they attempt to follow the path necessary to create their soul-centered project or business. This comes with its set of challenges as it may feel scary or lonely to branch out on your own.

2. In phase two, the heroine has a variety of adventures in the new and foreign land, which is often portrayed as a mythical world somewhat out of ordinary time. It is here that you are faced with a number of challenges or obstacles and as you learn to tackle and overcome them, you uncover your special gifts or powers. There are a lot of unpredictable twists and turns within this huge adventure (and of course it’s unique to each traveler) but ultimately, it’s a journey of transformation.

You may be facing similar obstacles and wonder; “why are these problems coming up in my life?” It can feel like life has led you onto some wild and crazy planet – out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, we resist having to deal with what can feel like “strange problems in a strange land” and we want to push them away. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t recognized and embraced the challenges as an integral part our mythical journey and that they are a catalyst for your growth.

3. The third series of steps involve a return to the “ordinary world.” After your adventure, you’re a new person and you have much wisdom and guidance to offer.

Now that you’ve accepted to learn from some of the challenges life has put on your path, you’re ready to hold out that space for others. As you’ve undergone the transformation of the heroine’s journey, you’ve claimed your gifts and your strengths. Now, you’re ready to share them!

In Heather’s case, we started to discover that underneath all the false/old stories, she was an empathic listener, a witness, and voice for those who could not speak. She became aware that she possessed these qualities while going through a number of difficult personal situations (her own heroine’s journey) but had not previously recognized them as strengths. She felt called to use her voice, to express her own experiences along with her authentic observations of life and of those who had suffered abuse but couldn’t talk about it.

She began to feel the value and significance of what she had to share and to understand that it would be more selfish of her not to write than to write. She realized that her longing to write was far more than a personal whim and that her message could be life-altering for her audience.

Questions for self-reflection

I invite you to name one or two “small stories” you currently live in that feel limiting or constraining and that you’d like to “shed” in order to step into something you long for and desire.

Examples of false stories
  • I’m not good enough (therefore I have to try to be perfect)
  • I need to be helping others all the time
  • I’m selfish if I focus on myself
  • Good things are not meant for me
  • I am only okay when I’m working myself to the bone

How do these small stories hold you back from stepping into your full potential?

What moments can you remember where you were able to access the Larger Story that seeks to live itself out within you?

 


 

Gabrielle is a psychotherapist and a Transformational Coach. Her passion is to offer support and guidance to Sensitive Soul Leaders – visionary women who deeply desire to break through to the next level of their business or their dream.

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