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Positive Psychology: Rewriting Your Self-Story

Positive Psychology: Rewriting Your Self-Story

I am trying my best to accept my flaws, faults, and failings and be compassionate to my perfectly imperfect self. While feeling extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to return to college in my late 40s to study Positive Psychology the science of happiness, wellbeing, and optimal living. Now, on a mission to spread the invaluable tools and strategies with as many and as varied an audience as possible and help others to thrive & flourish, I create & post daily social media posts which I hope to inspire, motivate, or comfort someone that needs to see it. 

  • 25 years’ experience teaching adolescents.
  • 1st class Masters in Positive Psychology from Buckinghamshire University, England.
  • Experience in designing and running highly successful wellbeing courses for Government bodies in the health sectors and schools.
  • Specialised research on the topics of self-awareness; self-doubt; self-compassion, self-acceptance; positive ageing and strengths psychology.
  • Creator of 12 researched, evidence-based, original, wellbeing courses all delivered to resounding feedback.
  • Creating and posting motivational messages daily through the social media platforms of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn for more than four years. 
  • Keynote speaker for academic and non-academic conferences.
  • Quarterly contributor and mentor for many organisations and schools.

Something that often comes up in my work empowering women is the need to rewrite the self-narrative i.e., the story we believe about ourselves.

The fact is we are constantly changing but, for many reasons, we rarely take the time out to reflect and acknowledge the changes we have made and are making. This leaves us at best not honouring ourselves and our growth, and at worst feeling frustrated and resentful, as we struggle to stay true to an outdated, inferior version of self. 

As part of my master’s research on positive psychology, I came across ‘narrative psychology’ and, in particular, the evidence-based work of Dan P. Mc Adams and his seminal book ‘The Stories We Live By’. This book explains that we understand and process everything through story and therefore we need to review and update our self-narrative as we develop. I have found this a real game-changer in helping people to reset and refocus on living their best imperfect life.

I use the example that if I was asked what my favourite colour is, I would automatically revert to my 5-year-old answer – pink – and then have to remind myself that it is currently gold (or any of the metallics, preferably with sparkles)! The fact is we rarely take time to update our likes/dislikes/strengths/weaknesses/values/priorities etc. All of which affect our life satisfaction.  

We can often feel unaligned, out of sync, stuck, lost or just unfulfilled and not have a clue what is wrong, so we can end up blaming age, work, other people, the weather, menopause and ‘whatever you are having yourself’!

I hope you are by now convinced as to the value of just taking a little time to reflect on your self-story. And I offer you some prompts here on some of these core issues which will help you to begin updating your own story. 

Try to do this honestly, objectively and, as far as you can manage, non-judgementally. Remember this work will benefit you and your happiness, which in turn will benefit all those around you – but it has to start with you being honest with yourself. 

Unveiling the Power of Positive Psychology for Personal Transformation

1. Values 

Take a look at this list of examples of common values and try to compile a list of your top 5. Be careful that these are what you truly deem important for yourself, not the ones you think should be, or are adopted from your culture, society, or role …Again, being honest is the only way to begin a catalytic change.  

Now, over the next few days’ notice how you are living your life. Is this aligned with your identified values? Are you wasting precious time and energy on something way down on your priority list? While not spending enough quality time on areas you have now deemed as valuable? With all of this in mind, re-evaluate the list and make a final draft. Remember this is just for now, you can do this again in a couple of months.

2. StrengTHs

The whole area of ‘strengths psychology’ has revealed lots of hope-inducing research since this area has become popular in positive psychology, and for good reason. I even capitalise the TH at the end to signify The Hope, as I believe it holds such power. The truth is we tend to undervalue our strengths and overvalue our weaknesses and there are lots of reasons for this.  

So, what are your strengths? For many of us, we reel off the same desirable list we compiled earlier in our lives, for interview situations.

There are numerous strength tests one can take to enable you to update your strengths list. Here is the link to the VIA one, which is a great free resource with lots of valuable information on their website on how to capitalize on the results.

Working with a strengths coach is beneficial for more in-depth development in this area.

3. Achievements 

Achievements, like strengths, are often underestimated. We rarely give ourselves the kudos we deserve for how far we have come and all of the hurdles we have jumped. Think about all you have been through this past year or, even, this last couple of challenging years. Try listing all the challenges that you have overcome and all the new skills and abilities you have achieved. Take time to reflect, giving yourself credit for these. 

4. Resources & Advantages

I have to admit there are days when I forget how lucky I am, maybe even slipping into an occasional ‘pity party for one’ or victim mode. Once I become mindfully aware of this, I try to revert to one of my favourite strategies – the never-ending gratitude list…This involves listing out all I am grateful for and usually begins with the usual suspects, such as family, friends, a roof over my head, but before long I am feeling grateful for things like my super soft feather pillow or my flawed but fabulous challenging child, or the healing of a recent cold sore. it’s incredible what the subconscious stores!

This moves me from a feeling of loss/scarcity/not-enoughness to one of abundance and helps me to feel grateful and lucky, which leads to me feeling empowered to move forward with a stronger stride. In short, my energy shifts completely.

5. Goals (even dream ones)

With this renewed invigorated confidence, we can then dream a bit brighter and set some stretch goals that we may aspire to. 

Use these powerful coaching questions to start this process:

Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and all your stress and limitations had vanished. How would that look? 

What would you love to do, if you knew failure was not an option?

If you had unlimited resources and self-confidence, what would you dream for yourself? Where would you most like to be in six months, one year from now? What one small step could you take today to help you to get there?  

I hope in doing this work you will have felt empowered and have a fresh positive view on the wonderful perfectly imperfect woman you are and how far you have come along your journey. All of the obstacles you have overcome and how you grew through what you’ve been through. Remember that strength comes from the mud and, as Thich Nhat Hanh said, no mud, no lotus.

I would give a final word of advice as it’s something that has helped me enormously: Keep patting yourself on the back for how far you have progressed, get into the habit of being your cheerleader, and even when things go wrong say: “wow as bad as that may have been, I handled it much better than I would have x months ago.”


About the Author

Women Thrive Magazine Article Author - Siobhan Connolly Hogan

Name: Siobhan Connolly Hogan BATh., MAPP.

Professional Title: CEO/Founder of Sona Wellbeing

Bio: Siobhan, has 25 years’ of experience teaching adolescents. 1st class Masters in Positive Psychology from Buckinghamshire University, England. With experience in designing and running highly successful well-being courses for Government Bodies in the health sectors and schools. She has specialised her research on the topics of self-awareness; self-doubt; self-compassion, self-acceptance, positive ageing, and strengths psychology. having created 12 researched, evidence-based, original, wellbeing courses all delivered to resounding feedback. 

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Media platform spotlighting and celebrating entrepreneurial women and their achievements. Creating a platform where every woman can be seen and heard. We are disrupting the media industry by democratising media channels for women. If you have a business or an idea and you would like to rise and thrive, you are in the right place.
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