In Already Enough (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 2022), Lisa Olivera, a marriage and family therapist with 471,000 Instagram followers, explains how reframing the stories we tell—or have been told—about ourselves facilitates self-compassion. For instance, rejecting the narrative that “everyone ends up leaving” can open one up to relationships; quieting the refrain “I’m just going to mess up” allows for risk-taking. Olivera spoke with PW about moving from self-judgment toward self-curiosity.
How does what we’re told about ourselves early in life continue to affect us through years?
Wherever we go our stories come along with us, showing up in the way we relate to ourselves and others: whether we take risks, engage in vulnerability, or receive love. Our stories impact who we believe ourselves to be and what we believe ourselves to be capable of, and who we are in work and relationships. Exploring and understanding our stories gives us the opportunity to step out of them and see what’s working and not working.
Can you share an example of a strategy from the book that helps enhance self-acceptance?
One is using curiosity instead of judgment. We may find ourselves leaning into self-criticism, but if we can shift into curiosity and openness, we create space for something new to emerge. When we practice curiosity, we step out of what we’re used to and find more supportive ways of approaching ourselves. Curiosity invites us to imagine what else is possible, creating space between those stories and ourselves. We see them not as our identities and who we are, but as stories we picked up along the way. It’s a huge path toward self-acceptance, practicing being with ourselves from a curious place.
How does intergenerational trauma factor into this?
When we understand where the stories come from and how they’ve been passed down generation to generation, we have the opportunity to do things differently. These patterns, ways of being, and beliefs get passed down to us as early as in the womb. Understanding this allows us to step out of shaming ourselves and assuming it’s our fault, and into “where did these stories come from, why might those things have been handed down to me, and how did I interpret them?” More understanding leads to more compassion and room for something else to evolve.
What are some of the stories you’d like the world, collectively, to reframe for 2022 and beyond?
I hope we can begin to trust that we deserve to care for ourselves and each other and change things that aren’t working in ways that honor our humanity, instead of judging and shaming. There are so many more supportive, compassionate ways of figuring out who we are and what we want, and ways to show up for ourselves and each other. People think that if we approach ourselves with compassion, we won’t be able to become the people we’re meant to be, when really it’s the complete opposite.