I can’t draw a straight line.
I’m not good at math.
Science always confused me.
Mom liked my brother best.
We were poor growing up so I don’t know how to handle money.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? What is your personal narrative? What stories do you tell yourself….or worse yet, allow others to say about you that may not be true?
I was having a conversation with someone the other day that I’ve known for years but whom I rarely hang out with much since we left school. He made a remark about how I am shy or some such. I let it slide but it suddenly dawned on me that he doesn’t know me at all. Where did he come up with this story and, more importantly, why do I allow someone else write my personal narrative for me?
I haven’t been shy since I hid behind the door when I was a toddler. In fact, I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t fear public speaking at all. I ran for office in school, worked for one of the world’s largest companies, have given numerous presentations on stage, in groups, on TV and radio. Nope, no butterflies.
This led me to ponder what other narratives do I allow people to attach to me? Or do I tell myself?
What stories do you tell yourself? Were you known as the smart sibling? Or the trouble-maker? The hard worker or the messy one? Sometimes we tell stories on ourselves or allow other people to define us. Maybe we were never like that. Maybe we tripped once, but are we really a klutz?
So, what should we do if someone starts telling our personal narrative for us? First, I think it’s appropriate to spend a little time thinking about those boxes that people have put us in, and be ready to stop the narrative. You don’t have to jump all over the person – maybe they’re just trying to find some common ground – but be ready to explain that you’re not really like that. That you haven’t run into a door since you were sixteen. But also, don’t let them argue with you. Maybe they’re more comfortable when they have you in that box even if it isn’t true. Just shrug and smile. Or give them a good long stare. They’ll get the hint.
And then give some thought as to how you would like to be perceived. Maybe you’ve changed over the past twenty or forty years. You don’t have to keep living someone else’s narrative of you. This is your own life and you are the author of your own story.