Changing The Narrative
We're all storytellers.
We tell ourselves stories, and we tell them to others, shaping our personal narratives to reflect whatever we've decided the truth is.
Unexamined, our stories appear to be linear, sequential and factual. I woke up, and the day unfolded like so. All of the tiny events we don't notice, choose to leave out (or that we'd rather forget) don't make the cut.
Over time, those stories make up the fabric of our lives and our sense of self. I am this character in my story. We don't often pause to explore how we wrote that character, and why we chose to write them that way.
Thousands of thoughts, ideas and interactions happen on any given day. It's tempting to add only the ones that fit neatly into our stories. So that they're not messy, or confusing, or uncomfortable.
I'm; a winner, nice, thoughtful, hardworking, kind, underrated, honest, a victim, unlucky, righteous, generous, responsible, poor, small, misunderstood, negative, positive, sought after, superior, complicated, accepting, beautiful, ugly, long-suffering, intelligent, damaged, strong...
Once we've chosen a few adjectives to define our characters, it's hard to accept or even see things that don't quite fit. I'm really thoughtful, but sometimes I do selfish things. I'm a victim, but I just won.
That makes it difficult to choose new labels:
- I'm long-suffering but now I choose to have higher expectations and ask for what I want.
- I'm underrated but now I choose to play really big.
- I'm accepting but I'm now choosing to draw firm boundaries.
- I'm very nice but I choose to address the hurt others have told me I caused them, instead of telling them it's not possible because I'm nice.
- I'm damaged, but I'm choosing to heal and fix myself.
The only person stopping us from scrapping the old story and writing something different is us. Sometimes the people in your life won't like the new one and will choose to leave, but that's not a good enough reason to remain unhappy or in a state of denial.
At a certain point, we have to ask the question: is the story I'm telling myself and everyone else actually true? Aside from what I'm saying about it, what is the evidence of this? Would other people agree with my assessment? Do the facts of my daily existence match my story?
We get very attached to the characters we've written, and writing them differently without a major plot twist - a near-death experience, a breakup, a new location - feels wrong.
Letting go of the behaviours and labels we're comfortable with is painful.
I'm not suggesting it's easy, or that you can just make a switch and do it in one day. I'm just saying you have the option to start, to challenge yourself: to write a more complex, more surprising character with a rich and constantly evolving story.
Is there a narrative you're stuck in that you're struggling to change? Or is someone else in your life sticking to a story you don't think is true? Share in the comments below.