Everyone has a story. In fact, a number of stories that tells over and over again.
The moment we meet a new person, we introduce ourselves by telling them the stories that define us.
These may be stories from the childhood (“I’m a child of divorced parents.”) or from the professional path (“My partners squeezed me out of the business I built.”) or from the love life (“My partner left me after 10 years and I still don’t know why he did it.”) or from the realm of the spiritual (“I had a near death experience.”). We begin to tell stories as soon as we begin to get to know each other with a new person. It is always the same collection of stories that is used to introduce someone to what sort of being we are and why.
These are the stories we want to be known by.
If you recall how you tend to introduce yourself to new people and how you select which stories you tell them at different stages of building the relationship, you may find out that they are a limited number. You tell them pretty much in the same manner and you want to convey who you are by the way you represent yourself in the plot.
Who are you in the selected stories? The Hero? The Victim? The Special one? The Unfairly treated? The Badass? The Witty Winner? The Neglected one?…
The more we tell the same stories, the more the identity we define for ourselves is confirmed.
Every listener who hears our narrative, is introduced to us as the character we portray in the plot. Sometimes they easily begin to treat us as if this is who we really are. Some listeners may have their own take on the story, but more often than not, we are either seen through the stories we tell about ourselves or through the emotional atmosphere that the story creates as we tell it. Other listeners may reject the description we give of ourselves via the story and in this way they might make it ever stronger because now we need to defend the identity we’ve crafted.
The collection of stories we tell is a selection of moments and events that we considered emotionally significant.
We picked them from the vast library of experiences we had and we have made them more meaningful that others. These selected stories do not represent us accurately. They describe us in a limited way because they were chosen by a biased editor who only included the ones that reflected who we think we are. The richness and the complexity of our human nature is often reduced to simplified archetypal patterns that our spirit is forced to play out again and again.
These stories are tired of being told.
They have been disfigured from retelling, edited every time without conscious intention. They are exhausted of being used as costumes in which the narrator presents themselves in front of the world. They are worn out, their fabric thin and breaking, overused like a pair of jeans put on for decades day after day.
Furthermore, our spirit has taken the shape of the story. It learned how to fit in this costume and wear it, no matter how limiting it might have been. The spirit has become the part that the story requires – like an actor that fully embodied the character they are assigned to play. The spirit has shrunken, it has become complacent, weakened, gabbing and has completely given up on expanding or stretching towards its purpose.
As we hold on to the story, it holds our spirit captive.
Perhaps at this point you might ask yourself:
- Why do I hold on to this particular image that I create through my story?
- How is this story serving me?
- Why do I need to be seen and validated as a Hero or a Victim or any other character I portray myself as?
- Is it a value that I want to communicate? Something that I stand for?
- Or is it a fear I want to hide? Something I want to cover up by making sure everyone will be seeing the façade that I put up instead of what is behind it.
It is hard to let go of the story that we have used to define ourselves.
We may fearfully ask ourselves “Who am I without this story?” and cling to it, because otherwise we may feel as if we are losing our identity. But if we were to look beyond the story, we may find out that we were the character portrayed in it and we are also so much more. We were the Hero in one story and we were the Thief in another, untold one. We were the Victim in a plot of perceived injustice and we were the Goddess in a forgotten narrative. We were the Artist in one chapter and then we were the Hoarder who gives nothing back in another…
Captured by a collection of stories, playing fixed roles, we are limited in our self-expression. We are all driven by the need to be congruent or true to who we think we are. And we are willing to restrict our nature to the roles we’ve played in our stories most told, so that we have a sense of continuity of who we are through time.
What if we are this and so much more?
What if we were to expand the collection of stories by including some more? What if we pulled out a story that was abandoned as a draft, forgotten in the drawers of the mind? A story that reveals to us that we were also playing a character that contradicts the ideas we hold dear about who we are? What would become possible if we were to expand out identity by telling the unpopular, neglected stories of who we are?