Canadian author Thomas King once said “The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.” In other words, we are all made up of the stories of our past and the stories we tell other people.
This is very true when you think about how often the stories we tell other people reinforce our own emotions, motives and paths in life.
In Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare, the play opens with our lovelorn protagonist pining over the beautiful Rosalind, who has rejected Romeo; he spends the day moping about convincing himself that he will never know so beautiful or perfect a woman.
Or consider the heroic Harry Potter who, upon learning of his past, his magical abilities, and his destiny, embodies the role of magical super-sleuth.
These stories we tell ourselves become internalized, and, just as Romeo and Harry are convinced of their fate, so, too, can we lock ourselves in by accepting a narrative about us, good or bad.
How do we go about (re)writing our own story about ourselves? Well, there are three things that need to happen: we have to live it, we have to say it to ourselves, and internalize our narrative. We have to build a story about ourselves, one that is cohesive, and can guide us in our goal setting.
How do you flip the switch from negative to positive?
I remember a few years back there was a celebrity (I think it was John Meyer) who had a video leaked of his own private Positive Affirmations. He sounded a bit like a narcissist saying things like (and I paraphrase) “you are beautiful! You are perfect!” And while I do think that he was going about it the wrong way, I feel like he was onto something. Keeping a personal journal (one that preferably does not get leaked) where you write our your goals, efforts, improvements, and accomplishments is a great way to see how much you have improved!
This in turn helps you to begin writing out, living, and eventually internalizing your narrative, that is, your personal story about yourself.
Begin with small improvements: “Working out at least 4x a week; make bolder claims: “Impress the boss this month”; write out your ‘destiny’: “Retire with enough to travel every year.”
Please note that this is not junk self-help like “The Secret” or some similar pseudo-scientific “Power of Positive Thinking”/wish fulfillment. This is actually having goals in mind and taking the steps necessary to making them manifest.
Even Romeo resolved to go to a party where he would meet the girl of his dreams (forget how they both died… you cynics); and the Great Harry Potter was just another student of magic before fulfilling his destiny.
We all have trials and tribulations; it’s how we view them, and if we keep track of the improvements we are making that will ultimately determine our perspective.
Here are some other perspectives on Personal Narrative:
Elan Morgan: Personal Narrative and Self-Doubt
Robert Tercek: Reclaiming Personal Narrative (picks up at 8mins)
Susan Conley – Power of Story