By: Jocelyn Schwalm
Most people accept their circumstances without questioning the validity of the story they tell themselves. For some this is a good thing that leads to a high self-value and confidence, but for others it can be detrimental. We lack the objectivity to properly assess what is real and what isn’t, and this can be dangerous. Experience seems to be the only indicator that sometimes what we tell ourselves doesn’t coincide with reality.
Our stories are composed in adolescence and early adulthood hood and tend to stick with people throughout their adult life, unless they become aware. Those who have a general idea of who they are as a person use their perceived traits to make sense of what happens around them. The problem with this is that these traits aren’t static. If you are compassionate and empathetic with one friend, and outgoing and excitable with another, neither one of those situations is the finite you, even if you are convinced it is unchangeable.
Humans are multi-dimensional in the way that depending on the circumstances, we can change our situation, but when the story becomes negative and internalized, that’s when it’s time to rewrite. A study has found that writing down a negative story form their lives forced participants to magnify the external contributors that influenced the negative internal story, aiding the person to change the way they saw themselves in that situation.
This is closely linked to narrative identity theory, which states that we gather who we are based on our experiences of external reactions surrounding us. The more we label ourselves a certain way, the more likely people are to treat us that way, and the more likely we are to repeat the behavior to make others comfortable.
By reconstructing our views of ourselves in such a way that they are in our favor, it could drastically improve our life circumstances. Taking a look at traumatic life experiences from an objective point of view can reframe them, leading to a revaluation of the event and a change of mindset. The uplifting idea that we are able to edit our own stories to better ourselves anchors within us an inherent power.