Why Your "Story" is Important

Photo by  Simson Petrol

Photo by Simson Petrol

There's a lot of talk in self-help and psychology circles today about how our "stories" can hold us back. We attach weighted meaning to certain events in our past and hitch our future identity to them. "I am unlovable," or "I always fail," or "I'm a victim." Obviously, these stories don't serve us. 

But we have other stories, too. Stories that are touchstones. These are the narratives that speak to the fabric of our being and are incredibly important to hold on to. 

In my twenties, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you much of anything that I liked about myself. Then, in my thirties, real life set in. Traumatic things happened, and magical things happened. There were monumental losses and momentous gains. People told me I couldn't do things, and I did them anyway. Life took things away that I thought I could not go on without--but I did. In the end, I created a life that I loved. I created a person that I loved. And I did it all by myself.

By my mid-thirties, of course, there were still things about myself that I wanted to change and improve upon. But I could also point to a collection of qualities that I really appreciated and valued. Things like: I have the faith and work ethic to make the impossible possible. I can overcome tragedy and still experience joy in the present and have hope for the future. I am never "stuck" in life; even though I might feel like I am at times, I always find a new, even better road to travel.

And, then, someone tried to take my story away from me. At first, I didn't even notice it was happening. But, over time, it became undeniable. He chiseled, and chiseled, and chiseled away at my story, until there was none left. I was just a blank page for him to create whatever story about he wanted to. He did this in big and small ways, until none of my story was left. "You are a victim." "You've never had anything bad happen to you." "You haven't had to work for anything you have." "You are cold." "You don't like people--you're anti-social."

And then, to the public, he would extract parts of my story that were less meaningful to me, but that (I suppose) he thought made him look good. The image he painted was so one-dimensional, that even these things I was allowed "to keep" started to feel like they were no longer mine. They belonged to a character I didn't even know.

Of course, I knew that I wasn't who he said I was. But when someone rewrites your story--when someone rewrites who you are--it's a massive mindf*ck. I got really quiet, trying to hold in everything about myself so that he couldn't rewrite it or delete it altogether.

I have spent the past several months reclaiming my story. In the process of doing this, I have added even more chapters. I have become  stronger and more secure from the experience, although I understand it could have easily gone the other way. I am prouder than ever of who I am, and what I have accomplished. And all of that belongs only to me.

Some stories serve us, and others do not. But it is never, ever anyone else's right or jurisdiction to do the editing for you.