It is a simple question, right? What is the story that we are telling ourselves? As we operate through the day, as we interact with the world, as it acts upon us or vice versa, what story are we telling about it? While it might feel like a funny way of looking at it, but humans are storytellers. One of the attributes of our race is that we tell stories to explain the ways of the world. Everything that occurs has a story, even when the events can only speak of randomness. The question then must be asked: what story is it that we adhere to our own life?
Do you have agency? In other words, is the story that you tell one where life happens to you and you have no control? Is the story you tell of yourself is one where everyone is judging you at all times, that every sideways glance is not but a passing moment, but one rendering their opinion upon you?
The Stoic philosopher and teacher, Epictetus, spoke of the concept of impressions. He asserted that one can only control the impressions they form of the life surrounding them. Other stoics rephrase this same lesson, a lesson that moves throughout the philosophy. One can only control one’s own reaction is another way of putting it. It’s our interpretation of life that we can control is yet another. For me, being a storyteller is that one can only control the story we tell ourselves. It is the lens that we view the world through.
Concepts such as micro-aggressions, cancel culture, and many more can all find roots in the maladaptive stories that we tell ourselves. When one tells the story that everyone is trying to assert power over everyone else, then even the slightest motion of a hand, a glance of an eye, will be seen as an attempt to aggressive act. When one tells the story that they are being silenced, then every criticism of what they say becomes an overt attempt at “canceling” their voice.
There are a multitude of other examples to how the story that we tell can influence the way the we see the world. Given our psychological tendency towards negativity, stories that tend that way can capture our narrative in a far more compelling way. Bad impressions, reactions, opinions, stories, exist throughout humanity and often can reside even in ourselves. It lends weight or evidence when we do encounter an individual whose own story perfectly aligns with our own negative stories. Again, however, it is yet but a story. It is an impression we place upon the world, not a truth.
Is the story you tell one that is positive? Is it negative? Is it a forgiving story? What happens if we choose to abandon the story we’ve told ourselves and begin to tell a new one? How would our view of the world change?
Our story is one thing we can control. Tell a good one.