What’s your story? Really, how do you talk about yourself? Is your story one of empowerment or victimization? Are you the star of your story, or do you play a supporting role? Is your story one of drama or equanimity?
How we talk about ourselves creates a powerful impression. Most of us unconsciously develop our narratives, then we never stop to evaluate if they serve us. Do you like your narrative? Who does it attract into your life? Who does it repel? What doors does it open and what doors does it close?
When we go through significant events in our lives, such as a divorce, we radically alter our narrative. We can turn ourselves into victims as a result of a divorce or we can use the experience to deepen ourselves, becoming more committed to our own growth, and developing greater compassion—because divorce usually involves some suffering. The way we tell this part of our story will determine a great deal about the rest of our lives.
Families have narratives, religions have narratives, and nations have narratives. For example, our national narrative during the Cold War was that, “the United States was the leader of the free world against the communist world; that we would invest in containing the Soviet Union and limiting its expansion while building a dynamic economy and as just, and prosperous a society as possible.” That is now an outdated narrative. “The assumptions of the 20th century, of the U.S. as a bulwark first against fascism and then against communism, make little sense in a world in which World War II and its aftermath is as distant to young generations today as the War of 1870 was to the men who designed the United Nations and the international order in the late 1940s.”
Our nation needs a new narrative, and if this topic interests you, I strongly recommend you read A National Strategic Narrative by Mr. Y. If you don’t have a strong interest in this kind of thing, at least read the preface by Anne-Marie Slaughter. It’s only three pages and, I believe, reading it is part of our civic responsibility. It’s also a wonderful example of comparing an outdated narrative with a new, relevant, and healthy narrative.
A healthy narrative answers questions about your past, provides clarity for your future, and describes the quality of your journey in such a way that you are less likely to get distracted while on your journey. A healthy narrative must be adapted to changing circumstances. And a healthy narrative has a happy ending.
So, again, I ask, “What’s your story?”