The stories we tell ourselves

The stories we tell ourselvesThis summer I did a lot of self-reflection – going through upheaval in your life tends to encourage that.

I’ve always considered myself quite self-aware, but a couple of different people forced me to re-examine that notion in the midst of this turmoil. As a result, I found myself totally rethinking the entire trajectory of certain aspects of my life. It’s really quite frightening to re-frame, say, an entire relationship, a career path, or any other key element of your identity. It was eye-opening.

As Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” But I think it’s important to realise that there are also many different ways to connect the dots in your life. Like people see different things in the clouds or in Rorschach inkblots, you can interpret different things from those dots. I’ve only lived one life, and like most (all?) of you I’ve crafted a narrative about it to suit, but I could so easily pull out different points to plot a very different story.

The truth is subjective, and humans are complicated. We talk about a ‘single source of truth’ when it comes to web analytics, but unfortunately there’s no such thing when it comes to life. There are several possible versions of any personal narrative, and I suppose we’ll usually choose the one that paints the best possible picture – as Annalise on How to Get Away With Murder put it, “say it and you’ll believe it”.

I don’t know that the story I tell myself is the truest one. But maybe accuracy isn’t the best measure for these things. What matters is that you can live with it.

3 thoughts on “The stories we tell ourselves

  • Reply Rhonda Albom March 6, 2015 at 00:45

    That Steve Jobs quote really speaks to me. I hadn’t heard it before.

  • Reply Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents March 6, 2015 at 02:29

    Absolutely. In every life you could probably find a story of triumph, a story of failure, a tragedy, a comedy, etc. I had one point where I completely overhauled my life trajectory and it was terrifying. Every aspect of who I thought I was was wrapped up in this career I had picked out for myself and with a relationship that I was in, but if I chucked it, who would I be? It was frightening to have to rethink all my life decisions and try to wade through this world that for some reason I though I had “figured out”.

    I hope the self-reflection has been good and helpful for you during the tough times.

  • Reply amber March 9, 2015 at 04:22

    This is so much truth. In writing I’ve come to see the way the stories we share (even just with ourselves) can be filled with all kinds of encouragement and truth, or with terrible, destructive lies and the line there is so thin. Sometimes I wonder how much of what I’m pondering is worthwhile, truthful, meaningful or if it’s just so because of some other person/thing told me it is so. Whoa. All kinds of refectiveness there. 🙂

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