There was one particular period in my life that I consider a turning point towards becoming a fully integrated human being. I won’t tell the whole tale, as it’s long, but the short version is that I finally realized that other people and other things could not be blamed for the fact that I made the same destructive choices over and over again throughout my life.
In our heads, we get to tell ourselves our own life story. We do it often. And because we are both the storyteller and audience, we get to paint whoever we want as villains and heroes, victims and saviors. And since we’re living out the plot of that story as we tell it, how we choose to characterize ourselves within the narrative makes a huge difference in how the rest of the story unfolds.
Until that point in my life, I painted myself as the victim waiting for her moment to become hero. I was a good character, one with good characteristics and good intentions and dreams which ought to dramatically come true to formulate a happy ending. When my day didn’t arrive, it was because I was still stuck in the early part of the tale, like Cinderella scrubbing floors and being oppressed by her stepfamily.
After finally tearing through much of the artifice and defensive walls I’d built up in my life to allow me to tell my story that way, my viewpoint changed. I figured out that I couldn’t leave the difficult, unsatisfactory, darker parts out of my story because I’m not a Disney character. I wasn’t the princess waiting for an invitation to the ball. If I ended up in the same situations, the same predicaments, over and over again, it was probably because I made the same mistakes and poor choices over and over again. If I didn’t change the pattern, I would never see a different outcome. I was the protagonist of my own tale, yes, but whether it ended in triumph or tragedy hinged more on my own choices than outside plot twists.
I didn’t want my life to be a cautionary tale. So I dug down to the plot device that kept leading me astray, the choice I continually made to undermine my own chance at success out of fear of failure, and centered the story instead on a struggle to choose differently.
And that’s when lots of things changed in my life. Taking responsibility for my own choices, good and bad, completely altered the landscape.
How do you tell yourself the story of your own life? Are you the hero? Will you be the hero in the end?