According to Northwestern psychologist, Dr. Dan McAdams, all humans are natural storytellers that constantly revise and edit the ways that they talk about the past and the future. Dr. McAdams work revolves around the concept of 'narrative identity'.
Every person has their own unique journey in life and with this journey comes a multitude of experiences that shape who they are. Some of these experiences might have been filled with joy, wonder, a sense of awe, and accomplishment. Other experiences might have left them with pain, suffering, regret, shame and emotional scars.
As Dr. McAdam says, what narrative identity does is create 'historians of self'. People see their past as something that they can draw meaning from that can then be applied to what they think might happen in the future.
I've been fortunate enough to interview some amazing people on my podcast over the years. What I have learned from interviewing some of the best in the world is that they all own their story. Whether it be gold medallists in the Olympics, professional athletes, best-selling authors, top researchers or world renowned performance psychologists, they all embrace their stories; the ups, the downs, the triumphs, the failures, the deep regrets and so on.
They know with certainty that they are vessels of self-learning. They also know that it is very important to do the deep internal work needed to consistently move forward in their life in empowering ways.
By and large, these people are willing to explore their past and mine for the gold, but also accept they are works of art in progress that are flawed with imperfections. The most important part of their journey is that they have always been willing to 'own their story' and learn from it.
Recognizing and accepting our past can be difficult at times. It can be easier to avoid sitting in the potential discomfort, emotional stress, and anxiety caused by exploring painful memories and experiences in our life, but as Brene Brown's quote above emphasizes, there are two choices:
"You either walk inside of your story and own it or stand outside of your story and hustle for your worthiness"
So, as you reflect on your own personal narrative from the past and present, reflect on these three questions:
To what extent are you willing to stand in your story and own it?
What have you learned about yourself based on exploring this story?
And lastly, how has both the good and not so good of your story shaped the person you currently are?
Thanks for reading.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.