By Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT
Personal narratives are powerful. They are developed through a mixture of experiences & personality and they create the lens through which we see the world.
Our personal narratives tell us what we can and cannot do. They tell us how we expect to be treated. Who can love us & who will not. They tell us A LOT.
Sometimes, they are accurate and at other times, not so much. We can over identify with them to the point that they cause destructive patterns to be maintained in our lives. At other times, we can under identify with them – hiding beautiful or shameful parts away from others.
Without an understanding of your narrative, it becomes very hard to make changes in your life. An unknown narrative gets all the power. It gets to silently make decisions. It gets to silently impact your sense of self.
Once you are aware of the stories you have created about who you are then it becomes easier to hold onto the parts that benefit you or are accurate and it becomes simpler to let go of the parts that maintain self-sabotage or untruths.
When you consider your narrative you want to think of your life history ( the experiences you’ve had, the environments you have lived in, and the people you’ve known) , your experience of society (racism, sexism, ableism, sexual orientation, and privilege), your relationship history (how have you been treated? how have you seen others be treated? what beliefs do you have about relationships), your different identities throughout life, what other people have said about you and how that has impacted your beliefs, and unique outcomes (the times that something happened that doesn’t support the narrative).
You might find that other people have called you “disorganized” and yet there have been several unique moments in your life in which you were extremely organized. Perhaps the running joke in your family was that you are always the class clown but maybe you don’t even like to be the center of attention. Pay attention to these areas of incongruency.
As you create the narrative, you will have the opportunity to step back and ask important questions like:
- What is this story missing?
- If someone believes these things about themselves how is their life bound to unfold?
- What do I wish my story was instead?
- What in this story is fact and what in this story is an opinion about the fact?
And so many other questions that will begin to support the development of a newer narrative that facilitates growth and empowerment.
Ready to start writing your narrative? You can download this worksheet to begin the process:
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is a Marriage & Family Therapist living in the Philadelphia suburbs and working in the heart of downtown Philly. Elizabeth supports individuals and couples build awareness of themselves to facilitate healthier and happier relationships with the world.
Elizabeth offers counseling online and in person. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.