There is a story we tell ourselves about ourselves. The story of “I” that dictates the picture of us, our past, our present, and our future.
Some of it is made up of our past, actual events that happened. The time your mother slapped you for swearing, or the time you saw a stranger getting teased mercilessly.
It is also just as importantly made up of things that both did not happen to you, and things you chose to forget. Your friends not doing drugs in front of you and one of them dying, a friend not winning the lottery, being molested but forcing yourself to forget, or just forgetting a family trip where you lost the dog.
And, some of it is made up of how you choose to remember it. The macaroni & cheese your dad made that was the BEST FOOD YOU EVER TASTED, without the inclusion that it was because you hadn’t eaten all day. Your favorite movie being Beauty and the Beast, but not remembering being thrown up on after seeing it for the first time because your little brother ate too much popcorn.
But of course, it’s not just a story of events, or the lack thereof. It is also all the internal monologue, the painting you make of yourself. Sure, the tangible attributes of a small chest or big tummy or little toes or brown hair paint your mental picture of yourself, the self you think others see when they look at you (though they probably don’t – they probably only see you the way you see you after years of knowing you), they all feel important. They are important for your explanation of how the world interacts with you (“he only talks to me because of my chest, but he’ll be caught by my beautiful eyes”)… but it is far more interesting to see the underlying picture.
What I love most is the story you tell yourself about why and how. These two things explain your future.
When I was young, my family and I went for a bike ride through the center of the city. At an old abandoned warehouse, we all stopped, and looked at the dilapidated building, with a few glass panes still full, and they all threw rocks at the windows, feeling their power and hurting no one. I could not. It was not my window, and I had no right to break it. It was not right, and I didn’t know it’s effect, so I refused to throw rocks, I refused to break the glass, I refused to break the rules. This is the story I tell of myself, that I am someone that does not take an action outside of the acceptable rules unless I am sure it will hurt no one. I base my daily subconscious decisions on this, knowing I am not a person that would ever willingly hurt someone or something for no reason. This is who I am, as the story I tell myself. This paints the inside picture of me. I take my responsibilities very seriously, straining very hard to never be less than I must to fulfill my responsibility, once I have decided that it is mine.
If you could see the entire story I tell of me, you could see every choice I will make in the future. I will never abandon my daughter or husband, or the story of I will have to change. I will live a mostly normal life, and take pride in little things. I will make most of my choices based on those I am responsible for, and when two roads are given to me, if you saw the full picture of me, it would be easy to predict which I will choose.
But it is difficult to see someone’s full picture. Because this is my story, I often have to color my responsibilities with streaks of being a victim, but blaming myself for it. And so, I am scared to go out, and I am scared of people that could hurt me unintentionally. I hide inside and trust only a very few.
I could begin telling myself a different story, and on occasion I do. “I am a person that enjoys being thanked, and so I will be the person that thanks other people.” Sometimes things like that work, and a am a beautiful, fuller shade for it.
Sometimes, stories like “I only need to eat until I am full, and I am satisfied with lighter meals because I am a smaller person” only work for a short period of time, and then the story of “When I was young, I at ice cream at parties, and I enjoyed having my friends around at those parties, and I was happy, and so ice cream makes me happy” pokes it’s head through, along with my favorite place to be shouting out with “I love laying by the pool, soaking up sun, drinking Dr. Pepper and eating peanut butter M&Ms and Cheeto’s!” and before I know it, I’ve surrounded myself with foods I associate with love and sun and happiness, without actually having love, sun, or happiness.
One new story is sticking. My husband believes I am beautiful, and that because I am beautiful, then every part of me is beautiful. And my story of him is that he would never hurt anyone in the entire world intentionally, and so he will forever paint the picture of me with me – both a terrifying and exciting thing, to entrust your story of you, in any part, to someone else. It makes you feel both translucent when they are away, and full when they are near.
In fact, I wonder if that’s what they mean when they say “Your other half”… and yet another reason you have to be so careful when you choose a mate… they really do become a part of you.