Identity is a story. It is the story that we tell ourselves each day. The story of “me.”
Your identity is a collection of moments. It is your understanding of those moments and the meanings that you infuse into them. By understanding your story, you can better understand your identity. You can actually change the way you view yourself by developing your own personal story.
Without creating your story, you run the risk of letting others write that narrative for you. Self Narrate co-founder, Dr. Jaron Jones, in his TEDxUF talk, describes seeing a friend of his from childhood running from the police one evening. Jaron was shocked to see this because he thought that his friend had a better understanding of himself to not let himself get in that situation. Jaron’s friend let someone else write his story when he allowed himself to make the choices that led him into criminal behavior. Those outside voices influence us most when we don’t have our own story and identity to combat them with.
When we understand who we are and why we do what we do, we can use that knowledge to positively impact our own self image. There is a concept in psychology called “meaning-making.” The idea is pretty much what it sounds like: a person’s capacity to make meaning of life events. Psychological research shows that individuals who can use their own story to create meaning and understanding of their own experiences are much more likely to show psychological health, well-being and capacity for growth. When we see ourselves growing and see ourselves making progress on our goals, our self image increases. It is a positive feedback loop. When we create our stories, we create meaning. When we infuse meaning in our lives, it helps us grow. When we grow and see ourselves progressing, this positively impacts the way we view our own ability to make change in the world.
We can modify how we view ourselves by developing our personal story. We create meaning only when we have something from which to draw meaning. That is, if we do not create our story, it is pretty hard to give our experiences long-term meaning because we can’t give it proper context.
So think about who you are. Write your story. Own your identity.