During childhood, our sense of self is based on real life stories around our name, skin color, religion, the country we are from, and gender. These stories can have a negative impact on us. For example, a young black girl is teased for her name and discriminated against for the color of her skin. She naturally develops a life story that something is wrong with her. Our stories told over and over again come to define our sense of self.
Later in life we add more stories by defining ourselves according to, profession, sexual orientation, marital status and whether we have children. Think about the first-time meeting someone, you usually ask, “What is your name, where are you from, what do you do, are you married?”
Life stories become the driving force behind TV shows, movies, and books. They also weave us together every time we share them with family and friends. We naturally look to bond with others who have similar stories.
While in Survival Mode we tend to believe the stories to be an accurate portrayal of ourselves. For example, if we grow up in an impoverished environment, we can easily assume that is our lot in life and not try to change it. In Thriving Mode, we accept these life stories as a part of our life, but we question the meaning we place upon them.
When we don’t question our personal stories, we tend not to challenge our cultural stories. Throughout our culture’s history and even today, great atrocities are perpetuated against minorities across the world because of the story that someone who is different is bad. In Survival Mode, we turn to personal and cultural stories to affirm our prejudice. In Thriving Mode, we question the story, get to know those who are different, and look for common ground.
Think about the stories of your life. Try to be honest about how they may be limiting you. You are much more than the limiting stories you’ve believed about yourself and others.