Do our perceptions of ourselves match the perceptions others have of us? Do we tell ourselves the truth about who we really are? Are our narratives hopelessly biased and untethered from reality?
It is only natural that we construct narratives about ourselves that are better than reality might suggest. After all, most people think they’re above average, and, ipso facto, that can’t be true. At least not for everyone. But people assign personal life narratives about who they are and what they’ve done through a very prejudicial lens. The stories may or may not match reality, especially when we try to define our own personalities. But the stories we tell to ourselves, about ourselves, shape our personalities and become part of who we are.
We are born with certain personality traits—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—with some traits more pronounced than others. These are traits we can amplify or mitigate, but they are usually with us throughout life. Other aspects of our identities, like gender, race, ethnicity, social status, or what part of the country we are from, are also traits that help define who we are.
But there are self-perceived qualities that are more subjective. For example, if you believe you’re an optimist, then you will be predisposed to look at things in a positive light. You become what you believe you are. As an optimist, if you get into a devastating car accident, you might try to find the positive aspects of your situation. People you never suspected as liking you send cards and flowers, and you discover you’re more liked than you thought. Or, you have time to reflect in your hospital bed and realize that life is a gift, and you learn to take it a little less for granted. Doctors are amazed that you healed and recovered so rapidly, which you and others may attribute to your upbeat personality.
Do Others See Your Story as You Do?
We are always creating our own story as we progress in life and telling it to others as well as ourselves. Our personalities shape those stories, and depending on who we are, those stories vary according to how we recall our experiences as they unfold in real life. If you want to discover the disparate memories that may shape who you are, just ask your sibling or spouse or long-time friend how they recall an incident. You may alter your perception as a result of learning how others remember the same incident. Chances are there will be significant disparities. That’s because everyone shapes their own stories by their own vision of who they are.
Your life story, as you create it, is a reflection of who you are—your sense of self. Your identity.
When you understand that myths about your personality shape the way you see yourself and the events in your life, you can better understand who you are.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact