You’re not the story you tell

The story you tell about your life isn’t always accurate. And neither are all your self-judgements. The stories you tell others, and yourself, don’t reflect the real you.

‘You don’t have to look much further than Ira and me to see why we go through life with a generalized sense that everybody is wrong except us. And since we don’t just forget things because they don’t matter but also forget things because they matter too much– because each of us remembers and forgets in a pattern whose labyrinthine windings are an identification mark no less distinctive than a fingerprint–it’s no wonder that the shards of reality one person will cherish as a biography can seem to someone else who, say, happened to have eaten some ten thousand dinners at the very same kitchen table, to be a willful excursion into mythomania. But then nobody really bothers to send in their fifty bucks for a forty-fifth high school reunion so as to turn up and stage a protest against the other guy’s sense of the-way-it-was; the truly important thing, the supreme delight of the afternoon, is simply finding that you haven’t yet made it onto the “In Memoriam” page.’

Philip Roth. American Pastoral.

You're not your own story

photo credit: loungerie via photopin cc

Is a biography of Nelson Mandela the same thing as Nelson Mandela himself? Clearly not; it is nothing more than a construction of words and pictures. And regardless of how true or false those words are, and regardless of the quality of the photographs, they cannot come close to the richness and fullness of the living human being himself. (If you doubt this, then ask yourself: which would mean most to you – meeting your personal hero, or reading their biography?)

The same principle holds true for all your own self-judgements and self-descriptions; the biography of you is not you. Whether your mind describes you with glowing praise or sums you up with scathing criticism, the words it uses are nothing more than words. And you may recall, in ACT we’re not too interested in whether those words are true or false; what we want to know is: are they helpful? If we allow these thoughts to guide our actions, will that work to make our lives richer and fuller?’

Russ Harris. The Confidence Gap.

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