On the phone recently, my Mom recounted a story about the last time I had a baby. She laughed as she told her version of that fateful day in the delivery room. Her portrayal of me as a labor room dictator was slightly unsettling. Stories can be both comforting and unsettling.
Storytelling impacts, creates, and continues our cultural and individual perceptions of self. I can see how I tell certain stories to remember, substantiate, and explain who I am, where I’ve come from, and what I believe. And I know other people are telling their stories for the same reasons.
And sometimes others’ stories involve me. Our parents have their own purposes for the stories they tell about us. They tell stories to accept responsibility for how lovely we turned out, or to wash their hands of what we’ve become.
Then I considered this. What if we live our lives to fulfill someone else’s expectations of what we should become? What if we recreate our realities through others’ eyes and stories about us?
Our expectations of our lives can be powerful in our own heads. But manifest destiny can go well or awry in the hands of our families. Depends on their intentions.
I proved incapable of earning the approval of one overachieving parent. And in search of the withheld approval, I looked for substitute love elsewhere. I ignored myself and what made me happiest. And luckily didn’t harm myself in the process.
The other parent was a underachiever. And my purpose seemed to be to stay around forever for support. In this instance, my parents’ story of me defined me in a perpetual low self-esteem kinda way.
I believe that we are entitled to tell our stories until we choose to change them. And I also believe we have to be careful to do no harm to others in our story telling process.
The ideal is to be raised with stories of guidance and faith that positively impact our lives. These stories are based on the knowledge that diversity and obstacles make a person stronger.
Eventually, I chose to follow a path and marry a partner to create a positive story for myself and my little ones. Comprehending the power of storytelling, I want to be cautious about the stories I tell to my son (and new child) about his success, his growth, his strength, and his worth. When he plays out the stories, I hope he sees possibility and dignity and pride.
In the end, this story of his potential and strength is really all I can gift him. My stories are mirrors he’ll take with him to tell himself and his family. His self-esteem is the hopeful outcome of these stories we tell and he takes over.
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