Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga are known for constantly “reinventing” themselves. Their fans applaud them for it. I believe one reason we admire them for their ability to transform themselves is because we wish we could do the same. Let me tell you a secret: We can!
Your inner story is the one you’ve been telling yourself about who you are, how you relate to others, and the way life is supposed to be.
This story is not accurate because you wrote it when you were five or six years old. What did your child self know about life, people, relationships, or the way things work? Nothing! Yet despite its flaws, this story became the script for your life. But do you know you can rewrite your inner story and make it better, like a good editor can take a sloppy manuscript and turn it into a bestseller?
You may be wondering “How far can I take this rewriting my inner story thing? Can I invent a completely new persona for myself—like Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga—or am I limited to uncovering my ‘true’ self?”
This is up to you. What is your true self anyway? It’s whatever you decide it is. You are not making up alternative facts. You cannot say you lived with the dinosaurs, went to Mars, or scored a last-minute touchdown to win the Super Bowl. But you can reinterpret and reframe your story. The distinction between reinterpreting and making stuff up is a fine one. Besides, it’s all in your head anyway.
Remember, the story your child self wrote was not accurate, yet you accepted it as true and it governed your life for many years. The new story you write to replace it with will also be imperfect, even if you strive to get it completely accurate. You have the power to control these inaccuracies and make them go in your favor. By what margin? That’s your call—whatever you are comfortable with.
Other people exaggerate, embellish, indulge in a bit of harmless literary license, and otherwise contrive to present themselves in the most favorable light, so why should you limit the way you see yourself by imposing a stricter standard? Seeing yourself in an unfavorable light or holding yourself to a higher standard may be a big part of your challenge in the first place!
My mother used to say we lived in a zoo. It’s true that we had a lot of pets (including some she never even knew about, heh heh!). But we didn’t literally live in a zoo. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if my brothers and I “remember” having a few more pets than might have appeared in an official census.
How many middle-aged men reflect on their youth and “remember” themselves as a star athlete and chick magnet? Guilty of a little (or a lot of) exaggeration maybe?
Have you ever looked back on an event from your distant past and felt unsure about whether it actually happened or it was just a dream? Or talked to a friend about something you experienced together years before, only to find that you have completely different recollections?
Have you ever read a historical account that was completely different than your own accepted account?
We distort things all the time, whether deliberately or by accident. The thing is, your brain doesn’t care! It makes its own truth.
“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
— John Lennon
It is important to understand that you are not inventing a new story for yourself. And you are not denying the old story. The same events that happened in your old story remain in your new one. You are reinterpreting those events in a more positive way. You are drawing new inferences and deriving new beliefs and principles for living from them.
Your old story may have scripted you as a timid schlub, stumbling from one disaster to the next. In your new story you may be a confident, assertive dynamo, going boldly where you never dared to go before.
Reality isn’t real. It isn’t carved in stone. It is created. You are surrounded by people, events, colors, sounds, and influences, and you interpret and make sense of them as best you can. Someone else in your position—with their own filters, biases, and perceptions—would create a different reality. There is no single reality, there are countless possibilities. You create your own reality. If the one you’ve been living isn’t working for you, you can create one that does. And it all begins with rewriting your inner story.