We all carry around The Story of Me: the things we know to be true, an admixture of strengths and idiosyncrasies, faults and foibles.
Our identity is a many-layered thing. At its deepest layers are the things about Us we are most sure of. These things, buried so deep, are the hardest to see: attributes and mindsets, tendencies and habits so firmly held they become invisible.
Then, one day, someone shines a new light on one of these until-now truths. This is a someone who cares enough, knows us well enough, is expert enough and speaks so clearly that the truth they’ve uttered cuts all the way to our core.
Like hearing our own recorded voice, or seeing ourselves in a video, something previously invisible is at the center of the screen, revealed. We can’t look away. It takes up our whole field of vision.
This is a tough moment.
This Truth was so deeply held it formed part of our identity—it touches on the story of who we knew ourselves to be.
It is natural, in this moment of revelation, to experience this new Truth as a flaw, one that eclipses our strengths, our natural talents, the things that make us special.
At first, preoccupied by this new Truth, our performance plummets. Because we can’t tear our eyes away, all we see is the ways it makes us less than we thought we were. Preoccupied, we lose our ability to do things naturally: the grooved behaviors that worked so well in the past feel off, but we don’t know what else to do, how else to act.
The natural reaction is to turn away, to hide from this new Truth. It feels so ugly and misshapen, making us feel clumsy, awkward.
That’s not the answer. We shouldn’t run from this Truth. It has, after all, been offered up as a gift by someone who cares.
Nor should we be sucked into obsession, seeing the Truth in our every action, being fooled into thinking that it is Everything.
Our job, instead, is to stand firm. The “it’s all I can see, I’m a failure, I should give up” stage will pass if we are patient and we can stay grounded. Our job is to live with the truth, not to hide from or banish it.
If we can do this, then, in due course, we’ll arrive at the next stop on our journey: the It’s Not Everything stage.
In this stage, we begin to see the playing field more clearly. A number of important Things that didn’t make sense—surprising impacts we’ve had on others, results for us or our team that were less than we’d hoped for—are explained by their connection to this new Truth. In the It’s Not Everything stage, we’re not fully comfortable yet, but a fog is lifting and we’re getting more clarity. With clarity comes progress.
Finally, in time, we arrive at the last stop in our journey: the New Story.
We’ve shifted, we’ve test, we’ve adjusted, we’ve trialed-and-errored, and we’ve loosened our grip just a bit on the way things were. We’ve integrate this Truth into the New Story.
This New Story is a more real story of Us. It’s one in which we’ve traded a shiny, but ultimately faulty, piece of the puzzle for a new one.
This new piece at first seemed imperfect and misshapen.
In time we’ve cleaned it off, honed the edges, and discovered it for what it really is: a stronger, more reliable, more real than the piece that was there before.