A young woman in a desert-like landscape moves, her hands stretched out on either side of her body. She holds a feather in each of her hands as though she will take flight. Her back is to the camera and she has long light-brown hair and wears a white camisole with white shorts rolled up.

Stories We Tell Others

I used to have this running story in my head that I was an uber-talented writer with pluck and promise and, oh yes, uproariously funny and community minded and incredibly kind and pretty, and, oh yes, cuts leeks like Anthony Bourdain. Yet for years it seemed that the story or stories I told others, and the one I told myself were very very different. What I learned after going to therapy forever was that I suppressed parts of myself because I was afraid of not belonging. Even though I was a punk rock pain in the ass as a teenager, the fear of not fitting in was ever present, and still haunts me at times.

Being creative has helped me rediscover and accept parts of myself that I’ve kept under lock and key. Lately I’ve been making a point of putting my-self out there (even the gnarly bits), and have had a few run-ins with the parts that are afraid or that feel it might not be safe to ‘come out.’

It all sounds very Norman Bates, but Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung explains it pretty well when he writes about the “persona.” In a sense, we develop a fiction of ourselves from a very young age, and this young self unconsciously influences our decisions, behaviours and sense of self. In fact it alters everything: how we see ourselves and our relationship to others and the world.

Unless we become conscious of the myth we are projecting then our true self cannot fully emerge.

Speaking of putting myself out there, I got into some hijinks last Halloween at my dear friend Marsha Shandur's (Yes Yes Marsha) True Stories Told Live, except that this event was called Ghost Stories Told Live given the creepy season. I told Marsha I had a ghost story to tell, and then got super nervous about telling it in front of all those scary people.

Actually, all that horror-making was in my head because then I watched some of them drinking beer and eating fish tacos beforehand and they all seemed pretty nice to me. In fact I thought that even if I failed miserably, one of them might even buy me a beer or let me cry on his/her shoulder.

How does the story you tell yourself of who you are, and the one you project into the world differ? And are there ways to make those two stories match up, or to tease the real one out, and make the other go away?