What’s Your Story?

Lisa Bortolotti in IAI News:

Who am I? It is difficult for me to recognise myself in a photo taken when I was 5 and to identify with the thoughts I had when I was 16. But I can do that because I have a ‘sense of self’ which includes beliefs about myself that address two basic questions: which person I am and what type of person I am. The first question can be answered by reference to my life history (e.g., when I was born, who my parents are, what my job is) and the second question concerns my personality and dispositions (e.g., whether I am loyal, whether I am good at playing volleyball, whether I like Russian literature). How do I keep all the relevant information about myself together to attain a sense of self? Well, I do what humans do best, tell stories. Self-narratives are the means by which I establish continuity between my past, present, and future experiences and impose some coherence on my disparate traits and features. I am not alone in doing this: we all create stories that make sense of the experiences we remember and connect our life events in some meaningful way using the literary devices stories have, plots helping us see how some events follow from other events and twists acknowledging surprising developments that have a big effect on the course of our lives.

Self-narratives, as all narratives, are to some extent fictional. In order to be able to tell a meaningful and exciting story about ourselves, we need to take some creative licences with the facts. We may consciously embellish some chapters of our stories by adding or omitting some detail. But other distortions of reality are just part and parcel of the way we tend to think about ourselves and are the outcome of biases that we are not fully aware of. For instance, we neglect evidence of failure, concentrating on evidence of good performance and emphasising our contribution to successful enterprises, so as to make ourselves into the heroes our stories deserve.

More here.