The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves
If, before the 2021 college football season started, you had told me that my Louisiana Tech Bulldogs would start the season 1-2, with a grand total of three points keeping them from a 3-0 start, I would probably have said that wasn't too bad.
But my perspective would sour if you had told me my alma mater would lose by one point to Mississippi State despite entering the fourth quarter with a 20-point lead. My perspective would further sour if you told me the Dawgs would lose to SMU two weeks later after a go-ahead Hail Mary touchdown with less than a minute to play.
The differences in these reactions are a reminder that the final score doesn't paint the complete picture. There's always a story beyond the scoreboard.
Once we've established who won, we then likely ask: How did the victor come out on top?
Did a consistent ground game control the clock? Did a relentless aerial assault overwhelm the opposition? Did a dominant defense stop plays before they could start?
These days I often find myself more interested in the story of the game than the game itself. And as I've focused more on story, I've been thinking about the story of the game of my own life.
In the past, I've had a habit of telling a negative story about myself. I told a story focused on failures and lack of accomplishment and all the ways in which I was unremarkable. We often have no problem identifying the ways in which we fall short, so finding such material was easy.
But what if we tell ourselves better stories about ourselves? What if we focus instead on our accomplishments—both in the past and those to come?
How often do we tell stories about ourselves? What is a job interview, if not telling the story of your past professional successes and the bigger successes to follow? What about first dates?
It's not enough for us to recall the play-by-play for certain events. It's not enough to repeat the final scores. We need to slide a story in there somewhere. This doesn't apply only when we win. It also applies to the losses.
Sometimes putting a proper story behind a loss can be more important. Where did things go wrong? Where were your blind spots? What could you have done differently? These are some of the questions our stories can answer.
I've always had a self-deprecating sense of humor, and I expect that to remain true to some degree. You can't take yourself too seriously, after all.
But I noticed recently that I haven't been as harsh on myself and I have been telling a better story. And I'm pretty sure it all began by first telling that better story to myself.