Today, I want to talk about the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves and just that whole function of storytelling and the continual narration of “the story of me” that all of us seem to be listening to all the time.
I have always found it very interesting that there are more than seven billion people in the world and they are all walking around convinced that they're the star of this movie we are in.
But I had an opportunity this week to check in on the process of changing the story, having a little bit of objectivity about the story.
Recently I had been submitting to several different art shows. There was one that I really, really wanted and I was so focused on it. I felt really confident that I was going to get in. And then I found out that I am definitely not included. I think it's was the third one in a row that I've submitted to and they said, "No, we don't want your art in this show."
And I saw “the story” slowly begin to creep in. I could hear the narrative coming on: "You're not very good at this”.. “it's about time that you end this folly”... “Just go get a real job..." and so on.
But what was actually great about it was that I heard that voice coming in like an external voice, even in that character voice that I call “Mr. Fears”. There was a lot of space between my awareness of the thoughts and the story creeping in.
That storyteller is really just on a “fact-finding” mission to support a thesis that it already holds in advance. The voice starts with the conclusion, which is that you're not doing enough or usually you're just not enough period. And then it goes about looking for "the facts," the proof to substantiate that point of view that it has already taken.
It's just an interesting process. I was really grateful because I did watch it begin out of nowhere to form the story. I just stopped and thought, “yeah, that story isn't helpful for me right now for many reasons.” I am moving forward with my work as an artist and I'm not going to stop so that is not helpful.
So much of it is about the idea that there is some objective level of what is good art but the truth is, there's no such thing. There is a market for any kind of art.
How many times have you gone into a hotel or an office building or even in someone's home and saw something on the wall and thought, “yikes!” Not to be too catty, but there are people selling work out there that not everybody likes. To make the assumption that there is an objectively right way to make art, or there is a quality that you can only hope to achieve in order to find people that want to enjoy your art. It's not true.
I was walking my dogs and I was thinking about how they don't have this problem. I don't think dogs have this level of storytelling. I was actually watching the dog smelling some poop, and I thought, “oh, I think she is just going, "Oh, that's poop." She probably doesn't even have a name for it, she just kind of goes, "Oh yeah," smells it, and moves on.
And then I just thought people wouldn't do that. People would be like, "Oh! Who's poop is that?" There's a protagonist there. “Why did they poop there?” Then you've got like a whole plot going. “Why did they do that to me? Why did they poop there? They're doing it just to ruin my day.” Of course, the story comes back to you... It has to be about you.
I just find this phenomenon of human beings telling stories about themselves all day long and being the star of the story really interesting.
I do believe that if we can have some objectivity about our stories instead of being completely hooked and believing that the content is true, stop worshipping the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. If we can have a little bit of doubt, a little bit of suspicion about their veracity, there is buffering. There is some freedom there.
There really is.
That's what I wanted to share with you and thanks so much for listening.