The Art of Storytelling

The story we tell ourselves is the same story we tell the world

Terry Lee
Terry Lee
Mar 3, 2014 · 4 min read

“The story we tell ourselves manifests into reality and becomes the same story we tell the world. Your internal story drives your external performance.”

In the comic book series, Superman, there exists a radioactive element called Kryptonite, which is the one and only weakness of an otherwise invulnerable superhero. While I hold no illusions that we are infallible superheroes like Superman, I do believe that there are trials in life that serve as our Kryptonite. I also believe that Kryptonite is unique to the individual and as such, challenges that seem easy for some, prove most difficult for others. My Kryptonite (among many lesser ones) was my struggle with severe acne.

It’s hard to recall the exact date it began. Maybe it’s because too much time has passed. Or maybe it’s because I’ve tried my damndest to repress those painful memories. What I do remember is that it happened toward the start of my freshman year in college. The onset of severe acne was a gradual process, and I was too focused on acclimating to college life, surviving the freshman curriculum, and playing soccer to pay much attention to the change in my physical appearance.

It wasn’t until I came home for fall semester break a few months later that it finally hit me. I remember this moment vividly. My dad had picked me up from the airport, and I walked into our house to hug my mom. As we pulled away from our warm embrace, her smile quickly turned to an expression of shock — her son’s once familiar face had been transformed by acne. Up until this moment, I had rationalized that struggling with acne was a normal teenage experience. Everyone endures it and my skin will get better in no time, I would tell myself. But, the look on my mom’s face told it all: my experience with acne was far from normal.

Over the following months and years, I tried every treatment option available with varying levels of success. Those four years in college were the most difficult so far in my life. It was my faith, the love of my family and friends, and just as important, the fact they didn’t treat me any differently than before, that kept me strong. I kept telling myself that things would get better, that this experience would fortify me. And while this is all true — I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything — there was one unintended consequence that I didn’t realize until recently, more than eight years later.

This consequence was that the day I began my struggle with severe acne, I also began telling my story from the perspective of someone who wanted to live life under the radar. Someone who lacked self-worth. Someone who feared rejection and shunned risk. Someone who played small. You see, when I internalized that acne had altered my physical appearance, I started to live life differently. I avoided going out with friends, talking to girls, and attending class because I feared that others would fail to see me for who I really was. The more I told myself that I wouldn’t be accepted, the more I became tied to living life without putting myself out there. By telling my story from the perspective of someone who wanted to live life small, I was telling the rest of the world that I intended to live this way. Even as the acne subsided and my skin improved, I continued to tell myself the same story because of the scars that remained.

It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend that I realized the story we tell ourselves manifests into reality and becomes the same story we tell the world.

For too long, I was focused on the struggle and pain that I endured. My self-worth was rooted in my physical appearance and because of that, my foundation crumbled.

Recently, I have started to refine my story. To craft and tell my story from a different perspective. It’s been a process because I can’t attribute this transformation to an exact moment in my life. What did happen was I began to tell myself that I was sick and tired of telling a story that wasn’t authentic. Now my story has started to resonate a little closer to who I am and who I want to become:

Instead of lacking self-worth, I’m smiling every day and telling myself I’m the man (cue the Aloe Bacc song in the background).

The story we tell ourselves is the same story we tell the world.

Instead of fearing rejection, I’m putting myself out there by asking women on dates.

The story we tell ourselves is the same story we tell the world.

Instead of shunning risk, I quit my job and now I’m pursuing my passion as an entrepreneur.

The story we tell ourselves is the same story we tell the world.

Instead of playing small, I’m dreaming big and living big — only to demand of myself to dream bigger and live bigger.

The story we tell ourselves is the same story we tell the world.

The story I’ve started to tell doesn’t contain the themes of lacking self-worth, fearing rejection, shunning risk, and playing small. Rather, I’m telling my story the way it should be told and as a result, the world is getting to know me for who I really am.

And while in the past couple years, I’ve experienced an inward transformation, I had yet to complete this chapter in my story. I needed to tell the world about my struggle, but more importantly, I needed to tell the world about my redemption.

It is written that Superman was able to overcome Kryptonite through repeated, non-fatal exposure to the material. Only when he embraced his greatest weakness was he able to overcome it.

What is your Kryptonite? What story are you telling yourself that is then being told to the world?

Lean in and embrace your Kryptonite. You just might become Superman after all…

Panacea

Good skin and good days start on purpose.

    Terry Lee

    Written by

    Terry Lee

    Co-Founder + CEO of Panacea | The story we tell ourselves is the same story we tell the world.

    Panacea

    Panacea

    Good skin and good days start on purpose.

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