By toggling the way we address the self—first person or third—we flip a switch in the cerebral cortex, the center of thought, and another in the amygdala, the seat of fear, moving closer to or further from our sense of self and all its emotional intensity. Gaining psychological distance enables self-control, allowing us to think clearly, perform competently. … Released from negative thoughts, we gain perspective, focus deeply, plan for the future.”Psychologist Ethan Kross’s
Along with accessing clarity of our strengths and successes, and authenticity about our struggles, addressing ourselves in third-person also allows us to see the gifts and lessons embedded in our journeys – the indispensable assets we have to share with others.
If you struggle to shape the fullness of your narrative in first-person, try writing or speaking your story in third-person. From there, translate into first-person. Allow yourself to feel and release the pains, while savoring the moments of strength and resilience. This emotion is a gift, because it is what allows you to relate to, understand and empathize with others facing similar challenges, support their growth and guide your personal healing in the process.
What are the key components of a powerful personal narrative?
- Be real, but empathetic about your struggles – Understand the importance of empathy and compassion in enabling you to relate to others and them to you. A client of mine phrased this beautifully when she said, “My audiences love me because of my struggles, not my successes.” What hits in the heart for you will for others, especially when you frame that narrative in universal human values.
- Be a cheerleader for your feats and successes – Too often we over- or under-rate our experiences. There is a difference between being unique and being special. Ask friends, clients or colleagues how they see your journey. Watch for commonalities in describing your abilities and strengths. Look for descriptions of the unique lessons that you have to share.
- Be focused on your audience, always – There is a true sense of transformation that rushes forth when we make the audience the focal point of our personal story. We can transcend our experiences by sharing the valuable knowledge, wisdom or insight gained to help ease the way and provide clarity for others facing similar experiences. Joscelyn Duffy