Have you ever walked into a boardroom where you stood back and could see the tension in the air, smell the feral competition, and feel the labels being mentally slapped on people’s foreheads? Have you ever dreaded going to a social event for fear of being judged as soon as you walked in the door? Have you ever measured yourself against the “ideal” yardstick and walked away head drooping?
In honor of NaNoWriMo I would like to talk about archetypal stories, legends and myths.
If I ask you to name off some high school cliques, it’s pretty universal (in North America, at least) that you know what I mean. You will list off: the jocks, the nerds, the rockers/bad asses, the debate team, etc. Some of you might even have a label called the “in crowd” or “the cool kids”. These are categories of people that are expected in every story we set in a high school, that is what makes it an archetype.
What about your romantic life? Were you ever told in storybooks or on television shows that if the guy really liked you he would defy his father’s ban on seeing you? That he would serenade you from outside your bedroom window? That he would make you the center of his universe? You know that is fiction and not what goes on in real life—well, at least not in my real life… or anyone that I know personally. Yet, we can all picture that “ideal” romantic relationship that romance novels are made of. Why is that?
Humans learn through story, we relate through story, and we entertain through story. Story is at the cornerstone of who we are as a species. It is part of Being Human. Problems arise when we can’t tell the difference between story and real life. When we are panicked walking into a social event because we think we need to be part of the “in crowd” instead of our authentic self, when we think that coming to a decision at a board meeting has to look like a Hatfields and McCoys standoff, when we expect our husbands to “play the piano” as well as Christian Grey.
Yes, media can be to blame for perpetuating many myths around what is ideal, and you also need to hold yourself accountable for testing your beliefs, for asking yourself if the standard you are holding yourself to is realistic or just a story. It does take work to examine your thoughts and your actions, to ask yourself what’s working and what’s not, and it can be difficult to be objectionable about your own drama. That’s why you need a life coach holding you accountable. (Call me!)
So my challenge this NaNoWriMo month is to Look for stories in my life, test my beliefs and watch for when I am being authentic or trying to impress others.
What is an archetypal story you once believed and tried to emulate?