People often invent stories about themselves to feel more interesting or deflect blame.
These narratives usually take the form: “I am the type of person that needs X because I have Y unique character trait.”
- “I’m the type of person who needs $5M before pursuing my dreams, because I need to feel complete freedom to work with maximum creativity”
- “I’m the kind of person who needs to like my girlfriend more than she likes me, because I need the endorphins of the “chase” to consistently spend time with someone”
People come up with absurdities about themselves because they want to be entertaining, and absurdity is one way there. Even if they don’t initially believe their stories, they psy-op themselves a bit more with every retelling, eventually becoming flanderized versions of their original selves.
Our lives are filled with these kinds of fictions from an early age. Through icebreakers, we’re taught to tell special, exaggerated details about ourselves. Through television, we’re exposed to quirk-packed protagonists designed to keep us entertained over hundreds of episodes1.
Romantics and “intellectuals” are especially susceptible to self-fabrication. Romantics like envisioning themselves as the protagonist of some interesting story. They would prefer to be a piece of some grand tragedy than settle for a straightforward life. Intellectuals enjoy reading into nebulous data points to craft theories about their lives and those of others.
The other reason why these narratives are so alluring is an excuse: they let people blame their failures and decision deferments on supposedly fixed characteristics.
These excuses obstruct genuine paths to happiness and growth. Think of someone who labels themselves as risk-averse based on a single entertaining anecdote or rationalization of a past missed opportunity. They might say no to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, thinking “I’m just not someone that takes risks”.
The truth is, we’re simpler than the stories we tell ourselves. We all share the same motivations and desires, but the webs of our own personal narratives get in the way.
It’s fine when stories prioritize entertainment over realistic portrayal, but when they present as the latter, they teach their audience wrong models of the world. ↩