Personal myths-personal cages

My grandmother is a saint. My father works harder than anyone. My mother pulled herself up by her bootstraps against all odds. My uncle is a brilliant mind who retired at 50, or was it 45? My friend Matt is a fount of knowledge who never forgets anything. My wife is the most organized person I know. I only applied to one school and got in. I had a great GPA, great SATs, never had to take GREs, and wow everyone in interviews.  In a few minutes, this paragraph will morph into a plug for The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Recognize that our view of ourselves, even if lofty, is a potential cage for what we could be and how others may see us.

Our personal myths seem innocuous and may even be some of our charm. Some of our friends have a walking joke about our tales. But are they harmless? Hardly. Personal myths develop into beliefs and expectations.

Myths that overwhelm

It is believed by some that the personal myth is an extension of the centric view of the world described by Piaget. Children go through a phase where they think that their life is the subject of a film; they are being watched and evaluated. They make faces at walls, ceilings, and other places where people or cameras may be hiding. This comes along with the development of conscience and/or guilt and passes with developmental progress.

Personal myths can overwhelm and cause issues as severe as depression.  As we mature, we realize that these truths that we have known do not match the life that we understand. Myths can also be career-threatening as our experiences are inserted into the classroom. In working with pre-service teachers, I regularly stress that we cannot teach our students through the window of our experiences. Our histories have been manipulated in our memory and are unreliable. We have turned our lives into a mythology and we have to frame our remembrances as such. We provide our students with our foggy anecdotes thinking that it provides a level of connection-it may, in fact, cause them to consider that they cannot meet your expectations.

Calibration is key in our lives and our teaching.

A good friend is a successful lawyer who has recently left the city. I remember him most for one thing: When I would tell him something about myself, he would ask, “Do people tell you that, or do you tell people that?” Such an excellent question. Does my view of self come from my own perceptions  and experiences or the perceptions and experience of others?

When you tell people something about yourself, do they say, “Oh, really?!” Are they surprised to hear you say that you are a hard worker, an over-achiever, and impeccably neat and orderly? Make a list, mental or otherwise, of descriptors–words that define you. Have a friend do the same with you in mind. Do they match? How do your students view you? Has the view of others been limited by the persona you profess?

Let’s think differently.

Send to Kindle


  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Billy P., Billy P.. Billy P. said: RT @DrTimony: Personal myths seem harmless, right? Are they working against you? Your students? New blog post: […]

  • As a person who is diagnosed with
    mental health problems of the
    severity that certified me as
    disabled I have to comment on
    your statement about children thinking
    they are in a movie. I have carried
    this into ,”adulthood”, and have
    to remind myself that no one is
    watching even though I am convinced
    (or wish), that my life was not only
    a great film but that everyone loves
    me for it. I am so trapped in my
    own legend that I stopped trying to
    escape it.

  • Dr. Timony,

    This is the reason I enjoy your writing so much: your blog articles are rich and inspiring, with original thoughts and confrontational posits. Reading your blog always sets me to thinking!

    Indeed, personal myths. Another thing to consider is that in some cultures it is simply not done to talk about one’s own achievements. Understatement and modesty are valued over self-promotion. Think how shocking it is for people from a culture where the closest you would come to talking about “me” would be a very vague and respectful “we,” as they come into contact with a traveling businessman from a less self-effacing culture who is constantly blatting on about himself. In this case the sin is not necessarily that the picture may not be accurate, but that the source of the personal profile, the person himself, is culturally inappropriate.

    You’ve designed a handy litmus test to one’s own self-perception. I would also add: when speaking with people from different cultures, let your accomplishments speak for themselves. There is then little danger of misrepresenting yourself through the fog of your own faulty memory.



  • medical assistant wrote:

    found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  • […] could go on. Alright, I admit, it is a long list and I have a good memory so it continues to grow at a exponential rate. In this post, I will focus on the term pedagogy. […]

  • […] it. Passion mystifies and obfuscates the real issues in play when someone does something well. The myth is created that that you have it or you do not; that when you find it, you will be happy and maybe […]

Leave a Reply