In the most extraordinary thing to hit Broadway in years, Hamilton brings one of America’s overlooked Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, uniquely into the spotlight. But the really interesting thing about the show is that it elevates his wife, Eliza’s, narrative. We find out through the song “Burn” that Eliza reacted to one of Alexander’s indiscretions (I won’t give away too many details in case you want to see the show!) by burning her correspondence with him. She says, “I’m erasing myself from the narrative; let future historians wonder how Eliza reacted…I’m watching it burn; watching it burn.”
We all want to present our best face to the world. Eliza Hamilton was conscious of her husband’s place in history, and of her place beside him. She consciously edited her perspective out of that narrative. What about you? Do you ever attempt to edit the narrative that you present to the world? Apply an eraser to parts of you that stray outside the lines?
It’s only natural to want to hide our flaws, and experts from etiquette coaches to beauty consultants to home organizers have built entire careers out of improving their clients’ public faces. But it’s harder to “burn” what’s on the inside–to erase the imprint that your past experience leaves on your internal narrative. When you talk about your life to others, what do you share? The good and bad or just the more positive aspects of your life?
In our modern age of disconnected hyperconnection, it’s easier to edit our stories from the public. To post brief witty tweets and filter-enhanced photos that cover the struggle and scars that we see in the mirror. Before this digital revolution, when oral storytelling transmitted knowledge, our flaws were harder to hide. I wonder if our ancestors achieved better or worse support systems for this vulnerability.
Research on narrative identity from Western Washington University (take a deeper dive into the topic in this BBC article) instructs that “the stories we tell about ourselves reveal ourselves, construct ourselves, and sustain ourselves through time.” Turns out, whether we see the glass as half-full or half-empty really does matter!
How do your stories to yourself read? If your narrative reads more negative than you would like, don’t despair. And don’t grab an eraser. But you can work to change the lens through which you see yourself, to read a different perspective in your story. To start, sign up for the free download below to help you think on the imprints of your story.
For more support on understanding narratives and changing lenses, let me invite you to try individual coaching when you’re ready.