In her TED Talk "The Danger Of The Single Story," novelist Chimamanda Adichie stresses that if we've only made our eyes and ears available to one single "story" of another person or place, we limit ourselves to an incomplete picture of that person or place and, thus, create a limited and harmful view in our minds.
Not only can these limited perceptions of people and places be harmful to ourselves as they keep us from the truth, but they can also lead to the physical and emotional harm of those people and places as they incite judgement and fear. (We all know how easy it is to judge and fear what we don't know or don't understand.) Because of this, it's our duty to our world, our country, our neighbors, and our friends to try to better understand a full picture and avoid lazy ignorance.
The idea is simple enough but also one that is extremely underrated in importance, especially considering the fact that it affects the way we consciously and unconsciously view and treat those that are different than us in sexual orientation, social class, skin color, religion, political views, birth place, etc. Although Chimamanda focuses on the later in her speech, she also briefly touches on how "the single story" can affect the way we perceive ourselves.
"All of these stories make me who I am, but to insist on ONLY these negative stories is flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is no that they are untrue but that they are incomplete."
Letting one incident or period of your life define you invites it to become your single story and creates an incomplete picture of yourself in your own mind. If you start summing yourself up as the mistakes you've made or limiting yourself because "a person like you" doesn't fit a certain mold, you're limiting yourself to that single story. You're failing to look at the full picture of yourself that includes so many positive and unique accomplishments and attributes. You're view of yourself is incomplete.
Allowing yourself to view a personal single story will hold you back, limit your goals, and threaten your desire to self-improve. So in the same way you'd gain knowledge and a more well-rounded view in order to avoid having single story of someone else, be sure you're reminding yourself of all of the achievements, struggles, virtues, vices, and many different stories that make you YOU.
If you have not seen this TED Talk, I STRONGLY encourage you to follow the link at this article's start. And, if you're struggling with seeing a "single story" of yourself, feel free to read through my article, "It's Never To Late To Start Over," which touches upon similar topics of self-improvement and not letting a singular point or individual negative situations in your life define you.