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, because of this, create a limited and harmful view in our minds.
Not only can these limited perceptions be harmful to ourselves as they keep us from the complete truth, but they can also lead to the physical and emotional harm of those people and places as they incite judgment and fear.
We all know how easy it is to judge and fear what we don't know or don't understand. So I think it's our responsibility to our surroundings - as big as our world and as small as our neighbors - to try to better understand a more full picture and avoid lazy ignorance.
The idea is simple enough but also one that is extremely underrated in importance considering that it affects the way we consciously and unconsciously view everything including ourselves.
Chimamanda touches on this:
"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 the impression that memory left to become your single-story and creates an incomplete picture of yourself in your own mind.
If you start summing yourself up as mistakes you've made or limiting yourself because "a person like you" doesn't fit a certain mold, you're restricting yourself to that single story. You're failing to look at the full picture of yourself that includes so many other attributes. Your view of yourself is incomplete.
Reinforcing a personal single story to and of yourself 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 a 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 a single story of yourself, feel free to read through my article "It's Never Too Late To Start Over" which touches on similar topics of self-improvement and not letting a singular point or individual negative situations in your life define you.