The Mythical Self

Photo by Delia Giandeini on Unsplash

The author Nassim Taleb describes the narrative fallacy as a belief that there is a story in everything, even though there is not. While the narrative fallacy can hurt you in some cases, it can also be used to your advantage.

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When people see narrative in their surroundings, it means they see narrative in you as well. You can be the “quiet” character, or the obnoxious one, or the leader, or the rebel, etc. etc. Of course, as that character, you have the power to shape it as you wish.

My favorite description of this idea of the narrative or mythical self plays across the laws listed in Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. Here are some laws that particularly ring to the mythical self idea:

  • Conceal Your Intentions: Changing context to fit your narrative
  • Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument: Make people witness a character, not just hear it speak
  • Use Absence To Increase Your Respect and Honor: Show up at the right times to give yourself a mythical entrance
  • Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability: Unpredictability in narrative keeps people invested
  • Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless: Changing context to fit your narrative (again)
  • Play to People’s Fantasies: This is the most straight-forward definition. Create a narrative for yourself that people are invested in learning more about. 
  • Act Like a King to be Treated As One: Build a character of a king and people shall will it into existence
  • Create Compelling Spectacles: Storyline “events” that keep people interested
  • Think as You Like but Behave Like Others: Once more, changing context to fit your narrative
  • Never Appear Too Perfect: A hedge if you fail on narrative structure

Obviously it’s a lot of work to constantly weave a story about yourself. For most daily occurrences, it doesn’t matter — all you have to do is once in a while. Think Tom Brady coming back against the Atlanta Falcons, or Napoleon coming to the French shore from his exile, or Julius Caesar saying “Et tu, Brutus?” moments before his demise. None of these events actually have any mythical nature to them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it seem that way. 

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