Deconstructing for Growth
I recently watched a TED talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story by Nigerian author and speaker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie describes the diversity inherent in humanity and culture that cannot be contained in one perspective. Singular perspectives are somewhat like a blurred black and white photograph: they may reveal some truths, but they limit and distort reality. As I watched, I was somewhat challenged, but also self-assured. I already valued diversity and made a consistent effort to challenge my perspective. I thought I was well aware of the danger of a single story, and at least somewhat beyond its grasp.
Some weeks later, I found myself sitting in a room filled with young leaders from around the world. As we explored various topics surrounding leadership, I became increasingly frustrated by the lack of depth to the point where I could no longer engage. As I sat alone, reflecting on the situation, I realized that I had been nurturing a single story about depth that had blinded me from seeing the richness all around me.
We spend our lives constructing our stories, otherwise known as our worldview. It happens consciously and unconsciously, influenced by our culture, family, personality, history, and geography, among other things. We think that growth happens through a matter of addition, or continuous construction. This is only partially true. Certain kinds of growth can only happen through deconstruction.
It seems to be a natural human tendency to reject what does not fit with our stories. In order to move beyond a single story, we must deconstruct our ideas and assumptions about something or someone. This allows us to have multiple perspectives that are all true as they reach beyond our own limitations to bring colour and complexity to our photographs.
I am still on a journey of deconstruction. I need to spend time reflecting on my life and leadership to see my single stories. I need mentors and friends who will ask me difficult questions. I need to engage with books, articles, and experiences that purposefully challenge my assumptions. I know it will be difficult, and I will continually be tempted to retreat to what is comfortable. But I know the danger of the single story, and the price of change is worth it.
Questions for Reflection
- How would you describe the value of having multiple stories?
- How are you challenging your perspectives on a regular basis? What sorts of people, movies, books, etc. do you engage with that are different from you?
- What will you start doing this week to help deconstruct your assumptions?
Tami Zacharias lives in Canada and works for the Christian charity Operation Mobilisation. She recently finished studies in Adult Education, and enjoys conversations about feminism and tea.