The only one who can tell your story is you.
Please, please take a moment to be present in this moment – and read that again.
There are so many reasons that your story is important, regardless of what it entails. Maybe (to you) it’s just full of scrolling for memes and wondering why your phone is always sticky as you idly snack-n-text. Perhaps it seems incredibly boring, because nothing has ever really HAPPENED to you.
I challenge you to think about that again. And while you’re thinking, I’m going to sprinkle a few crumbs, metaphorically because I’m a human vacuum, reminding you why you matter.
1. Tell Your Story Because: Relatability
People are inspired by success stories, whether real or perceived. That’s why so much content you see is human-highlight-reel material. We aspire to be perfect, and so we gravitate to those who seem to have it all. But the truth is, those casual snapshots, accompanied by words of wisdom, are carefully cultivated. Planned. Posed. They’re packaged and sold as reality.
But what do people REALLY love? Relatable. Real laughs (and Reel laughs). We love to know that everyone else is just like us, and THAT is the reality. When you find someone speaking of their struggles, either in self-deprecation or raw, emotional honesty, that in turn speaks to us. Relatable hits different. My most-liked post was one called “Freakin’ Learning,” in which I talked about how absolutely sick I was of having to figure out new things in perpetuity. It was written in the thick of the pandemic, when I kept picking up side hustles to pay the bills when my industry was shut down. And it spoke to people, because same, right?
When you show people who you are, it’s easy to notice the ones who don’t respond. Set that aside. How often do you respond to everything that speaks to you? We tend to internalize our reactions, for a variety of reasons. Just because someone doesn’t tell you that your words matter absolutely doesn’t mean they don’t. It’s like one of my favorite stories: The Tale of the Starfish.
I promise you it matters to someone.
2. We Need It.
I have collected several non-bucket-list-worthy chapters in my life. Chapters that were painful to experience, and often painful for me to remember. I find it especially difficult to realize that I was wrong in a situation, after it’s too late to make amends. I will forever wish I could have done everything in my life in such a way that it caused all the benefits, and none of the pain. But that’s not the reality for me. And it’s not for anyone else, either.
Owning your story, and telling it truthfully, is one of the worst best things you can do. Will the words stick in your throat, or through your typin’ fingers? Oh, yeah. For sure. But the more you give voice to them, the easier it will become. And every single time, it will help. Maybe you hear crickets in response, maybe you can’t finish talking because it still hurts too much. That’s okay, too. Baby steps.
I have several painful stories, and there are two that I can’t imagine ever telling. Both are years old, but each time I consider talking about them, I hold back. I don’t want to hurt the people involved. While it’s my story, there were other players in its unfolding. And so I don’t talk about them. Instead, I try to process them quietly, either with myself or through therapy.
I’ve only just now begun talking about my decades-long battle with compulsive overeating and the shame that I’ve allowed to wrap it. Unpacking that story to its beginning is a process I’m still working through. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand what led to hiding food and my eating of it. I do know that I came to realize, when leading a group about food and feelings, that it felt ridiculous to have everyone share their story without me sharing mine. In our weekly Zooms, we each take a turn sharing our struggles and our secrets. And we have all benefited as a result.
Every story is important.
Remember history class? Remember how boring it could be? I didn’t realize until college that there could be a truly interesting history class, and it was because all of the years I took it, coursework felt like a recitation of certain facts based on textbooks. We were tested over dates and events.
We were not tested over stories.
And so, when I took two semesters of American History at Cottey College, I was amazed when one of the assigned books was a series of journal entries from people who had lived through it. Suddenly, history was FASCINATING to me. I was reading letters from soldiers, letters between friends, journal entries detailing struggles and triumphs. I didn’t realize it until much later, but I think that’s why my favorite books were The Little House on the Prairie series when I was growing up. They were detailed chronicles of a family’s true story…the daily chores, the big deal that going to town – to a store – was, the dangers of winter.
I don’t want to spark a debate about what is and isn’t history. The truth is, it all is. And the more people we have talking about it, the better we’ll be for centuries to come. Knowing what came before us better prepares us for what lies ahead. And so we need to hear it from the story-tellers. Each one helps to form the picture. There is no such thing as too mundane. Eventually, there will be nobody to remember.
Your story matters.
Please never think that your life is too boring to talk about. That your feelings aren’t valid. That you don’t have anything to say. The only one who can tell your story is you. And while it may not be the time right now, just know that when you do decide to speak, you will add value to the conversation.
In your time. In your way. No matter when that is, the timing is perfect.