Why You Should Own Your Story And Tell It Without Shame
There’s a reason each of us is drawn to certain songs. Whether the lyrics are about a bad breakup, family, or feelings, we’ve all heard something on the radio that instantly made us say, “If they’re singing about this, it must be common. I’m not alone.”
It’s true—if someone wrote a famous song about something you’re experiencing, then other people can certainly relate to it, too. I do believe there are mental health issues that stem from loneliness, and common to feel like you simply can’t, for a myriad of personal reasons, talk about what you’re going through. Many of us keep our stories to ourselves because of shame attached to events in our past. Maybe you feel responsible for mistreatment you experienced, embarrassed about something you struggled with, or fear over admitting to mistakes you made, but these feelings hold you back.
By owning our personal stories and sharing them without shame, we can all make the world a little less lonely. Telling your story is not only a healing experience for you, but for others as well, and it starts with letting go of those fears you may have and opening yourself up. From my own experience I can tell you the most common words to describe me after opening up “out loud” (with the whole truth no less) was Brave, Strong and Inspiring. Not the words you would have been attaching to yourself.
Healing through sharing
It takes strength and perseverance to overcome challenges, and if you’re in a position to tell that story, believe me you are strong. You’ve gone through an ordeal and come out the other side. Now, your past challenges can be a powerful part of your story, which is worth sharing. However, while you might have overcome these challenges, it doesn’t mean your difficulties are over. Eliminating shame, if you feel it, is one of the hardest things to do after experiencing challenges, mistreatment, or trauma. Shame makes us want to hide and keep our stories to ourselves. We fear judgment (in its many, many forms), but when you share what you’ve been through, you can find a release instead.
Shedding your shame brings you one step closer to healing from the challenges of your past. I’ve learned this firsthand in sharing my stories and writing my memoir, For the Right Kind Of Love: when you share your story, it is possible to heal yourself and help others to do so. It’s empowering to look into the eyes of others or hear from someone you’ve reached with your story. You’ll know you’ve made a difference in someone else’s life by giving them something to relate to—by showing them they’re not alone. That’s the power of sharing your story, and hopefully it’s enough to lose the shame attached to the personal experiences.
Struggling to share your experiences
Shame isn’t the only obstacle that prevents many of us from sharing our stories. You might have a lifelong habit of keeping personal details to yourself, and that can take time to break. For example, I had a difficult childhood with parents who didn’t accept or understand me. As a result, I never owned up to making mistakes as a kid. Later, I married into a family that also didn’t accept me, which only reinforced my tendency to keep my mistakes to myself. I made mistakes like anyone else, of course, but I always tried to cover them up.
This habit lasted for decades, but when I realized I wasn’t allowing my children to see or understand I made mistakes, I decided I had to change. I had always told my kids that they’d make their own mistakes and would have to deal with the consequences because it’s an important part of learning. That meant it was important behavior for me to model for them, too. I couldn’t let the pain others had caused hold me back from connecting with my children. I chose to let go of the pressure I had put on myself and become comfortable with admitting that I didn’t always have the answers. I told stories from my past and worked to create an open forum with my kids. Can you guess what happened when I made this change? The openness built even more trust and strengthened our relationships. Switching from hiding pieces of myself to sharing also improved my self-confidence and self-acceptance.
When you decide to own your story and share with others, a subtle shift occurs: you feel more equal with others and more balanced and more comfortable with yourself. You may be surprised how many people can relate to you and the challenges you’ve overcome. Even more surprised when they ask to have a chat, and out pours things they have chosen to not ever think about. If you’re struggling to shed any shame or fear holding you back, I encourage you to think about the benefits of sharing your story. Focus on the healing that would take place, the people you would reach, and the relationships that would benefit from your openness, and use that to power your perseverance.
Telling your story
When you’ve reached the point where you’ve let go of fear and shame, you’re ready for the next step: actually telling your story. You now need to decide how, when, and to whom you’ll share your experiences. I chose to share my story in a book, but you might decide a different communication path suits you better. Fortunately, there are so many options today. You might start by anonymously sharing your story in groups specific to you, or opening up to family or a friend, and writing (for yourself first) is always a great way to begin, as I did. I also recommend finding open groups in your community that provide a platform for telling your story. Look for places where sharing is happening.
As an example, One Last Talk is an event series I’ve participated in where you can unapologetically share your truth with the public. People speak their truths, from their relationship with their father, to thoughts of suicide, to eating disorders, and a great many things in between. For many this is the first time they’ve ever shared. Opportunities like this put you in the position of asking yourself, “If I had only fifteen minutes to tell something that would help someone else, what would I say?” In deciding how to tell your story, I encourage you to answer this question and think about how speaking your truth can ease others’ loneliness. You can make a big difference in the world simply by letting people know they’re not alone. I receive many messages from people who could not believe I opened myself up so wide AND how much it meant to them!
Take action to share your story
Whether it’s writing a book, posting online, hosting a podcast, or speaking on a stage, figure out how to best tell your story and start making it a reality. Remember, the journey starts with moving past the fear that’s been holding you back. If you’re afraid to tell your story or are ashamed of the mistakes that sharing would reveal, make a conscious decision to shift your perspective. You don’t have to be the hero or the smartest person in the room. You can be, but even the smartest person in the world makes mistakes, so don’t be afraid to admit yours.
If you can take that step, your story can be like the comforting song on the radio that makes someone feel less alone. You can build deeper relationships and become more confident in yourself. Above all, you’ll inspire people to face their own challenges and help the world become a less lonely place.
For more inspiration about telling your own story, check out For the Right Kind of Love.
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