Man cannot discover truth if he is unable to speak it.
~ Walt Whitman
Identifying your truth and telling your story is the most powerful things one can do. The process of finding your voice, claiming your story, and sharing it has a lasting impact on your sense of identity, self-worth, and others around you.
Truth is, we all need something to relate to. We need a story that we feel, somehow, reflects our own experiences. We need to absorb things that resonate with our own truth and cut right to the heart. We need someone, or something, to speak for us in order to learn how to speak for ourselves. It’s the reason why music connects with us so deeply and has an incredible impact – it connects with us and shares our story. It reminds us that we are not alone and what we feel is valid.
That’s the beauty of story telling – it builds a lasting connection between us. Have you ever had a chance meeting with a stranger and they’ve proceeded to tell their story? Maybe it was merely an insight into why they were on the same bus as you that morning, or maybe it was a little deeper than that and they offered you an intimate revelation into their greatest struggle and how they overcame it; whatever form their story took, I bet you remember them, and I can also bet that the memory fills you with a warm, contented feeling in your heart.
You see, long before print media and way before social media, story telling was the only means of learning about your ancestors and your history. It created togetherness amongst families, forged a sense of identity within individuals, allowed them to understand their origins, and infused people with a notion of their potential. In psychotherapy, and other therapeutic settings, the acts of listening to and telling stories is a powerful means of building bridges between families, repairing damaged self-worth, and binding wounded hearts.
Today, however, we are absorbed into the world of social media and bombarded with so many different narratives that we can lose our way. As you know by now, if you’ve been following and reading this blog for a while, I am sceptical of social media and the impact it has on people’s self-esteem, mental health, and overall identity. We spend much of our time comparing ourselves with (the highlight reel of) other people’s stories and can easily become disheartened with ourselves. I feel that it fractures our identities and encourages us to be someone other than ourselves. The damage is two-fold as, by paying more attention to the screens in front of us, we forsake true connection with other people. We don’t talk to our families and find out our stories; we trade them off for another social media celebrity and, thus, don’t learn enough about who we are.
“What do you mean, tell your story?!” I hear you ask. Well…
What have you been through?
Who hurt you?
How did you overcome that pain?
How did you achieve all that?
What keeps you going?
What was the greatest day of your life?
What made it so good?
How is life going?
Who are you?
What has life been like for you, what have you fought and won, in order for you to sit here today reading these words?
I want to know.
Life is so busy that we often forget to stop and ask these questions. We try and make sense of everything ourselves, asking Google instead of asking each other…
In order to tell your story, you need to find your voice.
In order to find your voice, you first need someone to speak for you.
Sometimes we find it in religion, or a Lightworker, or a blogger, or music, theatre, films, fiction, writers, historical figures, family members, friends, support workers, advocates…
Wherever you find that person who resonates and echoes your story, soak it up. Seek to understand and, by doing so, you unlock all the secret elements of your story and you begin to find your voice. Dive into the heart of what they are sharing, let it speak for you, sift through the things that resonate with you, and learn. Hear your story repeated back to you through their lyrics, through their writing, through the sharing of their own struggles and victories. You are allowed to cry, and to laugh, and to shake your head in disbelief. Its partly why, when we hear a sad song, it connects with us and we cry – it’s putting our pain into words. In allowing this, you’ll light a spark in your soul that will grow, and grow, and grow…until it becomes a raging fire within you that you need to share your story. Sometimes, it’ll be an anger that burns inside you, or a sadness, or an ecstatic joy…Whatever you do, speak it.
Another analogy to explain this process is thinking back to childhood…the ‘Terrible Twos’ are an iconic phase in the growth of a child, ask any parent, because it is the stage where the toddler begins to speak for themselves and assert their authority – they learn the word ‘No’ and use it effectively to assert what they want and do not want (not always reasonable, as we know, but still…They’re trying.) Prior to this, the parent spoke for them. They assumed their needs through a tricky process of negotiation and limited vocabulary. Now, the child has taken what the parent advocated for them, sifted through their developed preferences, and decided to speak for themselves. In having people speak for them, they have learned to speak for themselves.
It is through sharing your story that others can come along and learn off you. It is a continuous cycle. Maybe you feel your story isn’t unique, or has been said before, or maybe it feels boring – this is irrelevant. Your story is your story and needs to be shared. It’s empowering for everyone and, also, for you.
You see, through telling your story you have the opportunity to bring into the light what was once in darkness and expose it. You have the chance to explore it and bring a depth to it. The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements were birthed through exactly this process – one woman shared her story and, then, countless others raised their hand’s and stood with her, also telling their own version of events. Don’t you see – in this storytelling process, we can change history.
So, please, give us your voices when you find them. You have suffered much, but you have achieved more. Tell us how hard it is to be a single parent; tell us how your lover broke your heart; tell us how it felt to be ashamed of your body; tell us when the moment was that you decided to take anti-depressants…
Tell us how you felt when your son got married; tell us how it felt for you to see your first child being born; tell us of your joy of that first promotion in work…
Tell us because, through story telling, we build community based upon exactly that – a common unity.
We are holding the space.