By Justin Haley Phillips
These thoughts are natural and common when faced with the prospect of writing and sharing your story, but let me assure you: they are total baloney.
Everyone’s story is important.
The key is in the depth of presentation. See, if you simply tell me that you went for a walk in the park, and it was chilly, and the leaves were falling and there were children playing, and it felt good and you were happy… you’re right. That’s not exciting, it’s not important.
I’m bored already.
Tell me why I should care, tell me why it’s important.
Tell me how those laughing children gave you a flashback to the time you broke your leg on the playground and you learned you aren’t invincible. And you also learned you can mend.
Tell me about that one specific leaf with its bright red hue that caught your eye, and how you picked it up and stared at the veins, and within it you saw the veins of blood and rivers and galaxies. How you saw the Universe reflected in this beautiful fallen piece of plant.
Tell me about how it felt like freedom to breathe fresh air and stretch your legs after your latest battle with depression. Tell me that clouds are not always found in the sky. And neither is sunshine.
Our unique perspectives are what make our stories so valuable. A million people could go for that same walk, but no one will experience it in the way that you do. No one can tell the story about it the way that you will. Everything about your story hinges upon how brilliantly individual you are—your history and your views and your relationship to everything around you—and that is what makes it special.
Why tell it in the first place?
Writing our stories—even a story about a walk in the park—offers us insight and a chance for growth. The act itself demands a purpose, the words long for direction, and suddenly you discover details and observations we never knew were there. As we string your sentences together, we find connections, patterns, and lessons along the way.
Particularly if we are writing about something painful, we will notice that giving breath to our experiences gives them movement. Energy (e.g., pain) becomes stagnant when we refuse to engage with it, therefore letting it out will allow it to flow and finally dissipate. In other words, telling our stories helps us to heal and move on. It provides momentum and propels us forward into a newer, wiser version of ourselves.
When we decide to tell our stories, we stand a little taller. We feel more comfortable in our skin. By writing our experiences and offering them up to the world, we no longer succumb to the old narratives that once controlled us. We are taking ownership of our stories and stepping into our power: we decide where it goes from here.
Who cares, anyway?
It’s normal to feel like you’re feeding your ego to put your story out there, wondering what right you have and who do you think you are. How dare you believe that your experience might matter to someone else? What arrogance!
But let me ask you this: Have you ever stumbled across an article that really hit home, one that got you “right in the feels?”
You felt validated, didn’t you? You felt understood. Like you weren’t alone in your experience. It felt healing. That is the gift that you can give to others. Your readers are now where you once were. They connect with you, they find inspiration in you, and you give them hope and courage. Having someone to relate to can be the life preserver that keeps their head above water when they feel like they are drowning.
That validation comes full circle.
I know it is a vulnerable undertaking to put your story out there, to share it with a world of strangers. You are baring your soul, showing your soft underbelly, and some would seek to take advantage and attack you for it. Pay no notice to them if that should happen. They are trolls, hiding shamefully under a bridge and poking heroes with sticks.
Instead, listen for the ones who shout, “Thank you for sharing, I really needed to read this.” These are the people who matter, the voices that ring true. These are the lives you touch, and their cheers and gratitude are validation to your own heart. These are the responses that make it all worth it.
Keep your eyes and mind and heart wide open.
When you’re washing dishes. When you’re sick with the flu. When your father dies. When you’re tucking your daughter in at night. In all the little and big moments, be open, because that is life happening all around us, and life is what the world hungers for. Real, raw, authentic, and vulnerably told.
Be open, and look for the lessons.
Be open and look for the insights.
Be open and look for the love.
That’s what it comes down to: the love.
It’s the love of living and learning and growing and sharing and healing, and the love of watching it all move in circles upon itself, cycling higher and higher in an upward spiral of awareness and evolution. It’s that movement of energy, that flow and momentum. It’s the laughter and the memories, the breakdowns and the victories. It’s the veins in a leaf that reflect the Universe.
It’s love that will prompt us to look. It’s love that will prompt us to write. It’s love that will prompt us to share, even when our stomachs turns and our knees wobble. Because we know without a doubt that our stories matters, that it is important, and that it is healing.
Harness that love and the rest… well, the rest is just a walk in the park.
Haley Phillips is a writer, editor, and coach who seeks to make the world a better place through the vulnerable and authentic sharing of stories. Raw and honest expression builds and enhances connections between individuals, and enriches our own life experience as well. She loves adventures, tea, long hippie skirts, the smell of an office supply store, and the tingly vibes of a used book shop. She can be found on her writer’s page and in her personal growth group.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak
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