Many of us shy away from voicing our stories for fear of appearing self-centered or getting stuck in victim mode. But sharing our stories in a meaningful, purposeful way is essential if we want to transform our pain. Here’s why it’s one of the most powerful steps we can take in our quest to heal and move forward.
In the first year after my trauma hit, I told anyone everything about what just happened to me. My wounds were fresh, open, and bleeding.
At that point in time, I was my story. I saw myself as a victim and craved acknowledgement and sympathy from others.
Thankfully I found my way to therapeutic containers where I could safely, privately process that overwhelming pain. Friends, family, professionals, and support groups held space for me to hit rock bottom and find my way back to my knees.
And then the time came when I rose and found my feet.
Today I tell my story from my hard-earned scars—filled in, unique, and gnarly. As Marala Scott would say, it’s no longer the story of what happened to me; it’s the story of what I had to go through to become the person I’m supposed to be.
We all have a story, and for true healing to occur, I believe we must voice it. How, when, and where we tell it is as personal as the way we choose to dress. Some feel best in modest, conservative clothing, while others thrive on baring their bodies. When it comes to how we dress and the manner in which we tell our stories, what matters most is that we feel authentic and empowered by our actions.
The Gifts of Story
When we share our stories, six simple yet radical shifts occur that spur us on to healing.
1. We come out of isolation. When we don’t talk about our wounds, we tend to think we’re the only ones. What we’ve experienced is too embarrassing, too repulsive, too shameful. Sitting alone with our pasts and faults is akin to solitary confinement. Sam Harris drives this concept home when he notes that inmates would rather enjoy the company of murderers and rapists than spend time in solitary confinement. It’s torture. Speaking our stories is our lifeline to authentic connection. No matter what we’ve been through, we’re guaranteed to find “me too” people. And that feels freeing.
2. We separate ourselves from our stories. Our stories matter. But we are not our stories. When we verbalize our stories, they become something outside ourselves—concrete and available for examination. Just as art therapy or journaling allow us to work with trauma in a physical, tangible space, speaking our stories is literally the first step in getting them out of our bodies and minds.
3. We acknowledge and face reality. Sometimes it’s hard to come to terms with what we’ve experienced. We rationalize that maybe it was all in our heads, perhaps it wasn’t as bad as we’ve made it out to be, we deserved it, or it was all just a big misunderstanding. Speaking our stories makes them real. Our stories happened, and it’s worth telling our truth about them. We get to make a victim statement (or maybe we need to make a defendant’s statement), which ironically helps us release our victim mindset.
4. We gain perspective. Once our stories are real and outside ourselves, they’re easier to work with and process. We can push off from the hard reality of our stories to rise above them and grow. We can ask questions like “How am I inviting betrayal into my life?”, “What are the choices I have control over?”, and “Are there recurring patterns I’m ready to break?”
5. We rewrite our stories. When we accept ourselves as the main characters and our choices as the central plots of our stories, we retell them in a much more powerful, purposeful manner. This doesn’t excuse or ignore the unexpected twists and blows that hurt us, but it brings us back into our power and into ourselves. And it gives us more agency over the next chapter.
6. We help others. We don’t always see or want to see the good in what happened to us. To be clear, there is no good in abuse or betrayal. But no matter what we’ve experienced, there is one good that comes when we share it: we help others face their pain and give them the courage to walk through what they think they cannot survive.
Permission to Speak
In the words of Martin Luther King, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. We may never see our interpretation of justice manifest in our lifetimes. But one thing we can do to experience justice for ourselves is reclaim our power and boldly blossom into healing. Let’s bend that arc further for ourselves and others by speaking up and out.
It’s okay. You’re allowed to.
How do you need to tell your story today? What needs to be said, and who needs to hear it?
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