Feminism · Mental Health

The Importance of Sharing Your Story

finding your voiceI’ve debated starting a blog for years now. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but the idea seemed so vague and unattainable. Writing was always something I was going to do in the future. I was never ready, or good enough, so of course I couldn’t write. It was the Catch-22 that any young person with desires to succeed in some kind of art gets caught up in.

It’s funny because I remember the younger days of the internet. As a kid I loved going online. I loved creating and sharing, and I did so without reservation. I had no fear that the free content I was making in my spare time for fun wouldn’t be good enough. Maybe it’s because I was young or maybe its because in the 2000’s everything online was anonymous and it wasn’t expected for people to use the internet to connect with those they knew in real life. Either way, as I grew so did my sense of self consciousness and my fear of failure. I’d rather not try than try and be bad at something. And I could turn out to be bad, I’d read enough terrible writing to know that much.

If I’m being completely honest, I was just never really ready to share my stories and thoughts with the world. The idea can be terrifying, especially as a young woman. From a young age we’re taught in subtle ways that we aren’t good enough, that we can’t contribute to something important. I see this in my friends too. In this modern technology driven world we have so many opportunities to create and share, but sometimes it can seem hard to act on. I couldn’t even begin to count the amount of times that me and my friends would have an idea for something to put out into the world, and idea that was completely possible. A podcast, youtube series, organization, business idea… But we never acted on them. We got close, sometimes. A few notes scratched onto a piece of paper or buried in my phone. A rented out camera, a checked out microphone. It seems like we can get so close to these ideas, but then commitment never happens and they fade out of reality.

Recently I’ve come to one of those painfully obvious epiphanies that if you want to accomplish something or go anywhere all you have to do is do it. It’s such a simple concept, but so hard to really believe in and make a part of your life. The minute you do, though, everything starts to shift into place. And once we discover the power of simply taking action it forces us to identify our goals so we can figure out what action we need to take. There is so much that I want to do and experience while I’m in this world, but the one thing I’ve always known I wanted to be was both and educator and a student to the world. I believe in always striving after progress, and I believe in creating good in the world that others can benefit from[ does this fit in or is this a separate thing].

We live in a world where selfishness is the safe space. Perhaps it’s because individuality is such a strong part of our culture, maybe it’s because we’re expected to look out for ourselves first and foremost. I don’t disagree with these ideas, in fact they’ve been integral to my personal development and search for self confidence. But sometimes it’s easy for the idea of service to get lost in this idea of individuality we’re so committed to. The idea of expending your valuable energy to help others seems foreign, because we think that this energy is finite. And in a way it is, there are only so many hours in the day and only so much you can accomplish. However, something that’s all too often forgotten is that service benefits those who give it as well as those that receive it. Showing yourself that you have the power to make a change, no matter how small, can be healing to the soul in a way that can’t be found anywhere else.

A lot of us don’t know where to start though. Maybe we really decide to commit to the idea of integrating service into our lives and sign up to work a soup kitchen. Maybe we join a service fraternity or sorority. These things can be rewarding, and should be a part of anyones service experience but at the same time the contributions we are making when we take part in events that just require man power is a relatively weak commitment. It can be empowering, and is certainly helpful, but perhaps people need to start thinking of the idea of service as something bigger than just offering up your time or money. I believe all of us have something bigger to offer the world: a part of us.

We all have so many stories inside of us. Stories that are important and could change the way someone else sees the world. All too often, these stories never get told, not even on a personal level. Maybe it’s because we feel they aren’t important, or maybe it’s because we’re afraid to tell them. Sometimes we need weeks, months or years to distance ourselves from our pivotal moments enough to be able to talk about them. Sometimes it’s hard to even find a story, and you find yourself wondering if you have one.

I assure you, you do. And you should make it your goal to tell it.

It’s taken me nineteen years to start to realize that my voice is worthy of being heard, and it’s still something I struggle with every day. Recently I was blessed with an experience that I knew was going to be major for me the minute it was proposed. I’m a member of a wonderful women’s organization, and our president proposed having us share our stories of things we’ve gone through in order to foster a since of closeness in the organization. Immediately I was on board, and we spent the two weeks leading up to the meeting planning our stories and the meeting.

We started off with one of those activities where you stand up if you identify with a statement and sit down if you don’t. I admit, I was nervous for even this portion. I ended up reading the statements out at the podium and therefore not taking part in the actual activity but it immediately created a sense of unity to see girls stand up together through statements like “stand if you or someone you know suffered from an eating disorder” and “stand up if you know someone who has attempted suicide”.

Immediately afterwards we went into the speeches. Girls talked about struggles with self confidence, divorce, death, depression, family issues, eating disorders, sexual assault, self harm, suicide attempts, anxiety, and abusive relationships. I know that for some of us it was the first time telling our stories in front of an audience, and for me and one of my friends it was our first time ever telling our stories in completion. I started crying half a page in, and the tears kept falling through the rest of my speech but I found that I wasn’t afraid or even embarrassed. I know there was some crying in the audience as well and it was amazing to me that my story moved others to the point that it did. I was followed by two of my good friends whose stories I had already heard and I knew would be even more powerful that my own. I was comforted by the company in my endeavor to be more vulnerable than I’d ever been before.

Afterwards our group chat was full of girls thanking us for our speeches, talking about how they were moved and commending us on our bravery. I have never felt so thankful for following through on something that truly terrified me in my life. I received one text from a fellow executive that touched me so much I immediately dissolved into tears. I had never felt less alone or more filled with joy in my entire life.

It made me realize how many wonderful things I’d been missing out on because of that fear to be vulnerable. I’d aspired to greatness as a kid, but let my fear of leaving my comfort zone control my life for 19 years. How many times could I have helped someone feel less alone by being more open about my beliefs and experiences? I’m determined to not miss out on this important part of life, and neither should you.

If you’re still in search of fulfillment, your life’s purpose or a sense of self, start to write your story. Start to be honest about your life when you write posts on Facebook, and don’t get caught up in trying to present a high light real. Talk about the struggles you’ve made it through, talk about the adversity you’ve overcome, and overall, use it to lift up others. Society and humanity as a whole is by nature democratic. We believe that the world we see is our reality, and in that way it is extremely easy to affect other peoples lives.

mirror encouragements

A project we did where we put encouragements across the school.

Words of encouragement left on a mirror, a sincerely written blog post or an honest conversation can inspire hope in someone. If enough hope is inspired a skeptic can become a believer. A conformist can become an activist. Dreams can become reality.

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