How We Tell Our Stories Matters (maybe as much as what we say)

At the Breathe for Change training this summer in Madison, WI I was honored to spend 160 hours with over 100 people working on getting it right. For themselves. For their families. For their students. For their schools. For their cities. For our nation.

We laughed a whole lot.

We danced.

We dared to step out of our comfort zones.

We challenged ourselves and supported others who were challenging themselves.

We cried from sheer joy, compassion, and pain.

We spent hours upon hours during those 16 days talking about who we are and who we have been and who we see ourselves becoming.

And at one point I realized, we don’t all tell our stories in the same way. I spent a couple of days with that thought really listening to others as they shared about life experiences, and I realized some of us tell our stories as though we are victims. Others choose a position of empowerment.

Then we started to learn about neuroplasticity. I kept hearing the phrase, “What you think becomes actions becomes reality.” I immediately applied it to my thinking about the telling of our stories.

I listened some more. I analyzed the people speaking from positions of empowerment and quickly realized they approach life in a healthier way.

So, I committed myself to consciously telling my life stories from a place of empowerment. Consciously removing all traces of victimhood from my story.

Right then and there I began to listen to myself as I talked about experiences being married or growing up.

I started to tell my life stories in a journal one of my Omies gifted me. Sometimes it has been hard. I’m breaking habits of how I have allowed myself to see my past. With some of my stories I’ve had to spend a good bit of time thinking through my story and rethinking which parts I allow myself to be victim. Those are harder ones to tell. They’re the more important ones to practice with.

Once I record a story, I reflect back on it and think about what life lesson I want to draw from my truth. Through this process some of what I have discovered:

  • “Someone being well-intentioned doesn’t equate to my needs being met.”
  • “I need the people around me to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”
  • “I am a person who works hard to make it work. I am also willing and able to make hard choices for myself and those I love.”

I’ve experienced many challenges in my life: growing up youngest of four in a working class family, single parenthood, two marriages ending in divorce, a long career as a public school teacher.

I’m not looking to change the story, just to be sure that I’m recognizing and honoring my strength in the way I share my stories moving forward.

Have you thought about how you tell your life stories? Is it from a point of empowerment?