Storytelling is a fundamental part of the human connection. Stories that have been shared through years of history and culture have had a profound impact on our values and ideas. Hearing a person’s story can impact us in gaining a new perspective on life or looking at an idea in a new way. Emotions can be evoked by stories and get us to reflect on how these stories connect to our own lives in some way. But beyond the impact that reading and hearing stories has on our own sense of self, the act of storytelling itself can also provide healing and growth.
Storytelling for the self-care purposes I am referring to is the act of formulating and sharing a personal story (of your thoughts, feelings, or experiences) through any means of communication- verbal, written, or nonverbal (expressive therapies such as art or dance).
Storytelling can offer several benefits.
- The Act of Processing-When we process something that we’ve experienced we really take a good hard look at the experience, recalling details and examining its impact on us. We try to look at the story from different angles and make sense of it. Instead of pushing away painful experiences and distracting ourselves from the discomfort of thinking about a difficult experiences we decide to sit with them and think about them. If we sharing a positive experience we decide to truly appreciate the story by thinking about it deeply.
- Sharing and Being Vulnerable- In sharing our story we are showing our vulnerabilities to others opening ourselves for a deeper connection with others while sending a message to ourselves that we are worthy of respect and love regardless of our struggles.
- Gaining a New Perspective- Sometimes after sharing our stories with others the conversation that follows brings a new perspective. Feedback from others on our stories can provide healing validation, a different perspective, or forgiveness.
So what stories do you share? When thinking about self-care deciding to share our stories with others involves first believing that our stories are worth being heard by people who deserve to hear them. We choose stories that we feel a need to share- a wound that isn’t healing, something we still carry guilt about, a worry that isn’t going away, something we’ve struggling with, or even accomplishments we are proud of or opinions we need to share in order to feel heard.
How do you share your story? Anyway that is most natural to you. It may be better for you to sit down and verbally share with someone face to face letting the words flow out on the spot. You may be a person that needs to write it out first before sending it to someone or submitting it to an audience that is appropriate. You may be a creative person that needs an outlet other than words such as art or dance. Whatever you feel truly communicates the feelings and symbolism of your story is the best medium for you.
Who do you share your story with? Your audience should be carefully considered based not only on the content of your story but also on the level of trust and connection you have with the audience. Select an audience that you feel can listen to your story with attention, respect, and gratitude. Who is someone you can rely on to always have something kind to say back to you? Who is someone that can give you a new perspective without being judgmental? If your audience is not someone you are directly interacting with (i.e. putting it on a blog or submitting online) make sure you select carefully how it is shared. Is the audience of the blog a group of people that are more likely to show empathy and respect for your story?
If you’re stuck on what to write about here are some ideas:
-Think about a formative experience in your life. What did learn about yourself or life from this experience? How does this experience continue to shape you today?
-Think about something you’ve been stuck on. Obsessing over a mistake? Trying to figure out why you feel so put off by that particular friend? Write down the central thoughts that are dominating your mind. See if you can find a new perspective or try to play “devil’s advocate” and find arguments to your thoughts that may help you find some forgiveness or rationality.
-Think about something you need to heal from. What is holding you back from healing? What are some thoughts or judgments you are still wrestling with that are painful?
-What is something you have conquered lately? What is something you are proud of? How do this accomplishment (no matter how small) represent how far you have come?
After sharing your story reflect on how it felt. Did you feel empowered? Did you feel brave? Did anything change for you?
I hope this week you can take time to write, draw, tell, or show a story with that receives with the appreciation and respect it deserves. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and proud of your courage to share and be open. You deserve to be heard. And your story is worth telling.