Do you have a story of heartache and struggle that is worth sharing? Do you think other people could learn from your mistakes? Sharing your painful experiences can be scary, but if you keep reading, you’ll find advice on the best ways to stand with courage and own your story.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” ~ Brene Brown
What does it mean to own your story?
We’ve all experienced pain. We’ve all made mistakes and have had to overcome obstacles in our lives.
But when it comes to telling others about our painful pasts, do we share it or do we keep it to ourselves?
Often times it’s the latter.
Sharing your honest experiences can be extremely difficult. Whether the experience happened several years ago or you’re in the middle of a painful chapter, telling someone about all you’ve experienced or are going through can make us feel insecure.
We might be afraid of how others will judge us based on the story we share.
We might be afraid of the way we see ourselves and what we regret in our past.
Owning your story means being honest and vulnerable. It’s opening up to another person and sharing a part of yourself.
I know what it’s like to be scared to share your story…
I also know how crucial it is to do so.
How I owned my story
I’ve had my fair share of obstacles in my past. Anxiety, insecurities, self-doubt, among other challenges, made me become the person that I am.
Yes, I overcame a lot of different issues from my past (thanks to counseling and journaling) but I was reluctant to share my past experiences with other people.
I kept asking myself…
Would this be too honest?
Are people going to judge?
Am I being self-centered?
Is anyone even going to understand?
Where I told my story
After I started blogging back in 2018, I was given a few opportunities to talk about mental health and my own past struggles. When the mental health organization 1n5.org asked me to share my story, I was compelled to contribute.
But the idea of writing out my painful memories was still extremely difficult.
I felt vulnerable and exposed.
Part of me wanted to kind of sugar-coat my story: make the dark moments not look so dim and make the irrational fears seem more rational.
But I knew I had to keep it honest. I knew if I only shared half the truth, I wouldn’t be doing my part.
So I wrote it all out. I talked about the moments I felt ashamed, overwhelmed, and lost. I got it all out of my head and on to paper and onto their site.
The response I got was amazing. There were people who went out of their way to reach out to me to tell me how inspiring I was for sharing my story and how much they related to what I described.
I continued to share my story in other interviews, like the one with Kim Banwell, and I even built up enough courage to talk about it on camera in an IGTV video I shared for World Mental Health Week 2019.
Let me tell you, the response I’ve gotten from sharing my experiences and owning my struggles have been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve met so many people who have experienced similar pain in their past or are experiencing anxiety and insecurities in their life right now. Even those who may not have experienced the same situations are still able to connect with the stories I share. I’m so grateful that I got up the courage to own my story.
Why should you own your story?
So is there a story inside you ready to be told? No matter how insignificant the obstacle may seem to you, someone out there may benefit from hearing about how you overcame it.
Don’t discredit your struggle. Overcoming any hurdles in your life, whether mental, emotional, or circumstantial, is worthy of recognition.
Any mistake is a lesson.
Any hardship fosters growth.
Owning your story means recognizing your failures and struggles for what they were and being able to say that they shaped you into a better version of who you became.
Take a second and imagine yourself five years ago. Would you have appreciated someone showing you that you would be capable of overcoming whatever stress you were experiencing at the time? Would you have loved to hear someone say “hey, I’ve been there too. You’ll make it out okay”?
Be the inspiration for someone else.
What do you do if you’re afraid to own your story?
How do you build up enough courage to own your story?
As I said, I know how difficult it is to talk about your painful past. Recounting those moments can bring back negative emotions if you’re not prepared to really own your story.
Just like learning self-acceptance, becoming comfortable with being vulnerable takes time and effort.
Here are a few ways you can practice being vulnerable and owning your story:
5 Ways to Own Your Story
The easiest, cheapest therapy tool on the market. If you’re having trouble vocalizing your fears and feelings, write them out. Don’t worry, you don’t have to share your journal entries word for word, this is just a tool to organize your thoughts.
Read About Others’ Experiences
Take a trip down the “memoirs” section of your local bookstore and you’ll find dozens of real people sharing their stories. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis is an excellent example of someone getting real about their inner-critic and the failures they’ve experienced in their lives.
Start a conversation with someone you trust
It can be difficult to broach the topic of mental health or other uncomfortable topics with friends and family members. Many people are averse to talking about their feelings. But it’s important to voice your story in a space you feel comfortable with people who want the best for you. If you’re unsure on how to start that sort of conversation, here are a few prompts you can try:
- “Do you know of any friends or family members who’ve experienced Depression/Anxiety/Bipolar Disorder/ect.? What was your impression of their experience with it?”
- “I read that rates of Depression and Anxiety have increased astronomically for college students in recent years. Why do you think that is? What do you think should be done about that? “
- “Things have been difficult for me recently, have you ever felt like you can’t keep your head above water or have trouble getting out of bed in the morning?”
Find your community
Due to the power of social media, nowadays you can find groups of people who are looking for an opportunity to share their story like you. There are communities centered around certain topics and support groups open for you to connect to. Here are a few ways to search for the group that’s right for you:
- Browse the “Health and Wellness” section on Meetup to find groups in your area.
- Look up hashtags like “#MentalHealthBlogger” and “#RecoveryIsPossible” on Instagram to find hundreds of inspiring individuals to connect with.
- Visit reliable online discussion boards and forums on mental health topics. Bonus: many of these sites allow you to be completely anonymous. Mental Health Forum and National Alliance on Mental Illness are great sites to try.
You have a story that is yours
A story that can help someone out there.
You’ve got to find courage in vulnerability and own your story today.
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