What story are you telling?

my storyMy story is myself:

and I am my story.

This is all you will know of me:

it is all I will know of you. Christina Baldwin

This quote hits the nail on the head don’t you think? Your life is a story and what you tell is what we know. And perhaps more importantly, the more you deny your story and your life the more it defines you.

Stories are the fabric of life, we thrive on them; they sustained our childhood and are the way we communicate with each other and with ourselves.

Stories have tremendous power to move us and to connect or disconnect us. And who doesn’t love a story with a happy ending? I know I do.

Telling and sharing stories heals us

Telling and sharing stories in a comfortable environment is one of the oldest ways we learn and bond, and when the opportunity arose to tell a story at the 21st century equivalent of this; The Story Party I said yes before I had time to really think about what I was letting myself in for.

So a couple of weeks ago I stood in front of a room full of (mostly) strangers and told a 10 minute story on the theme of dreams, without notes.

Story party June 15 1 ed I’ve done plenty of presentations and run workshops, I’ve told my story over and over on the web, and all of them were a piece of cake compared to this. Because it was a deeply personal story I felt like I was baring my soul and some of my innermost secrets to people I didn’t know.

And no notes, that was my biggest challenge. I know: it’s my story so I should know it, right? Of course it was my story, but it wasn’t just any old story, it was carefully crafted with crucial points and dramatic pauses.

Of course my gremlins were out in force too, wondering if I’d be ‘good enough’ (whatever that meant) and whether I’d compare favourably to others. Luckily most of the other seven story tellers were as inexperienced and nervous as I was.

What happened when I told my story

The story I told was of finding my light from the dark that I went into by virtue of being childless. I don’t know the ending yet, but for now let’s call it happy.

Telling it was an amazing experience. I remembered everything, the pauses came in the right places and most of all I connected deeply with the audience (there were a few ‘leaky eyes’).

As a result I feel more self-confident, grounded and comfortable in my own skin, and I have a baseline on which to improve my presentation skills.

Several people told me that they recognised my story, they were moved by it or now they understand what it’s like to go through unsuccessful IVF.

If that’s the gift I gave to the audience then I’m very happy.

This wasn’t the story I used to tell

I am the only oneI spent ten years hiding from my story and the truth of my life, denying parts of it, hoping that some way or other it would go away. And surprise, surprise it didn’t!

For all those years I told myself that the sadness would pass and life would get back to normal again sometime (whatever ‘normal’ was), and all that happened was the years passed. This was just a story I was telling myself over and over.

And the more I denied it, the more it defined me. I allowed others to make assumptions about my life and assign meaning to them. Does that sound familiar?

Now I’ve changed the story

Now I’ve changed the story I tell myself and the world. As this quote says ‘I am the only one who can tell the story of my life and say what it means’ and if I can own my story and my life you can too.

Five things I’ve learned from owning my story and my life

I’ve recently been digging into my story with Beverley Glick the ‘Story Archaeologist’ (who knew such people existed, but they do and she’s amazing). This work and my experience over the last two years has taught me that:

  1. Owning your story puts you in the driving seat of your life,
  2. When you dig into it you make discoveries more that enable you to reframe what happened,
  3. Then you can make a new and positive meaning out of what you’ve been through,
  4. When you tell it you get connection and empathy in return,
  5. And most of all you get to make a new happy ending
And to change Dorothy’s quote slightly; ‘you are the only one who can tell the story of your life and say what it means’
So ask yourself, ‘what’s stopping you from owning your story and your life so that you can write your own happy ending?’

What will you do next?

How did this help you? Please leave a comment (you can use a different name) if it did or if you have any questions.

And if you want to read how others have done this there’s plenty of inspiration in the Inspirational Stories

8 thoughts on “What story are you telling?”

  1. Lesley – this is a brilliant, honest, touching and vulnerable post – I can almost feel you growing in power as you explore and own your story on ever deeper levels. It has been such a pleasure to work with you and to witness your story unfolding. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much for your lovely comments Beverley, our work together has made such a difference to my understanding of what I’ve been through, thank you!

  2. Hello Lesley
    Really lovely post and well done for speaking from your heart, in public, risking yourself as you let go of needing notes or props to separate you from the audience. I think the work you do is very important and very useful. I love the idea of relating my story – owning my story and then sharing it. I suppose that writing my blog is my attempt to do that and I notice that people like the posts that are more personal, more vulnerable, and I enjoy writing them but goodness do I feel nervous when they get published! ‘Who wants to read that?’ goes the critical voice…. But I believe even if one person is touched then it is a powerful tool – not just writing as I have done in diaries for years, but sharing it. I used to write diaries thinking that one day my children would read them. It is one more loss to take in when you don’t have children and realise that there will be no son or daughter treasuring your personal story in this way. So, also writing in public, helps me feel there are people who are interested, who respond, who are touched. This matters a lot. Lots of love Kate

    • Thanks for commenting Kate, owning our stories makes such a difference and as you say a blog is a great way to do that.
      Sharing vulnerable stories can be hard, but vulnerability is also courage and it’s those stories that connect deeply with others.
      I’m nervous too but as you say if we help even 1 person then it’s worth it. And it matters, we all matter.
      Lesley x

  3. Lesley, you are one of the people I am most proud to have in my life. Your commitment to your own positive evolution, and the way that this compels you to help others who have been where you are is awe-inspiring. I thank you from the depths of my heart for your honesty – and for giving me the opportunity a while back to share my own story. It massively helped me move forwards – and the countless emails and messages I received afterwards from others that I had no idea had been through the same, was testimony to the power of shared stories to forge new, deeper and more heartfelt connections.
    Helen Rebello recently posted…How to Bend Time Like a Ninja and Escape the Time Monsters Part 1My Profile

    • Thanks so much Helen, what a beautiful comment, I don’t know what to say.
      As you experienced there’s tremendous power in shared stories to forge connections and also to help us move on. I’m also proud to have you in my life & to continue our journey together.

  4. Great post, Lesley. In the pregnancy loss support group my husband & I facilitated for 10 years, we emphasized the importance of telling our stories, every single time we met. Even if you’d told it dozens of times (& we all got to know each others’ stories very well), we encouraged people to tell some version or aspect of it. Over time, we noticed how our stories changed, and how every now & then, some entirely new detail would pop out that hadn’t been told before.

    Funny, though, isn’t it, how it’s so much easier to tell our stories to “strangers” in support groups and online in blogs & message boards than it is to admit our truth to some of the people we know in “real life.” I still struggle with this at times, 17 years later.
    loribeth recently posted…That’s OKMy Profile

    • Thanks Loribeth,
      There’s so much power in telling our stories & as you say they change over time. When I first wrote my about me page I said we’d had ‘too many’ rounds of IVF, now 2 yrs later I’m comfortable saying 6 because I’ve got stronger & healed the shame that I felt previously.
      And I agree absolutely, it seems easier to tell strangers and on the web than it is to people we know. It gets easier with time though & the more we do, the easier it gets.


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