The Empowering Effect of Sharing Your Story

We all have stories about good times and bad, how we’ve struggled to find answers where there were none, overcome hardship and heartache, and discovered the secrets to some of our life’s greatest joys.

My personal favorites almost always begin with “I still can’t believe I actually did that!”

Of course, most of us are very selective about the stories we choose to tell. We especially avoid sharing experiences that make us feel foolish, vulnerable or boastful. More often than not, we simply can’t imagine anyone would be interested.

But sharing our experiences with others is not only empowering, it can help to light the way for those who are walking a similar path.

My experience has taught me that supporting one another to fulfill our individual and collective potential is why we are all here. Sometimes, all it takes to connect with someone else is sharing our vulnerable story, lending an ear or a shoulder, and just being present for them. ~Sahil Dhingra

We Find Strength by Sharing Our Story

Following are just a few of the everyday heroes whose stories have touched me. While the circumstances of their lives vary widely, the one thing they all have in common is that they have found strength and purpose by sharing their experiences with others.

  • Cliff Meidl who suffered severe electrical burns and was told he’d never walk again went on to participate in the 1996 Olympics and today shares his story of courage, hope, and achievement through adversity.
  • Lon Hodge’s legacy of his experience in Vietnam was post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D). In his own words, “I was completely, horrifyingly debilitated.” The turning point for Lon was the introduction to his service dog, a lab-poodle mix named Gander. Lon’s experience and the dramatic impact Gander has had on his life served to give him direction and a new mission, to reach out to other disabled vets and to raise awareness about P.T.S.D., invisible disabilities, and service dog awareness.
  • James Arruda Henry learned to read and write at the age of 91 and then went on to write a book and become a reading advocate for the young and old with his simple message. “Don’t be afraid to go ahead and try.”
  • W. Mitchell suffered burns to 65% of his body in a terrible motorcycle accident. Not long after his miraculous recovery he was involved in a place crash and paralyzed from the waist down. Despite his scars and physical limitations, today Mitchell travels the world spreading his messages of hope and inspiration. He claims, “It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s what you do about it.”
Gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom, sharing it is the first step to humanity. ~Author Unknown

Let’s be honest, it takes courage to share your story because it means letting go of the carefully crafted image of the person you believe you should be in exchange for the unedited version that includes your imperfect quirky bits and pieces, and all that you’ve learned (mostly the hard way) through your experiences.

It is this unfiltered story that will free you to be your authentic self.

Scary I know, but the benefits are enormous.

Sharing is Healing for You and Others

Sharing our experiences can help us find meaning even in the most painful events and gain a greater sense of purpose and direction.

Many survivors of trauma or violence become active in movements focused on prevention and helping others who have had similar experiences and this is often a key part of their healing process.

Similarly, many former alcoholics and addicts become sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous or substance abuse counselors and use their own past to help others avoid similar fates.

I started out by simply telling groups my story — the funny parts, the tough parts, the triumphant parts. People loved it. Most people have scars, too. Of course, they are not always as visible as mine — maybe they were scarred by abusive parents or dyslexia or some other invisible malady — but that doesn’t mean they are not real or that they can’t learn from someone who has overcome his own, more visible scars. ~W. Mitchell

Sharing Helps You Find Your Voice

Finding your voice simply means learning how to communicate in a way that is authentically you. This process can help you impose organization and identify key events in a way that enables to you take your rightful place as the author of your own life story.

It Helps to Re-affirm Your Values

Sometimes you learn things about yourself from the act of writing or storytelling that helps to clarify the things (and people) that matter most to you.

People who have found their voice shared their story and reaffirmed their values often find a sense of peace and a hopefulness that they did not have before.

One of the most powerful things we can do is to help others when they are in need, and in order to do that we need to be willing to share our knowledge, experiences and the lessons we’ve learned. ~Author Unknown

At the very least your willingness to be vulnerable serves to assure others that difficulties won’t break us. That it is not only possible to endure and survive this marvelous roller coaster ride we call life, but to grow stronger and thrive as a result of all of our experiences.

You Have More to Offer Than You Realize

You may be thinking that none of this applies to you because you haven’t experienced any particularly difficult challenges and can’t think of any wisdom or knowledge you have to share with other people.

This is perfectly normal, but keep in mind that the way in which you live your life, your values, and experiences, all have the potential to provide insightful lessons. In fact, there are endless opportunities to share your story through coaching, mentoring, volunteering, writing, speaking, volunteering and simply through your friendship.

You never know when one heartfelt nugget of wisdom from your story will make a profound difference in someone else’s life!

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. If you found value in it I hope you will consider sharing it, and if you would like to read more please visit Emotionally Resilient Living.