How do you feel about your life stories? Do you even think about your life in terms of stories? As a speaker, I do.
Following a recent speech for the members of a T.O.P.S group, I answered questions about a growth mindset. What it is and how it applies to different areas of our lives. I was also asked how I felt sharing personal stories. It was a good question, because from time to time I revisit that myself.
You see, the speakers who are good at the job, they spend time choosing stories that are relevant to their audiences. We have information we want to share, points we want to make, and they are best done through stories.
No two speeches are exactly the same, even if it’s for the same industry or club. Just as each of us is different, so too are the associations, businesses and clubs we speak to.
Since I speak about personal leadership and transforming obstacles into opportunities, my stories, by the nature of my topic, are about my journey. Some of this relates to mental health and it doesn’t get much more personal than that. However, that’s not the part that causes me to revisit the “rightness” of which stories to use. That dilemma comes from sharing stories which include others. While I don’t name them, since some involve family members, I recognize that even generally, they may not want my stories to be told.
And that’s what I need to remind myself, they are my stories.
Don’t let tribe loyalty keep you from owning your life stories
I think we all grew up with “tribe loyalty”. You don’t air your dirty laundry, or speak ill of the dead, or tell anything that would bring shame to the family.
That’s the trick though, isn’t it? Where family misdeeds, or bad behaviour, which most definitely impact others, are allowed silence. And in silence, shame takes root.
I find that I must give myself permission to share my stories, not as a victim, but as an example of the journey from what was, to what can be. I use those stories which will benefit my audience. Through my journey of creating a happier and healthier life, I’m fortunate to know many remarkable people. Similarly, my working life has also been rich in experiences. All of these are fodder for my speaking, just as they are for the writing.
Within a learning context, people remember stories. They link the information to the story that is told.
For instance I can tell you that you’d benefit from stepping out of your comfort zone and learning something new. Or I can share stories about people who have done so, or even stories of how I have done so. Stories anchor us into the meaning we are trying to get across.
If I can positively impact members of my audiences or those who read my writing, then that’s worthy of my sharing some vulnerable stories.
When we don’t own our life stories, they can become darker than needed
I appreciated the question about using personal stories. It was a good question as I’m sure some people wondered if they would be willing to likewise share their less glowing moments. Or their struggles.
The question gave me a chance to tell the audience the reasons why I tell the stories I do. In turn this gives others permission to own their stories. To bring them up from the basement of their consciousness and give them some light. If even only for their own use.
You see, our stories define us. We give them meaning and tell ourselves what kind of people we are through them. If we never visit them though, if we never give them light, they can turn into a dark and somewhat nasty character. Kind of like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings stories.
Our stories, our vulnerabilities, shared in the right way, with the right intent, hold the power of growth. Of expanding our understanding of ourselves, of others and of the world around us.
So, the next time you hear a speaker, know they have chosen their stories carefully, because they care that you take something worthwhile away. They want to make a connection with you and our life stories are one of the best ways to do so.