Imagine you’re a teenager growing up in the gang ridden neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the 1990s. You’ve made it to the 9th grade, but you’re labeled an “at risk” youth, incapable of learning.
Why should you work hard in school?
You’re forced to sit in the very same classroom as the rival gang members that shot and killed your best friend when you were 9.
The administration is counting on you to drop out by next semester, they don’t even buy you the full edition text books or novels for your literature class because you aren’t worth it.
You’ve lived in a violent bubble of anger, pain, and sadness. You can’t envision another future for yourself because, well, no one else does.
Your exposure to the world is equivalent to the furthest you’ve ventured from home: a couple blocks away.
Then one day, a dedicated teacher hands you a notebook.
You’re instructed to use it as a diary. A place to write about your experiences with abuse, with watching your friends die, with taking care of your drug-addict mom, with being evicted.
It’s about telling your story. It’s about giving YOU power, NOT about your grade, you’re told. Only effort is graded.
Reluctantly, you give it a try.
Within one semester, your life is transformed.
Maybe this sounds a bit idealistic, but its based on a true story, captured both in a book and in the movie Freedom Writers.
In Room 203 of Wilson High School in Long Beach California, once-hardened teens discovered a new way to express themselves and embrace history, humanity, and hope. By sharing their stories, they rewrote their futures and became catalysts for change.
As you can imagine, giving these kids the tools to tell their own story and encouraging them to do so was life-changing.
You don’t have to have an equivalent story. We can all benefit from sharing our own stories.
1. Telling your own story allows you to make sense of your reality and provides you with release
Telling our stories is not an end in itself, but an attempt to release ourselves from them, to evolve and grow beyond them.
Freedom Writers is a primary example of how telling your own story is a release from the reality you’ve been living.
Writing or speaking your story also provides you clarity on how you’re living and how you can make improvements despite impossibly strong outside factors.
2. Telling your own story helps you heal from trauma or difficult events
Similar to releasing ourselves from our stories, writing or speaking your story can help you cope with and overcome traumatic or difficult life events.
It can take form of talking to a therapist, to a close friend or family member, or even keeping your own journal which allows you to take everything that’s going on in your head and release that burden.
3. Telling your own story helps you learn more about yourself
As you gain clarity about your reality and are released from your story, you will undoubtedly learn more about yourself along the way.
Nothing quite makes you learn about yourself the way explaining who you are and what life events have shaped your world view to a complete stranger.
We tell our stories to improve our relationships with ourselves.
4. Telling your own story helps you connect the past, present and future
A part of learning more about yourself comes from connecting the different phases of your story — past, present, and future. Missing any part makes your story incomplete.
If your thoughts have a tendency to remain stuck in either the past, present, or future, telling your story forces you to reflect on all three and connect them so that you can overcome what holds you back.
We tell our stories to learn about our history and tell our experiences to transcend them.
5. Telling your own story helps keep your memories alive
It may seem less relevant in a world where we document every memory via pictures or videos taken on our phones.
But I believe there is power to hearing or reading the words themselves that were part of your thought process at the time.
It provides clarity to exactly how the moment was (no idealized versions here), lived as the person you were then. It’s an invaluable way to keep your memories alive in ways that simple images cannot.
We tell our stories to cherish every bit of the human experience that we have lived.
6. Telling your own story helps you find meaning in life
Making sense of our stories is a powerful way to help us remain (or become) crystal clear on what brings us meaning in life. And all humans need to find or at least be working towards an answer.
If you’re struggling to feel meaning in life, studying your story up until this point can help define what you’re looking for.
We tell our stories to help us define the types of activities and experiences we Most Need to pursue.
7. Telling your own story broadens your perspective and helps you evolve
Once you’ve written or told your story, you will naturally reflect on the experience/how it felt writing/telling it, and how it feels to read and re-read it after time has passed. This will provide you with valuable insight over time.
You’ve found release through your story. You’ve learned more about yourself in the process, connecting past present and future. You’ve gained clarity on your reality and on what brings you fulfillment in life.
It’s safe to say that all these breakthroughs broaden your overall perspective on life which help you continue to evolve into the best version of yourself.
We tell our stories to help us write our futures in a way that makes us proud.
8. Telling your own story is empowering — it gives you a voice and helps you feel like you matter
The students of Room 203 were told (mostly indirectly) that their stories did not matter. When their teacher gave them a pen and a notebook, she gave them a voice.
She validated that their stories mattered. That they mattered.
As a result, the students became empowered through their writing. They felt important, competent, and worthy of more than they were told they were worth.
We tell our stories to feel like we matter.
9. Telling your own story helps you connect with others through shared experiences
Humans are always looking to connect with other humans who make us feel understood, seen, important, etc.
Telling your own story allows you to connect with people who resonate with your story.
This connection is comforting, validating, empowering, and a huge source of strength through all of life’s different moments.
It helps both you, and whoever needs to hear your story. There are so many people out there that do.
We tell our stories to feel (And Provide) a sense of belonging.
10. Telling your own story can help and inspire others
Once you’ve connected with individuals that need to hear your story, you’re in a position to help and inspire others to write and share their own stories with the world.
And the world needs more authentic, inspiring people. In the process of helping others, you might even become an inspiration to yourself, further fueling you.