by Stephanie Dethlefs
“I could never do that,” a friend said to me after I’d recounted a recent storytelling event in which I’d taken part. “I’d be way too embarrassed.”
It’s hard for me to explain why I like to share my stories. I’m an introvert, which means I avoid social situations with the agility of a ninja. On top of that, I have spent most of my years grappling with social anxiety (Will they like me? Why did I say that?)
So why on earth would sharing true, personal, sometimes painful stories from my past be something that I want to do?
Just as I know that I will never record a demo of myself singing and upload it to the internet – you’re welcome – I would never suggest to anyone who doesn’t feel compelled to share stories to do it. But while it’s easy for us to understand why someone who loves to sing might share her talents with others, it is sometimes hard to explain why we want to share our true stories. Maybe this is because it is socially acceptable to perform artistically or athletically or academically, but to stand at a microphone or submit a story for publication? Not as much.
I will say that I think this is changing. In this age of social media, everyone is putting their stuff out there. Sometimes too much. My generation is the youngest that didn’t grow up with technology and social media, so maybe the idea that you keep the personal to yourself will gradually fade. I don’t know. But I do know this: there is a difference between what we share on social media and the kind of storytelling I’m talking about here. One skims the surface. The other dives deep.
And the introvert in me much prefers the latter.
The next time someone asks you why you want to share your true, personal stories, maybe you can offer them one of the following reasons.
On the surface, it seems like we are just telling a story about the time we wrecked our parent’s car. But in considering universal themes and our intentional audience, we have an opportunity to consider what others have experienced. This provides us with a new layer of empathy for others.
By sharing our stories of loss, or love, or heartache, or failure, or perseverance, or mental illness, or identity, or self-discovery, we are telling others that we too are living the human experience.
This is difficult to admit in mixed company, but at the end of the day it is true. It is all any of us want in this life.
Recently I wrote and shared a second version of a story I wrote 10 years ago. The first version containted the realization that it was okay to grieve. The second version contained the realization that self-compassion was possible. Two totally different meanings, ten years apart…each exactly what I needed at the time.
“I share my stories because I want to.”
That’s all anyone, including you, needs to know.