“Human to human, thank you. Your words surrounded me like a warm blanket. I’m so grateful that I’m not alone.
Also, my legs are hairy as hell.”
My lips were salty and my cheeks stained with an abstract mix of Diorshow and happy tears. Whether the tears were prompted by the dry, wandering smoke from the fire pit in front of me or by the vulnerability of sharing a personal story in front of 200 strangers, I’m not sure.
That Thursday evening, I shared one of my personal stories in the middle of one of Athens, GA’s most beautiful parks, blinded by the stage lights with no barrier between my heart and the people sitting in front of me. No screens to hide behind and no time lapse between the words I was saying and the ears that would hear them. All I could see were a few sweet kiddos roasting marshmallows on the fire. I only heard my own voice coming through the speakers behind me with the occasional mumble of resonance and deep thinking. Everything else was a dense fog of smoke & white light.
The reason I was there, telling my story to all of these people in front of a fire pit, was for a local event called The Rabbit Box. The Rabbit Box is a monthly event where normal people come to share real stories for hundreds of people who not only show up, but pay money, to hear them. And I’d been invited to tell my story for the October event on “Wild Things.”
There’s an unmatched vibration to the stories told there because there’s no pretense. No experts. No professional speakers. Just real people telling unfiltered stories of upbringing, surprise, circumstance and change. Real people, real stories and everyone leaves changed.
Like the energy released in the hot, dry smoke from the fire, there was an energy released in me that night. An energy that comes with opening up any new avenue of sharing our creativity. What I didn’t expect was what happened over the days and weeks that followed.
The next day, on Friday morning, I opened up my computer to three new Facebook messages from strangers who’d been sitting in the audience the night before. Their words?
“Human to human, thank you. Your words surrounded me like a warm blanket. I’m so grateful that I’m not alone. Also, my legs are hairy as hell.”
“All my life, I’ve felt like I would never be enough. And, all my life, I’ve chased grace to set me free. To release my from me not-enoughness. Thank you for giving me the permission that I needed to stop trying so damn hard. I think you’re onto something - maybe all the things that I thought were wrong about me are all the things that are RIGHT and natural about me. ”
“I always come to these Rabbit Box things because I find the stories so captivating. Now, I know why. Your story is MY STORY and I just didn’t have the words for it until now. I’m thinking about telling my story soon and I wanted you to know that you gave me the permission to do that unfiltered.”
These people, these strangers, found permission and grace that they didn’t expect. Simply because I shared a story of my own. A story of shame, judgment, freedom and grace. All conflicting and all a part of the whole.
I used to think that my stories belonged ONLY to me and that telling them was an exercise for myself. Now, I know that sharing my story isn’t just about healing myself, it’s about connecting with others through them in order to become whole, together. Sharing my story isn’t about showing the world what’s mine and it isn’t about showing how much my life has changed.
Sharing my story is about something so much bigger than that, outside of myself. Sharing my story is how I connect with others and how we all become whole, together. Sharing my story, and my healing, shows others what is possible. My story can give others permission to be themselves, permission to say or do the uncool thing, and permission to rub up against culture’s norms.
I think the same is true for you.
Your story is the greatest gift, and the most unique contribution, that you will share with the world. Your story is an exercise of your creativity and a blooming of your soul.
As Brene Brown says, “The only unique contribution that we will make in this world will be born of creativity.”
You can share your story in a hundred, different creative ways. Through writing, through art, through music, or through service. You can share your story over coffee, while chopping veggies, or while you fold the week’s laundry. There’s no perfect format or necessary avenue. There’s no perfect medium or optimized time for engagement.
Willingness is the only necessity to sharing your story. Willingness to be seen and willingness to show up. Willingness to use your gifts, whatever they are, to make your mark on this world. Combine willingness with a story that’s true and you’ve got a recipe for change.
I believe that sharing our stories is an opportunity to see Love in one another. An opportunity to acknowledge the Light in yourself and in the ones who hold space for you.
Hearing others, and holding space for their own dear stories, is an opportunity to promote change within yourself and in the world.
Your story belongs to the world!
Your story is your mark and we all need to see it.
Thinking about sharing your own story with the world? (I hope so. We need your stories. We need the unique contribution that only you can give.) Here are my Top 3 tips to sharing your story as a gift and invitation to others:
- Process before you publish. Most stories need breathing room, margin, white space… whatever you might call it in your own life. The healing happens, over time, as we write the story and process it on our own. Often, in this crazy and fast-paced online landscape, we’re tempted to publish our deepest stories as they’re happening. Before healing and before processing. Maybe it’s for the sake of “authenticity” or “vulnerability.” But, true authenticity requires that we know ourselves, our stories and our souls in such a way that sharing them is just icing on top. Sharing becomes a gift to others, and ourselves, rather than a cry for healing or validation.
- Know that your story will change. The story you tell today will likely be radically different than the story you’ll tell five years from now. And that’s okay. Sharing your story doesn’t mean you have it all figured out, that you’ve learned all the lessons or that you’re ahead of the curve. One of the most crucial parts of sharing a story that gifts you, and the world, with freedom is knowing that the best parts haven’t happened yet. The story isn’t over. It’s still unfolding. Telling it now is the ultimate cliffhanger. We can’t wait to see where you go from here.
- Give yourself permission. Give yourself permission to be oh-so-uncool, imperfect, sad, honest, giddy or whimsical. Give yourself permission to use imperfect grammar, ALL THE CAPS, and ridiculous metaphors. When you share the story that’s whole and deep within you, it will come out just as it needs to be. It becomes a gift rather than a judgment. No semicolons necessary.
Olive is a social strategist, content manager and copywriter based in Athens, GA. She’s easily jazzed by iced chai lattes, kitchen dance parties and pure, real connection. Through Dearest Olive Studio, she helps small brands and non-profits transform their client bases into dear, thriving communities through custom content creation and social media management.