Stories are central to our days. I have memories of being curled up in my mom’s lap while she read Love You Forever by Robert Munsch when I was only a toddler. I remember riding down the road in my grandparent’s old Cadillac while my grandfather told me stories of his time as a police officer. As a teenager, my friends and I would swap stories in the hallways of our school of our teenage adventures. Books, music, art – these are all the holding places of stories and our everyday lives are active stories.
With the welcoming of 2019, I am reflective on the story of 2018 in my own life. In the days leading up to the welcoming of January 1st, I reminisced on 2018 and the many memories rolled into those 365 days. Throughout the first two months of the new year, I have found myself trying new things and navigating what I hope this new year to be like.
When I think about how I, as a social worker in training, can best empower others, I think of stories. In this exact way, I think of the empowerment of the women and girls in my life and our collective culture. Several thoughts popped into my mind when I first wrestled with this idea of story-telling as an empowerment tool.
I think of the wonderful women and girls that I have encountered in my academic field placements and in my various jobs throughout the years. I think of how central my clients stories are in getting to know and best support them. To best serve a client, teach a student, treat a patient, or whatever your area of work may be – we must first know the basics. Names and how to properly pronounce them are a great place to begin. Where has their journey taken them and where do they hope it goes? We connect to stories and those stories help us serve better.
As I reflect on the stories of my clients, I think of the girls in middle and high school who I did not treat me well.. Growing up in a small town, those strained relationships happen. I reflect on those girls as an adult and my heart feels heavy. We were all trying to navigate adolescence and it was tough. I see now the ways in which life was tough for all of us. The ways in which we missed the mark in loving one another because we were hiding our stories from one another out of fear that they might be used as ammunition.
I think of myself and how scary it can be to share my story. Other times, I find it freeing or even a place of pride. My story is home to all of my greatest victories, sweetest relationships, wildest discovers. It is also home to my deepest pains, greatest fears, and of course, every single heartbreak. But what I have found is that each aspect of our stories is a dwelling place for the parts of the journey that make us who we are. The shadows of life’s difficulties add depth and opportunity for new perspective.,
I think of Brené Brown’s words when I think of stories. I think of her research on vulnerability and belonging. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, Brown entitles an entire chapter “People are hard to hate close-up. Move in.” The title is shocking, but in reality, true. When we take the time to hear a story, the script shifts and the “other” becomes more human. In the same breath, when we step out in bravery and share our story, we build connection with those who are hearing us.
As 2019 builds, what would it look like if we lived a full story and empowered others to do the same?
Here are some helpful ways to tell your story this year:
- Take a few minutes to jot down marking moments in your life.
- Take time to meditate on experiences you have had in the past as feels appropriate and safe. Notice what you sense as you allow yourself to travel back to these moments.
- Swap stories with a friend or family member.
- Keep a journal of your experiences of 2019 and then go back at the end of the year and see how you grew throughout the year.
Here are some helpful ways to empower others in telling their stories:
- Invite the people in your life to share their experiences and what has shaped them into who they are with you.
- Empower the women and girls in your life by listening to their stories about their experiences, share with them the triumphs and challenges
- Choose someone in your life who you would like to have a standing weekly meeting with for the year. Each week, invite them to share their week with you and share yours with them.
- With permission, share powerful stories of the people in your life or from around the world on platforms like social media or a blog.
May 2019 be a year where we view our living, breathing stories as important. May we empower one another and especially women and girls by listening and inviting the full story, even the tough stuff. . May this be a year where we tell our stories and celebrate the places they have brought us and the places they will bring us..