Updated: Mar 22, 2021
By Crystal Jackson from medium.com “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Anne Lamott
This is, by far, one of my favorite quotes. As a writer, I can appreciate this sentiment, as I’m often accused about using my personal life for my writing. I’ve even been called the “Taylor Swift of writers.” I, personally, find that offensive on behalf of Taylor Swift and all other female writers because no one makes those aspersions to male writers who do the same damn thing. We all write about our lives, in some form or fashion. In fact, speaking our truth is what makes it possible for us to connect to readers. No one wants to read stories that don’t ring true or resonate with us. This is why it’s important that we tell our stories and speak our truth. It’s easy to get caught up in this social media world of making ourselves and our lives look so much better than they actually are. It’s tempting. We can put filters on our pictures to make ourselves look better, and we can only describe the good parts of our day. But it’s not authentic. It’s not real. People don’t connect at a soul level with fake. I speak from a place of vast experience. I lived in a dead relationship for years, but I projected a happy life. My now ex-partner appeared in few pictures and went on very few of my trips. I didn’t even refer to him all that often in posts. Many people probably guessed that there were problems, but for a long time, I made my life look as good as it could because I was so afraid of what would happen if I was honest. Then, I got honest. I ripped the band-aid off that particular mentality. I filed for divorce in my early 30s and found myself, for the first time in my life, being absolutely the person I actually am. I stopped filtering every damn thing I said or thought through what other people would think of me because I began to embrace this peculiar idea that I mattered. Who I am matters. What I think matters. I realized it’s my life and to hell with anyone who judges me based on the things that make me happy- or the things that don’t. I got very raw and real in short order, and what I found is that people who I only knew casually became closer. Being that real resonated with people who could relate, and suddenly, my relationships deepened. I also found this reservoir of love and support that I didn’t know was available to me. All because I spoke my truth. We think it’s easier to tell the prettied up versions of our stories. Instead, we make our lives so much harder. We set ourselves up this expectation of perfection that we can never live up to, and then we constantly feel disappointed for not measuring up. It becomes difficult to ask for help because we don’t want anyone to know that we need it. We trap ourselves inside of lives and loves where we’re bleeding out, all because we have this idea that we have to live our lives a certain way. When we tell our stories, publicly or privately, we open up opportunities for connection and support that can’t be accessed as long as we’re wearing masks and telling lies. But the other benefit is that in telling our stories, we allow other people to openly share their own. When we feel a sense of shame or embarrassment for our lives, we’re unlikely to disclose the source of that feeling. But when we hear someone open up about their own frailty and failings, we become more comfortable saying that we feel that way, too. We create this web of support because none of us are alone in how we’re feeling. The #metoo movement is a perfect example of this. When one person spoke up and spoke out publicly about her experience, it became easier for other people to step forward and share their difficult experiences. Soon, women everywhere were openly talking about all the times that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted. While the numbers may seem daunting, they are also very real. It opened up the possibility for a conversation and for an effort at creating social change all because Tarana Burke was the first to step up and say #metoo. But our stories also allow an opportunity for empathy. We all have our reasons for the choices we make. When we tell our stories, we allow others to have a more nuanced perspective of our lives. Sometimes, it even sheds light on other, similar situation by virtue of having insight into our thought processes. It’s hard to hate someone when we understand them. By sharing our stories, we can build bridges between different backgrounds and cultures. We can look for similarities and differences simply by sharing our stories and listening to the stories told by others. Speaking our truth and telling our stories isn’t about gossip or slander. It’s not about making ourselves look good or even casting ourselves in the role of victim. We need to tell our stories because our souls demand it. There’s an ache inside of us to be real. When we live inside of that deep authenticity, the Universe rises to meet us there. All those hopes and dreams we nurture begin to come into being. But that can’t happen as long as we’re blocking ourselves with a system of telling only the truth that makes our lives seem perfect. The truth is important. Telling it is even more so. We have stories inside of stories inside of us. Whether we tell them publicly, tell them to a friend, or even write them in a journal, it’s important that we find a way to share our truth. We cannot know the lives we’ll touch simply by stating that we aren’t perfect. We cannot know whose stories we will inspire to be told simply because we spoke our own. When we speak our truth, we allow compassion and healing to come into our lives as well as into the lives of others. Yes, there will be relationships that leave because our truth wasn’t something they could handle. That’s the risk we take. But it’s worth it. The empathy and connection that can come from telling our stories make all of it worth it.