Our personal narratives are the stories we share about ourselves and the life experiences that have shaped us into who we are and determine who we are becoming. Just as important as the stories we share with others are the stories we share with ourselves. How we view our own lives can have a huge influence on how others see us.
The stories of our lives are more than a PowerPoint presentation of the facts and dates and events of a life, but rather the way a person assimilates those facts and events within themselves—dissects them and knits them back together to discover their value and purpose. This self created narrative largely shapes our identity, the things we choose to include and or eliminate from our stories, and the manner in which we tell them, can both mirror and mold who we are and who we see ourselves becoming in the world. Our stories do not just tell what happened, they tell why it is important and what we have gained from our personal experiences and relationships good and bad, thus far.
I believe that in recalling those experiences and past relationships the empowerment we feel is the most important part of a healthy personal narrative. The ability to recall past experiences that may not have been pleasant but to find the lesson in that as well as recalling something you gained, even from an unhealthy relationship where you were able to preserve your integrity and move forward, speaks volumes about strength and character.
The last couple of weeks with the resurgence of the #MeToo hashtag, women all over the world are reclaiming their personal narratives. Everyday we are inundated with news and broadcast media, along with internet, social media and Hollywood all playing a role in how we think and feel. We are told what cars to buy, how to be attractive to the opposite sex, what toothpaste to use and how to navigate through a world that feels chaotic at the best of times. We are told to be strong at all costs, that to show our feelings is an undeniable weakness and that if we let down our guard just a little we are surrendering to the plague of the victim mentality. We allow others to tell the stories that rightfully belong to us. In the last several weeks what I have seen, is not a bunch of victims, I have seen brave and vulnerable women owning their stories, accepting their stories, surrendering a bit of their control to the universe to create meaning and purpose in their lives and to gain freedom. These are not victims; these are badass survivors and that is how their stories will read for years to come.
Courage doesn’t always shout, sometimes it is that little voice inside that whispers #MeToo and the moment those words are spoken these women take back a piece of them that was lost, they become a survivor. That requires vulnerability which seems like a scary word, it requires uncertainty and emotional exposure. It is a risk.
Vulnerability may be one of the most courageous choices we can make in our lives and according to researcher and author Dr. Brené Brown, it will transform the way we love, parent and lead.
Brené’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks in the world.
“In our culture,” teaches Dr. Brené Brown, “we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.” On The Power of Vulnerability, Dr. Brown offers an invitation and a promise-that when we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Here she dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and reveals that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.
In my life, I am finding that more and more I am feeling the call to lean into the uncertainty. I am at a time in my life, after the tragic death of my husband that nothing is certain and sometimes the best thing I can do is loosen the grip on the figurative rope of control and surrender to the gifts that the universe has in store for me.
In Michael A. Singer’s bestselling novel the Surrender Experiment he explores the idea that society has trained us to be hyper obsessed with finding out what we think we want out of life but we rarely give any thought to what life wants out of us. What is our purpose? What does life have planned for us?
What if we surrendered to life?
The word surrender to me always conjured up thoughts of weakness and failure but I have decided in the past several months to flip the script a bit and see the word surrender as a powerful word, a word that is brave and courageous. Giving up control, leaning into uncertainty and bravely allowing life to be my guide is one of the most fearless and daring things I have ever done.
We are more than the sum of our experiences; we are more than what has happened to us in the past.
I will own my story and I will write my own bold ending and I encourage you to do the same. Some days I am scared, but I am never without hope.
“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”