The Examined Life: Owning Your Personal Story

There are lots of reasons to curate your personal story. Don’t be that person. Own it, wear it, and share it with the world, bumps and all.

At a certain point, you have to accept that your story is interesting. And that there are parts in there that are instructive, informative, fun, nonsensical;, and useful to others. But if our personal stories are so useful, why keep it to yourself?

The reason we don’t share is that we’re tacitly taught as children that our personal stories are something we share sparingly. We don’t blurt them out in mixed company. To share this type of intimate information is something that happens over time as a relationship develops. And as we know by the divorce rate, sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Or sometimes it’s revealed at a time that’s damaging to our relationships. Our personal story is not something we rush to share.

Now in the age of social media, that’s changed a bit. The paradigm is beginning to flip a little bit as people share out everything — the classic overshare. But there’s one critical difference in today’s story-sharing economy: the stories they tell on social media, those are the highly curated best appearing version of who they are.

You know those stories, the ones where we have the best shoes, the best clothes, we’re worldly, funny, wise travelers of this universe who are always in style and no hair is ever out of place. And we scroll through screen after screen of these images and we yearn to live the amazing, beautiful, creative lives that they have, all the time knowing deep down this is not reality. It may be a form or reality, the construct that they want us to accept as the truth, but we suspect there’s something missing.

Like dark energy, we realize intuitively that what’s missing is the binder of life, those everyday experiences of struggling to be a human being. We don’t see what they do in private, in the still, quiet hours of the night or while in repose. We don’t see the omnipresent fear, heartache, or rejection. We only see what they guide the eye toward, like a master artist.

And yet, it’s the stuff in between that is the stuff of life, indeed the most intimate and telling. When you share your story with others — and that includes the good and the bad — you’re being vulnerable. Vulnerability is something that’s long been considered a sign of weakness. People who are vulnerable in their words and actions are taken advantage of by others. At least, that’s how it’s been portrayed.

So we don’t share. We don’t open ourselves up to human intimacy.

Sometimes we can decide that our story is just not that interesting. It’s not as fabulous as those carefully curated Instagram stories. Or it’s not as amazing as the lives of the rich and the famous. We haven’t lived in the way others lived, we haven’t overcome adversity, or been the underdog. We convince ourselves that our story is not worth sharing, and worse, that we’re not worth it.

And yet, there are countless examples in the world of forums in which people share their stories and are rewarded for it. In American folklore, we value authenticity over other characteristics and feel a deeper personal connection when we believe someone is being true to who they are.

But we’re still afraid to express our truth. To own it. To wear it on our shirt sleeve. We’re afraid that we don’t have the talent or the skill to tell that story in the right medium, in the right way.

The great thing about your story is that it’s your story. And you decide how you want to tell it. Words? Pictures? Videos? A combination?

Put them all together and you have the dramatic retelling of your personal stories.

And it doesn’t matter if you do this for an audience of one or an audience of a million. In fact, forget about the audience and simply focus on yourself. What do you want to say? Because it’s worth it. You’re worth it.

You don’t have to be a professional storyteller. Don’t let the misperception of perfection prevent you from taking action today to be heard, to share in a meaningful way. That’s the key right there. Share in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Once you start sharing, you’ll start owning. Marc Ecko wrote that your personal brand has to run from the guts to the skin, it has to contain the essence of you for all the world to see. When you can live your truth and share your story with the world, you create deeper human connections.

After all, stories are the currency of human experience.

The world is a colder, darker place without your light to guide us. So share the story of you in the way that you want to tell it. No one can dictate that to you.