If the stories that I least want to share are the ones that people most need to hear, then maybe I shouldn’t be writing.
Because nobody wants to hear a story from the girl who wasn’t brave enough.
Ever since Brené Brown gave her viral TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability,” the name of the game is vulnerable storytelling. Courage, authenticity, and the willingness to let strangers glimpse into the most personal events of your life are what it takes to inspire millions.
But I wish it weren’t so.
It would be great if we didn’t need to put ourselves in the way of danger—to be judged, ridiculed, rejected, misunderstood, and exposed—to make a difference.
I am a quiet introvert and prefer to handle my affairs privately and on my own. By sharing the most intimate details of my life, I can bring harm to those closest to me and make their lives deeply uncomfortable. I am not a born martyr, willing to sacrifice my pride, image, privacy, and reputation for the chance to change someone’s life. And while I feel this way deeply, I cannot deny that the most profound healing I’ve ever experienced is through the brave storytelling of another soul.
As a writer and someone who has experienced some harrowing things and come out on the other end, this leaves me deeply conflicted because I want to give back.
So, what can we do? How can we share our story in a way that feels right to us? Respect our private nature, but give it a gentle nudge?
Because frankly, I like my life and I’m just too afraid of the consequences if I share everything.
If you are finding yourself in a similar situation, take a look at the steps below. They helped me reconcile my aspiration to help others while doing it in a way that feels right to me:
1. Practice vulnerability.
How can we be vulnerable with others if we can’t be vulnerable with ourselves?
I started by pulling back those dusty, old, neglected curtains and conjuring up those painful experiences from my past. I explored the truest, deepest, hardest stories within me and found that even after a decade, some were tough to re-live.
But for the most part, I have overcome my past traumas. I was able to go into my experiences and face my emotions head on. What I’m now waiting for is greater understanding to unfold.
Rather than try to make sense of the unpleasant events that took place in my life, I was able to get past them by immersing myself in Buddhist studies and removing myself completely from my toxic environment.
Now that I am finding myself with a strong desire to give back, it’s time to explore the lessons I have learned and insights that may be buried deep underneath.
2. Know your story.
We need to have a clear understanding of the events that took place and be able to articulate them in a direct, unselfconscious manner.
It has been a decade since the painful events in my life took place and with time, my memory has become foggy. That is why revisiting my past was important. It served as an exercise not only in vulnerability, but in memory, too.
Our stories are the backbone of who we are. They shape and mold us into our present-day selves. If we have a clear understanding of who we are, then we become powerful storytellers.
Irrespective of how much or how little we choose to share, our message will be clear and it will be easy for people to connect with us.
3. State your intention.
What is the purpose of our vulnerable storytelling?
Are we seeking attention? Creating noise? Getting off on our own suffering, (otherwise known as emotionalism)? Are we looking for wealth and fame? To be on the New York Times bestseller’s list?
Or do we want to continue to heal, to gain better understanding and insight? To connect with others and let them know they are not alone?
4. Decide what to share.
If we listen to Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Glennon Doyle Melton, or other popular memoirists, they will suggest something to the effect of: “Tell it all, bare your soul, write from the heart, be courageous.” And, while this is great advice, we may be feeling strong resistance to the first part, “Tell it all.”
So, how can we do the other three: brave our soul, write from the heart, and be courageous?
There is a great notion in Buddhism known as “skillful means.” Have you heard of it?
Skillful means is the implication that even if something is not true in the highest sense, or the “ultimate truth,” it is a beneficial practice to perform because it has the potential to bring the practitioner closer to true realization.
One of the greatest abilities of the Buddha was his skill in presenting difficult truths in simple, ordinary language as a temporary way of dealing with a problem or satisfying a need.
If we apply this practice to our vulnerable storytelling, we may realize that it is not necessary to reveal the most intimate details of our lives in order to effect change. We can share a less detailed version of our events and still provide great benefit to our reader.
The media glorifies the brutalities of torture, rape, murder, and other human cruelties. Do we really need a detailed account of the brutalities that took place? It takes little imagination to explore the depths of human cruelty we are capable of. At what point does it become entertainment and unhealthy to consume? And, moreover, why is the emphasis on what happened rather than asking deeper questions like, “Why does this happen?” and “How can we learn from it?”
Rather than spewing superfluous details and incriminating ourselves and others along the way, we can choose to be wise and share only that which is necessary to bring about the greatest benefit to all.
Keep in mind that if we are not skillful in our sharing, it may not bring any benefit. You can always choose to share more as you go.
5. Don’t try to be courageous.
In the words of the revolutionary Indian philosopher, Krishnamurti: “Don’t try to be courageous.”
When we try to be something, we are denying the truth of our existence, which is that we are afraid. Rather than be afraid, we should go into our fear and understand it.
If we share our story and we are overcome by fear, then we will walk around in a state of anxiety and nervousness. Having faced our fears and built confidence in our story will take us far.
If you want to share your story without risking it all, then I recommend taking the steps that I did. Be vulnerable with yourself and ask what happened. Gain understanding. Learn how to articulate your story in a clear and unselfconscious manner. Explore your intention and ask, “Why am I sharing this?” Employ skillful means and provide what is useful without bringing harm to yourself and others. Have confidence in your story and don’t try to be courageous.
When we respect our nature and practice self-love, this is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves. We don’t have to be brave to feel that we are enough.
Author: Mudra Love
Image: Author’s Own; Frank Flores/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron