Not everyone needs to hear your story, but somebody does
A few times a month I sit down to write a blog post and newsletter for the SheHive community. Some weeks the words flow like an inspired river. Some weeks I have to pry and wrestle them out. And some weeks, like this one, my inner critic makes herself loudly known and starts questioning whether I have a story worth sharing.
“Who. the. fuck. do you think you are to be trying to teach anyone anything?” she asks.
And, truth be told, my inner critic - I call her Roz - isn’t the only one giving me negative feedback or questioning my who I think I am. There are weeks where the number of unsubscribes to this newsletter surpass the subscribes. There are weeks where I hear nothing but crickets after I hit send. And there are times (luckily, rare), where people reach out to me and let me know they don’t like what I’ve written or don’t think I’ve earned the right to, well… write.
But there are many, many weeks where I hear back from someone that they can relate to what I shared. And by doing so, they’ve shared a little of their own story with me. These are the moments that remind me of how important it is to share our stories.
If you follow the SheHive on Instagram, you might have noticed a post last week of a chalk drawing on a sidewalk that read, “One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.”
What unshared survival guides do you have within you?
Plus Size Pizzazz
About a decade ago I answered a question on the Detroit Free Press’ Facebook page about the difference between “curvy” and “plus size.” Free Press reporter, Georgea Kovanis, then focused on style and shopping, was interviewing women about whether the words were interchangeable. I ended up on the phone with Georgea and quickly discovered the question was in response to the Kardashians impending release of a plus-size clothing line.
I can’t remember my exact response, but I think it might have been something along the lines of, “I could give a fuck about the Kardashians.”
The interview should have ended up there, but Georgea is a gifted interviewer. She kept me on the phone for over an hour and, in that time, I bared my soul about my journey and how, at age 40, I was finally learning to overcome the shame I had been taught to feel about my larger-than-average sized body. One thing led to another and the story turned into a photo shoot and full-page feature on the cover of the Sunday Style Guide titled, “Plus Size Pizazz.”
What Did I Get Myself Into?!
Due to summer vacation schedules, there was a gap of about a month between the time the interview and photo shoot ended and the story was published. In the whirlwind of the spotlight and attention, I hadn’t had a moment to think about the possible consequences of putting myself out there so vulnerably… until I could.
In that gap time I started to panic. Online commenters on the Free Press website are notoriously cruel - I started to imagine all the “fatty” names there were going to call me and the shame there were going to try and lay at my feet for not having the will power to be a skinny girl.
My excitement turned to dread and I began to hope that the story would be postponed indefinitely. I kept my therapist plenty busy that month. We made a plan of action that included, among other things, not reading the comments when the story was published.
I Read the Comments
The story came online the night before the paper made it’s way to physical doorsteps. I abstained from reading the online comments for approximately a nanosecond and, as feared, the VERY FIRST comment was some anonymous man who quickly pointed out how fat I was and what a shame it was.
It was exactly what I had expected. Exactly what I had feared.
What I hadn’t expected, however, were the number of women who came to my defense in subsequent comments. And the women who reached out to me to thank me for voicing the shame they had long felt. And the total strangers who reached out to share their own stories with me.
It was life affirming to know I wasn’t alone.
Your People Will Your Hear Your Story
That anonymous man - the one who wanted me to know I was fat (as if it was a secret I hadn’t yet discovered)? He wasn’t my audience. He wasn’t “my people.” The story and the lesson wasn’t for him. I told my story for me - and for women like me everywhere whom I wanted to know that it was possible to feel joy while wearing a pair of size 22 pants.
His feedback didn’t matter. Theirs did.
You ARE an Expert
I know many of us are scared to share our stories because, as our inner critics and many others are quick to remind us, we’re not experts. When I shared my story in the Free Press I wasn’t a body confidence expert, or a psychologist, or a health coach, or a fashion expert - I hadn’t even started Grad School and my coach training at the time.
But what I was was an expert on my own story. No matter how others viewed it - I knew my journey and the lessons I had learned and that was all I had to offer.
And it was enough.
No one knows anything more about you than you know about yourself.
What Survival Guides Do You Have to Share?
What story do you have to share? What survival guides might you begin to lay out for others? Your stories - and your journey - have value.
Need a platform to share your story.. any of your stories? I’d love to hear it! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
With much love and gratitude,
Ursula Adams, MSPOD