The storyteller’s manifesto: why it’s time to share your story
After over a decade as a professional communicator, I decided it was time to do things differently.
So I became a professional storyteller instead. My goal: to help people discover and share their personal stories with the world.
I did that because, after years of trying to be better or be different or be someone else, I learned that there was no better feeling than being myself.
I realized that being myself was essential, not only to living a good life, but to living, period.
But how to do that?
Being yourself is not as easy as it sounds.
How do you know who ‘yourself’ is? How do you know if you’re being true to that person? How can you help that person show up a little more brightly in the world?
In my own life I fumbled along, looking for myself.
After a bunch of blunders, I realized I had to do two things:
1) I had to create the person I wanted to be. I had to break free of the past stories I’d believed about myself and start living as my true self. This became an active, creative process. I shook up the past stories about myself, and invited new ones in. I tried stuff that tested my limits and got me out of my comfort zone. I gave myself permission to speak up, screw up, and play. Among other things, this process involved a lot of writing. Each day in my journal, without realizing it, I was writing a new story for myself.
2) I had to share who I was. I couldn’t portion myself out in appropriate doses. I couldn’t have separate personas for each person I met. I had to be me, fully, always. I faced old sources of shame and I shared them – literally, before a live (non-studio) audience.
Storytelling is a gateway to being ourselves.
"Don’t just be yourself. Be all your selves." – Joss Whedon
The problem with the phrase ‘be yourself’ is that it assumes ‘you’ have one distinct identity. But that’s crazy. Humans are complex, strange, ever-shifting creatures. (Which is what makes us so damn interesting).
Luckily, discovering new parts of yourself is absolutely wonderful.
I call this dynamic identity. It’s that feeling that you can grow, change, uncover new territory, break previous limits, and become more of yourself.
It’s that feeling of shedding an old skin. Seeing with new eyes. Or feeling your heart grow a little more open.
And this is where storytelling comes in.
What I mean by ‘storytelling’
What I say ‘storytelling’ I’m really talking about a framework for how we imagine ourselves in the world.
"Self-storytelling is a creative process that invites us to re-consider and re-imagine who we are and who we want to be." - Camille DePutter
When you practice storytelling, you feel a lot less ‘stuck’. You feel free to grow, to discover new parts of yourself, to live your values, and to be the person you want to be.
You realize that labels other people gave you don’t matter so much. Even if you’ve lived with them for years.
What matters are the stories you tell about yourself: the ones you choose to carry inside. And the ones you choose to share with the rest of the world.
The funny thing is, when people ask me what I mean by storytelling, I’m sometimes at a loss for words. I know, I’m supposed to have some sort of quick, nicely packaged summary to make it marketing-friendly. But creative, transformative processes are sometimes… a little tricky to explain.
But the people who get it? Well, you just get it.
Because you know what it feels like to have a story inside of you. You know what it feels like to want to be heard. You have the same pull to be true to yourself.
You know, inexplicably, that there’s a story inside of you.
“But how can I be a storyteller if I can’t write?”
There are lots of ways to tell a story. Art in its many forms is a kind of storytelling - dance, song, visual art, movies, comedy, you name it.
But I encourage you to write. Even if you think you’re “not a writer.”
Words are our primary form of communication. Words are your gateway to literally tell people: “this is me.”
Writing can put you in touch with your inner stories in a very powerful, direct way. You don’t have to consider yourself a writer to do it.
Make friends with words. You don’t need to judge them; they don’t need to be perfect. They are there to help.
And if you want to improve your writing, that’s cool, too. (For one thing, you can check out my storytelling workbook, launching soon.)
Just know that your stories are more important than the words you’re using to tell them.
Is it time to share your story?
Storytelling is an empowering tool that can help you let go of a whole bunch of yucky stuff and bad habits. Stuff like:
- Hiding your true self. Thinking you have to be a certain way.
- Limiting yourself or holding back.
- Staying quiet when you have something to say or contribute.
- Feeling stuck, like you’re destined to live a life you don’t really want, or be a person you weren’t meant to be
- Being ashamed of who you are.
I have personally experienced all of those things. Learning how to re-shape my own stories, own them fully, and share them with the world was truly life-changing for me. And it is still life-changing on a daily basis.
I want to help you discover the power of personal storytelling. That’s why I wrote my e-book, Share Your Story. It’s a workbook designed to give you the tools to develop the clarity, comfort and confidence to share your story with the world.
Write on, fellow storytellers. Write on, and re-imagine.