The greatest compliment I've received recently was from my fiance, Kyle, and it was that I am a storyteller. It's such a simple act, and more often than not I feel self-conscious while telling stories...
The tiny ego voice of fear in my head: Will I choose the right words? Will I do the heart of the story justice? Will it land with the listener the way I want it to?
For someone who loves me and knows me to tell me I'm actually good at this abstract "skill" is a huge exhale of relief and a simultaneous lifting up in confidence toward the direction of my purpose.
This has got me thinking more about the act of storytelling and how its vulnerability can be a healing process. You know how an idea or theme just seems to nag you and show up in every corner of your life until you talk about it and share your relationship to it?
I opened up my Apple podcasts app this morning to settle in for a commute into Manhattan for a private thai massage client and it was the Beautiful Writer's Podcast that presented itself to me. The topic of conversation between one of the most celebrated literary agents, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, and one of her beloved authors, Dani Shapiro of Hourglass, landed on the fact that ideas don't change the world. Stories do.
This small vote of confidence from my partner that I have the privilege and the gift to tell other people's stories and my own in order to light up the world - to create a global campfire - is a miraculous thing.
Do this one thing for me and for yourself: tell someone what they're good at and they might just find their purpose.
What is this reference to purpose in relation to sharing stories and gifts, you might wonder. Dolly Parton once said,
That's the simple version of it. Who you are is made up partly of what you're good at. And sometimes you are so good at certain things and find such ease in doing them that you don't even see them as skills until someone points it out to you directly. If you don't know what you're good at, ask someone you trust!
All that deep, esoteric stuff aside, I want to drive home the reasons why I believe this storytelling compliment to be the greatest I've received.
- Storytelling helps us become better listeners. By sharing stories for a listening audience, people are able to go to a deeper place of sharing and opening if nobody is interrupting or weakening the conversation or diverting it to where they want it to go. Next time you're listening to someone's story, try NOT to react or even respond. There will be an urge. But just hold space without thinking about the next thing you want to say. Take a deep breath after the story lands. And try asking a question instead of responding.
- We get to shed a layer each time we tell a story. This is the healing part of storytelling that I love! And we get to tell it any way we want. The more we speak our story out loud, the less attachment we have to it. There's release and surrender in sharing, rather than the anxietytension-building holding we do out of fear that we won't be understood.
- Sharing stories increases the "Me Too" factor. The chance that someone else is going through or has gone through something similar to you or someone close to you is reassuring that we're all humans experiencing a vast range of emotions daily.
- As a teacher, says Rachel Brathen (Yoga Girl), "you can only guide people to a place of vulnerability to the point that you're able to open yourself".