The following is a guest post by one of my favorite storytellers, Camille DePutter.
Do you ever feel like there’s a part of you that goes unseen?
You may have all kinds of external recognition in your life from work, family, friends, the people who wave hello when they see you, and yet… you still wish to be somehow more ‘seen,’ more ‘heard,’ or more fully, demonstrably “you” in your life.
This feeling may be subtle, or it may be a loud, growing plea within. If you can relate at all to this sensation, you’re not alone. While we go about our lives, doing our work and fulfilling our responsibilities, we all have our private struggles and victories – the stuff we’re not supposed to talk about.
But if you have the courage to draw out these inner experiences and share them, even with the tiniest, quietest voice, they can actually help your true self claim more of the stage in your own life.
Personal stories have the power to either weigh us down, or to set us free. Let me be clear: I’m not talking about the same old stories, the ones that have been holding you back, telling you you’re not good enough. When I encourage people to tell their stories, I’m talking about cashing in the unhealthy, self-limiting beliefs that no longer serve us and in exchange for a re-write. I’m inviting you to re-craft your personal story to bring to light the insights and gems you’ve gained through your unique way of seeing the world.
I know what it’s like to find the idea of self-revelation very, very scary. Most of my life I carried a secret. In reality it was not a deep, dark secret worth writing about in a gossip column, but to me it felt big, it felt scary, and it felt shameful.
I was born with a heart condition. From a young age I fought the truth that my heart, though functional, was different. It beat more erratically and slower than a heart should. To me, as a young child, this meant weakness and fragility, and for much of my life I lived in denial of the truth. As I grew up, I worked hard physically to be on par with my peers so no one would notice a difference. If forced to reveal the truth that my heart was born flawed, I did so in tiny anxious increments. With each small reveal I felt exposed, anxious, and deeply vulnerable.
Over the decade of my twenties I began to claim more inner-acceptance, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago, when I took the opportunity to get onstage at a public speaking event and share my story with a large audience of strangers, that a bigger, deeper inner transformation took place. The most important part of this public “outing” was not so much my time on stage as it was doing the personal work to get there.
As I prepared the speech I gained a deeper awareness and appreciation for the relationship, still ongoing, between me and my heart. The process of writing and re-writing a speech about my heart allowed me to own the story of my heart; it enabled me to turn this past shame into an integral part of how I express myself in the world.
By sharing my imperfect truth, I uncovered a well of untapped strength. Today the story my heart is a central part of who I am: it’s integrated into my branding at camilledeputter.com, it’s a gateway for me to connect with others, and it’s even imprinted as a tattoo on my skin. In all honesty, telling my story still feels uncomfortable and a bit scary. But the more I share of myself, the more I get back in return. And I’ve made it my mission to help others do the same.
Do you have a story that is waiting to be told? Here are five tips to help you start bring your personal story into the light.
1) Tell yourself first.
You’ve heard the old financial adage ‘pay yourself first’? In this case, the currency is your own experiences, learned lessons and insights. Step one to claiming your story is to tell it to yourself. I encourage everyone to start by writing things down, with no one else watching or listening. I call this structured journaling: buy yourself a special journal for the express purpose of writing about the stuff ‘within’. Rather than writing about the day-to-day stuff, use this journal as an private forum to write about the experiences that have made impressions on you: the things that have hurt you, inspired you, transformed you, and challenged you to be who you are today, and the person you hope to be tomorrow.
2) Forget ‘let it go’. Try ‘let it in’.
There is so much emphasis on the idea of ‘letting things go.’ I believe that we rarely, if ever, let transformative experiences “go” – as though they can somehow just disappear into the ether. Instead of trying to find strength to no longer care about the painful or emotional experiences of your past, try thinking of them as part of a bigger story. What was their role in your story? What is the meaning or message they have left you with? What is the lesson to be shared?
3) Challenge old beliefs
For years I held incorrect beliefs about me, and my body, because of my heart. Afraid of being weak or fragile or less competent I missed so much about my inner athlete, my inner warrior. Give yourself an opportunity to scrutinize old beliefs: Try journaling about one major self-limiting belief. Where did it come from? How has it changed you? Does it feel true today? How could it be re-written?
You may also choose to examine why you’ve been silent so far. Were you ever told you shouldn’t speak up about a personal experience – rather directly or by the tacit silence of society? What do you think would happen if you started to share your story? What would you risk? What might you gain?
Explore these kinds of questions – and any others that feel right – during your structured journaling time.
4) Embrace the work-in-progress
Remember that your story will never be really complete. The point of storytelling is not to capture everything about you, nor is it meant to resonate with every person who hears it. It is not something to put aside until you have figured out every lesson, or until you’ve earned enough credibility to have a say. Start where you are and see where it takes you.
5) Help others by sharing.
One of the most cathartic, empowering aspects of personal story telling is to help others. Whether through a blog, a book, public speaking or even private conversations you may be able to help someone who is going through a similar experience – or someone who is currently wrestling with a whole different set of demons but draws strength from your display of courage, honesty or creativity. Don’t feel obliged to provide cookie cutter lessons for your audience: let your truth speak for itself.
No matter who you are or what you have to say, your story matters. Dare to give yourself a voice here and now, wherever you are at in your personal journey. I can’t wait to hear your story.
[Stefani’s note: this was a beautiful post, eh? I am proud to say I didn’t edit it at all. Thanks for giving me an easy day of work, Camille!]
Camille DePutter – Bio
Camille DePutter is a communications specialist with a breadth of experience in marketing, branding, public relations, and corporate communications. Her work has been featured in countless magazines, newspapers and blogs, though often as a silent ghost writer on behalf of notable leaders and brands.
Most of all Camille is a storyteller. As an independent communications coach and writer, Camille uses her empathetic superpowers and love of language to help people put words to their own inner stories – helping them to express, share and celebrate the stories that are inside all of us.
You can check out her blog and her business at camilledeputter.com