This article on sharing your story comes with a trigger warning. It’s going to be a little heavier. For my regular readers, this might not come as a surprise. Because a lot of my content discusses heavier issues. The main focus is on sharing your story. But in discussing that, you will hear about mine.
If you prefer to listen, the podcast episode is below! And make sure to bookmark the Journal Prompts for Sharing Your Story. This will be helpful later on!
Sharing Your Story During Domestic Violence Awareness Month
We will discuss the impact of abuse. And what survivors of domestic violence go through. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so this topic is very significant right now. However, this does apply to anyone’s personal story – regardless of the topic.
I do hope to have other survivors on my podcast and blog to talk. Survivors of all kinds of trauma. So, if you know of any please have them contact me. I want to be a safe space for people to tell their stories. But in doing so, I want to keep them safe – mentally, emotionally, physically, and legally.
Your Story Belongs To You
Before we begin, I want to make it very clear. You don’t owe anyone your story. And you definitely don’t owe anyone your full story. It’s yours and yours alone. You can choose who, how, when, and how much you want to share. And if you even want to share it.
Check-In With Yourself First
If you decide to share, which I really hope you do at some point. I do think it’s also healthy to consider why you want to share. You already know I’m really big on your “why”. Understanding your motivation behind sharing your story is powerful. Are you sharing for connection? To lighten the emotional load a little bit? Or are you sharing to help others? Do you have a purpose that’s bigger than you?
After you ask yourself why you want to share, really check in with yourself to find out what you are hoping for in response. If you need comfort or support, it’s important to let that other person know that. And to first see if they are in a place to offer that right now.
An Example of that conversation might sound like:
“Hey friend, I wanted to talk to you about my past. But it involves some heavier subjects. I’m seeking some comfort and support right now. Is now a good time for that talk? Or would you like me to check back with you?”
This conversation, as silly or as intimidating as it can be, will help drastically change the outcome of you sharing your story. It opens up the space for you to be vulnerable, for the other person to be fully present, and for both of you to have an understanding of the desired outcome.
Choosing Who You Are Sharing Your Story With
The last part of sharing your story that I want to caution you on is choosing who you share it with wisely. Do you trust this person? Is this someone who shares other people’s secrets? Or often judges people? You want to make sure that your story is treated with the respect that it deserves.
Because telling it is hard enough as it is, right? In this article, we are going to talk about why sharing our stories is so challenging – those fears and learned behaviors that are holding you back.
But we are also going to talk about the benefits of sharing our story with others. And trust me, there are so many benefits. I’m also going to talk about ways you can share with others and how to reflect on your experience afterward. So let’s dive right in.
The Challenges of Sharing Your Story
Sharing our stories is really intimate. We are giving a price of ourselves to others and really putting our hearts and minds on the line. It’s an incredibly vulnerable position to be in. And can feel super uncomfortable. A lot of times we are worried about what other people will think of us. If it will change the way that they view or treat us.
We might also be worried about making them uncomfortable. I know that I can tend to hold back pieces of my past because the timing doesn’t always feel appropriate to share. Maybe the mood is light-hearted and I’m not sure I want to bring some heavy energy into the conversation.
Sharing Your Story About Others
There might also be a third party involved that we might be trying to protect. Whether that protection is because we love them or based out on fear.
If we love them and want to protect their reputation, it can help to know there is a huge difference between gossiping and sharing your experience. This is where your intention comes into play. If you are intending to share your experience in the situation and can remain compassionate to the other person- that should be a healthy way to tell your story.
However, if the reason you are hesitant to share your story is that you fear another person… Well, that is entirely different. Having been in an abusive relationship myself, I kept it a secret for years. I talked about this in my episode on The Beginning of Root and Rise I feared that my abuser would retaliate if I spoke up. Telling my story, still to this day in my worst moments, feels a lot like poking the bear. But we need to break the silence.
Silence is a breeding ground for shame. The longer that we keep our stories to ourselves, the more power they will begin to have over us. We aren’t meant to go through these traumas or life events alone. We are not meant to carry this burden by ourselves. Do not allow fear of others keep you living in that shame. Of course, you absolutely need to put your safety first. However, that doesn’t mean you have to keep this to yourself.
Please keep yourself safe. I need you to be safe. The world needs you to be safe. And, there are ways to safely share your story. I am not a lawyer, but I spoke with a few before starting Root & Rise to ensure that I was protecting myself and my family. One day when I start having guests on the show, I will have a lawyer come and talk about the ins and outs of how to share your story safely.
Legalities of Sharing Your Story
Because, unfortunately, many areas of the law protect the abuser. The laws say it’s their “right to privacy” and that story could be “defamation of character”. This is where you have to be smart about how you share your story. Again, I’m not a lawyer, so do your own research. But I will tell you what I have done to protect myself.
I found comfort in choosing to tell my story without any identifying details. No names, no timelines, no descriptions, no details with a public record attached to them – none of those types of details. And really, the person in my story is irrelevant. I’m here to talk about my experience with abuse – not the abuser. So that I can help others heal and move forward with theirs lives.
Now, if my abuser decides to pursue anything and admit that my story is about them, that’s on them. They would have to first acknowledge that they abused me in order to pursue me for talking about it. And I have evidence to back my story. Evidence that others have access to.
More importantly, let’s talk about my safety outside of court. Abuse changed me. It made me stronger. And wiser. I won’t be brought down, intimidated, silenced, or stopped ever again. I am trained in self-defense. And I am not afraid anymore. Outside of me, those closest to me know who the abuser is. There is no way that person could get away with anything.
Plus, my home is secure. I know people who are much more lax about security in their homes. But my anxiety and PTSD require me to have my home on lockdown 24/7. Learning to control what I can in terms of safety has helped me feel more secure.
So I have motion-sensing cameras with alerts and notifications turned on. I also am always sharing locations with multiple people. And I choose to talk on the phone while out in public so that way people know when and where to expect me, etc. These are all things that you can control to help find security in your life.
As I said, I’d love to do an entire episode about protecting yourself and your story after abuse. Just take my words of caution for now. Do your research, speak with lawyers especially if you are wanting to speak on a public level. And above all, protect yourself. Your safety and sanity matter more than anything else.
Challenges with Expressing Yourself
Another way that abusive, or any dysfunctional relationship really, might impact us is our ability to express ourselves. In those relationships, we might not be allowed to safely or easily express our thoughts, feelings, or needs. We might not have been allowed to have a voice. And it could still be challenging to start exercise that new skill. But that doesn’t make it impossible.
Starting this blog has been my personal exercise in using my voice. In finding the power and value in what I have to say. Abuse took that away from me for many years. But I refused to remain intimidated and silenced. Having come through to the other side of abuse, I wanted to show others that it’s possible for them to do it too. Healing is a journey, not a destination. As I’m continually learning, I’m continually sharing with you in hopes that it can help make your life a little bit easier.
And speaking of easier…
Benefits of Sharing Your Story
Let’s lighten the mood a bit and talk about the benefits. Because to me, the benefits greatly outweigh the challenges. If you can find it in you, dig deep and find the strength needed to be vulnerable, you could change lives. You could literally change lives by simply speaking your truth.
Do you have any idea how many other people are out there experiencing the same thing that you have? Maybe those people are not as far along in their healing journeys. I’m sure they would love to hear your story of surviving, overcoming, and enduring. They may need that hope in their lives.
How Stories Can Impact Us
Think about when you were in the worst part of your journey. When you were struggling and couldn’t see a way out of it. Now, imagine if someone could offer you a story that you could relate to. That would keep you from feeling like you are the only one who knows these feelings so intimately.
And imagine if that story showed you that it is possible to make it through to the other side. That you can move forward and actually find a way to thrive after your story? What if that story could show you that your story doesn’t end here?
Your Story Can Change Lives
Well, guess what? You can be that person. Your story can be that guiding light for others. Yes, your story can offer guidance, inspiration, hope, and be a source of comfort. Because while your story is you, it’s actually so much bigger than you. Just like this blog is bigger than me. I didn’t call this Breanne’s Blog because this blog is not about me. My message is so much bigger than me.
Our stories can be a safe home for people to visit. With the doors wide open, welcoming others in. A home filled with comforts, like blankets and tea, to heal a wounded or lost soul. But also a home to empower others. To get them back on their feet. And pass along wisdom and hope for the next soul walking a journey similar to ours.
A Deeper Connection
Beyond all of those amazing benefits, by sharing your story you can also gain a deeper sense of connection with others. In allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you are giving your listener a safe space to share their story and experiences as well. Which, in turn, gives you a chance to learn more about them. This connection offers you both a chance at a new perspective.
And on the more personal front, sharing your story is just healing. It’s truly therapeutic to go through the entire timeline. To see what comes up for you and discover parts that you maybe didn’t even realize held such significance. It’s also healing to let some parts go that have felt too heavy to carry on our own. We can find healing and strength in sharing our stories.
How To Share Your Story
Hopefully, you are feeling super inspired to overcome those challenges and reap the benefits of sharing your story. So let’s talk about how to share your story. You need to be intentional with how you are sharing your story. It deserves the thoughtfulness and respect that we are about to give it.
First, be very intentional about who you share it with. If you’ve ever worked in retail, like I have, you’ve probably experienced word vomiting (or oversharing) from customers. While I’ve always been compassionate to others who feel like they have no one else to talk to, it can make a lot of other people very uncomfortable. So, avoid making others feel that way. Make sure you know your audience.
Here’s a tip: If you don’t know your audience, they might not need to know your story.
When exploring who you want for your audience, you need to consider whether or not they are truly capable of holding space for your feelings and thoughts. Because some people are just uncomfortable with emotions and deeper subjects. Those people might not be the best people to turn to for this situation. And that’s ok. Find someone who is capable of holding that space and offering the support that you need.
Check-In With Your Audience
Once you know who you want to tell, it’s a really great idea to check in with them first. Like I mentioned earlier, give them the opportunity to decide whether or not now is the best moment for them. This is beneficial to both of you because if the moment was not right, you won’t get the attention, care, or thought that you deserve. And not by any fault of theirs, they could just be busy, distracted, or need to recharge their batteries to give you what you need.
I’m a big fan of being direct. I’m always going to suggest that, no matter what. To me, it’s the best way to communicate. There are no hidden agendas, no questioning a secret meaning, and no questions about what you need or expect from the other person. In this instance, I would personally start out by telling the other person what my fears are. What the experience of telling my story feels like. And what I need from them.
An example of this conversation might sound like:
“Hey, friend! Telling you this personal story is really challenging. It is a tender spot for me and I am worried that you will act differently towards me after hearing it. I fear that you will pity me, view me as broken, or treat me as if I am fragile. It’s really important to me that you can see my strength in overcoming and help me to foster that feeling moving forward”
Then, you can start small. When I used to begin telling my story, I would give little breadcrumbs or microdoses of details to see how the other person reacts. And gauging how much they can really handle. I might have started by mentioning that I was in a really toxic and unhealthy relationship. But left out the abuse or any other details from the start.
A word of caution though from someone who overused this breadcrumb strategy, if you do it too much – no one will ever fully understand. I remember feeling like the few breadcrumbs I gave were SO obvious to piece together. And that the person fully understood the depth of what I was trying to tell them. But until we actually tell them, we can not possibly expect others to understand.
This breadcrumbing is really just meant to give you an “in” to start sharing the story. Because as I mentioned earlier, you can tell as much or as little as you want to people. If you start your story, see a reaction that is causing you to feel negative – you can stop. You don’t have to say more. Although, I do encourage you to be direct in saying what you need or didn’t like.
This could sound a little bit like:
“Oh, no. I do not want you to feel sad for me. That honestly only makes me feel worse. I am telling you this so you can have a deeper understanding of me and can help support me to feel empowered through my experience – not broken”
Take Your Time
Along with starting small, go slow. Take your time. Embrace the silence. Give yourself permission to really consider what to say next. There is no rush to tell your story, especially if you have created a safe environment with the other person to just hold space. Showing emotions is absolutely ok. And it’s also ok to take a few deep breaths to gain your composure when the emotions start feeling too heavy.
And if all of this still is not helping you tell your story to others. Write it out first. Journal. Check out my 30+ Journal Prompts for Sharing Your Story to help you get started. Writing it out removes the fear of judgment. It gets your thoughts organized. Holding all of this in becomes a burden. Journaling helps to relieve that burden.
Exercise Your Voice
You can also practice saying parts of the story, whether it is out loud or in your head to your ideal audience. It will feel really silly at first, but it’s just like practicing a speech. And if you do it right, you can work a little bit of manifesting in. You can do this by not only envisioning the reaction you are hoping for but also truly feeling that response – as if it is already happening. Feel that support that you want. Or feel that deeper understanding that you are hoping for. Doing this beforehand can help further promote a positive outcome for you.
And once you’ve shared your story, it’s a really good idea to reflect on your experience. Let’s first start by celebrating the fact that you did it. You overcame something incredibly challenging – something that pushed you outside of your comfort zone. Feel the power in using your voice. In sharing your message. Feel liberated by that.
Then, reflect on how it went for you. How did it feel to share? And how are you feeling afterward? Just like we want to stop and celebrate the fact that we just overcame a challenge, we also want to check in with ourselves. On both the good and the bad parts. Do you feel as if a weight has been lifted? Or do you still feel like you need to share more?
Consider what helped you to share your story. What worked for you? And what would you need next time to make it a little bit easier? Take the time to acknowledge the challenges, remind yourself of the benefits, and be intentional with your process of sharing. This is going to help you heal, grow, and exercise your voice. Yes, that voice that I believe can change lives. And I hope you believe that too.
Well, friends. You’ve just heard my insight on sharing your story. I really hope that you feel empowered enough to start slowly and intentionally sharing your experience with others. You deserve to be seen, heard, and understood.
Whenever I talk about domestic violence, I like to include the hotline that you can call or text if you are in that situation. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE or by texting “start” to 88788. You are not alone. And you do not have to go through this alone.
You’ve Got a Friend in Me
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