We bring people in by the stories we tell. It is that simple. We connect through our stories-our trials, our weaknesses, our hurt, our pain, our insights, our successes and mostly, our failure. It seems that people respond to vulnerability in sharing these moments and stories. The stories connect us to each other because we spend so much time creating alternate realities where our family is always happy, we are always planning our next trip, or we are spiritually evolved and we do it all through social media. We don’t just read or see what people post. We interact with it. We co-construct the meaning of it based on our own lens, our own experiences, our own understanding and view of the world or the relationship we have with the person who posted.
A friend posted this today. It got me thinking about what we think we know and how our level of understanding and not knowledge, is the filter for that story. If you think you know me, but don’t understand me, you will only know me through your experiences. If you understand me, and what I have said doesn’t sound right to you, or make sense to you, or hurts you, you will pause and you will think…Now what I know of her would lead me to believe that perhaps my knowledge of this is skewed. You will give me the benefit of the doubt because you will know that my intention would never be to hurt you or disrespect you or something you hold dear.
As we go deeper into this social media world where misunderstanding and grandstanding are rampant, we need to pause and consider how we have understood something rather than claim to know something.
I wonder, what if for one day, just one day, we were all honest on Facebook?
What if we told the truth about how we felt and didn’t filter. What if we could tell our stories and people would respond with acceptance and seek understanding.
Would we paint ourselves in a different light? What are the stories we are comfortable sharing and those that we keep locked up and only share with those who we know understand and don’t judge?
Recently I had a response that surprised me to something I wrote. I wondered, how do we tell our stories without also telling the stories of others? Is it possible to speak only about ourselves without connection to some relationship? Some memory?
We all tell stories. Even if we think we are accurate and honest in portraying who we are, the experiences we had, and our perceptions of them, these stories are still our interpretation of these events that we string together into a narrative that has made sense to us.
Interactions with others may come to disrupt it, but most often, our stories are our perceptions…end of story.
I was listening to an episode of Dear Sugar: Former Hellraisers (Should We Share Our Past With Our Children?) and the visiting writer, Mary Karr, talked about when we tell our children the truth of our past and how we do it. The hosts, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, spoke to the guest speaker, Mary Karr, about what we choose to share and what we don’t share when considering what we tell your children, but also how we represent others in those stories.
When we tell our stories, and risk our perceptions publicly, then we need to be prepared for the response. I saw a video of Brené Brown the other day when I was reading: The Brené Brown Manifesto: Why this woman is my hero and future mentor. In her talk about why “Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count”, Brené Brown says,
“I want to create. I want to make things that didn’t exist before I touched them. I want to show up and been seen in my work and in my life. And if you are going to show up and be seen there is only one guarantee. You will get your ass kicked…if courage is a value that we hold, this is a consequence. You can’t avoid it…and if you aren’t in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, then I’m not interested in your feedback.”
When I receive emails, messages, chats in the hallways at work, and phone calls from those who have read my work thanking me for making them feel a little less alone, a little less of an outcast, a little less shamed, then I know the risk is worth it.
It is worth it because one thing I know, courage begets more courage. The more we can be who we really are, the more we will see others as they truly are and for me, that is the whole point.
Show up. Be seen. Be vulnerable. And ultimately, connect.
Originally published on Medium on September 27, 2015.