Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don't lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier. —Sabaa Tahir, A Torch Against the Night
All of us tell stories about ourselves. Stories that define us. We have a fundamental need to be accepted and to know someone well is to know their story—the experiences that have shaped them, stories of their childhoods, families, school and so on.
How then, do we decide what part of our story gets told and what doesn't?
Why can't I talk about my feelings?
The highest and lowest points of our lives are what we tend to carry with us forever. The moments that made us feel intense joy, pride and pleasure and ones that broke our spirits to a point that they left a scar. And while some may find it easy to talk about that, it doesn't come naturally to a lot of us. According to Dr. John Grohol, the following reasons stop us from saying what we feel:
Avoiding conflict, which might arise due to the expression of our thoughts and feelings.
The fear of being seen as weak and vulnerable.
Being afraid that people would not like us if we expressed ourselves truly.
Sense of hopelessness, that no matter what we say, the other person will not be able to understand how we feel.
Expectation from the other person to read our mind and decipher what we are thinking.
Evading having a conversation on a certain topic.
Why Sharing Your Personal Story Can Offer Real Health Benefits
"It's self-disclosure," says Nancy Morgan, writing clinician and director emeritus of the arts and humanities program at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. "Divulging troubling feelings and experiences in particular—a frightening health diagnosis, an incident of sexual harassment, a divorce—"enables you to create a coherent narrative out of something chaotic," she adds. "That process causes cognitive changes in the brain that tell your body 'Relax, you're good.'" Research shows that reducing tension or stress can help improve sleep and lower blood pressure and heart rate.
How should I share my story?
Saying how you feel is something you can learn how to do. Learning why you have trouble expressing your feelings can really help to change that behaviour.
In order to be able to share our story with someone, it is necessary that you trust them. More often than not, we do not share certain personal issues even with our closest friends and family. The fear of judgement and being perceived as vulnerable hold us back.
Acknowledgement, first and foremost, that talking about your story can and most likely will be a daunting thing to do can really help ease the nerves. It may start awkward, perhaps not even well-worded, but just knowing and understanding THAT can prepare you for when you decide to actually do it.
You can make your expectations clear to the person you're deciding to share with. Sometimes we don't like being coddled after talking about a sad or sensitive incident, so directly letting the other person know your preferences can give them a better understanding of how they should or should not react.
Does my story make sense?
Understand that the story you share is likely to have an impact on more people like yourself who have been through a very similar incident in their life.
You might think that it is insignificant or inconclusive but your perspective can help others feel less lonely during a difficult time in their life.
It can inspire hope, lead to change, start conversations and help you connect with other people who truly understand and relate with your life experiences.
It doesn't have to be perfect or articulated. It needs to come straight from the heart, because people have a way of detecting authenticity. No matter how you choose to share your story, someone, somewhere will understand you, and thank you for opening up.
Where can I share my story?
Sharing your personal story can be a very intimate and yet emboldening experience. While there is no right or wrong way to tell your story, finding the right setting in terms of who you choose to confide in and where, can be crucial.
Additionally, you can choose to put your story in writing and share it online on platforms like Now&Me because it allows for anonymous sharing if you're apprehensive to share your story at first. Or you can record it on a podcast or a video if you like.
Whoever you are, whatever your story might be...know that you are not alone and that someone cares.