“When one woman puts her experiences into words, another woman who has kept silent, afraid of what others will think, can find validation. And when the second woman says aloud, ‘yes, that was my experience too,’ the first woman loses some of her fear.”
I think this is a really powerful idea, for all people, not just women. I definitely find that I am more willing to share my own stories when I hear other people share theirs. And this is one of the main reasons why I write this blog: I feel like if my thoughts and experiences can help even one person in any way, then it is worth my time to write them.
But I also think that sharing stories goes much deeper than this. Some of the deepest stories I have are felt and not easily put into words. By working to use words to explain what I am going through, I am forced to really examine the things that are inside of me.
This process of using words to describe things that are often so much more can take many different forms.
Sometimes, things are so intensely personal, that I feel naked sharing them with the world. It is like I am taking an essential part of me and thrusting it out where it is vulnerable. I fear that this part of me will be ridiculed or belittled, and it takes great bravery to show these hidden parts of my self. But these are the parts that often hold the most loneliness. They are the parts that crave acceptance and acknowledgement, that want to be told that they are wonderful and natural and that other people have them too. And the only way I can find that connection is by sharing that story or finding someone else who is brave enough to share their story so that I can recognize the same piece inside of me.
Other times the story is about something that is a lesson I have learned. I am pretty hard-headed, so often I have to repeat my mistakes several times in order to grow. But sharing the story of my lessons helps reinforce the message within myself. And reading about other people's stories that mirror my own builds that lesson as well. I think that it is much easier to push our boundaries together, that we find strength in community and that the more we band together, the smoother our individual journeys are.
But one of the things I cherish most about sharing stories is when I find someone else telling a story that I would never have thought of. Perhaps their life experience is so different from my own that I need their perspective to understand that aspect of the world. Or perhaps their methods of navigating the world allow them to find trails that I can't even see. All I know is that their stories allow me to experience things that I could not on my own. I like the idea that perhaps my words will likewise touch someone who is very different from myself.
Ultimately, stories build community. They are the way we form connections and come to touch each other in our hearts and souls. When one person speaks up, their voice is echoed around the world with other voices, many of whom start with "I thought I was the only one..." Stories shine a light into the darkness and give power to people who feel like they have none, because they find that they have others standing beside them, they just couldn't see them until they heard their voices. When we speak together, nothing can keep us silent!