Ep. 37 Why Your Story Needs to Be Shared
To close out this 6-part series on lessons I learned from trauma, I want to talk about the benefits of sharing your story.
The most life-changing thing that came out of my trauma was actually a byproduct of the healing journey: believing in myself and believing that I am worthy of healing.
Everything I create for Courageous Worth has a relationship to the things I learned from moving forward, choosing myself, and believing in myself. Therefore I get so excited when I see others who are able to let their hardships go, who also don't let their trauma steal more from them than they already have.
Sharing Your Story for Yourself
There are two different paths of sharing your story. First, there's sharing your story for yourself.
So I want to tell you what happened when I shared my story. When I was sexually assaulted, I didn't have the strength to keep that pain all in. Knowing that this wasn't something that would be resolved in a day, I knew I had to share what was going on. It was healing and an act of self-care to share my story. Sharing helped protect my energy because I didn't have to pretend everything was okay, or lie about why I wasn't showing up for hangouts with friends.
Whether you only want to share with just a few supportive people, or with a wider circle, that's totally up to you. There's no ideal number, no timeframe.
I do recommend sharing with people who are supportive and who have the energy to be there. People's lives don't stop. So it's important to remember that someone who loves you very much and is very caring and supportive may be going through something of their own and have very little to give. And that's why it's important to share until you find a few people who really care for you and have the bandwidth to show up for you during this hard season.
When you're sharing with your friends, family, a support group, etc. you're sharing for yourself. It's part of your healing process.
Sometimes you may try to keep your stories inside, as if putting them in a box. But that box will end up taking all of your energy just to hold it closed. It will continue to live inside you, constantly ready to break out and cause more damage at any moment.
When you share your story, you bring more air to it. Bringing in other people can be scary and really hard, but I promise you, it is worth it.
Hopefully, the first handful of people you share with will support you. But unfortunately, that's not always the case for everyone.
For example, if your story is one of abuse committed by someone who is well-respected or someone in your family, then people may think you're lying or exaggerating. This is primarily because film has portrayed perpetrators to be sketchy-looking strangers when in reality it is typically someone you know who is well-respected. But without that knowledge, far too often survivors aren't believed or supported because the perpetrator doesn't fit the profile that film has put in people's minds.
So that's why I encourage you to keep sharing until you find people that hold your story the way that you deserve to have it held. I promise you that they exist, whether it's friends or family or people in a support group. The great thing about support groups is that they can be very safe places. The people there "get it" because they have walked in similar shoes as you.
Who is Worth Confiding In?
When you're choosing who to share with, consider their track record in your life. Have they always had your best interests at heart? Are they typically reliable and trustworthy? Do they believe you? It doesn't matter who they are in relation to you, if you don't feel safe sharing with them, you don't have to.
One thing I had to learn was that some of my friends had a lot of misconceptions about sexual trauma, just as I used to have before I was a survivor. Before my trauma, if someone I knew had been assaulted, I'm fearful of the way I would have responded. I would have probably asked what they were wearing, where were they—all these things that do not matter, and can be very harmful to a survivor.
I mention this because it's important to know that there may be some education along the way depending on others' awareness of the situation you're going through. I'll be honest, that part can take work, but it is worth it. There were many conversations I had with people where I had to educate them, but it helped me to keep in mind that I would have most likely been that same person. I would have needed to be educated so I wouldn't be unintentionally causing harm to someone sharing something so vulnerable with me.
I hope that through all of this, you're seeing that you're healing your heart. Being cared for and understood is important, and you're worth it. It's hard when we have to be the one to put it out there, explain and ask for that, but I promise that finding some people who respect you, support you, trust you, and believe in you will make such a difference in your healing.
Sharing for the Benefit of Others
The second thing I want to talk about is sharing your story for the benefit of others.
I shared my story publicly because I was going to be speaking at a seminar about sexual trauma. I figured a lot of people would be wondering why I'm speaking about sexual trauma, so I posted a video on Facebook where I shared my story.
About 1000 people watched that video. Of those 1000 people, 75 of them privately messaged me to share that they had experienced some type of sexual trauma in their life. Many said they had never told anyone else before. And I get it, it's hard to share. But I've also seen what happens to people who had never told anyone.
People who had never shared with anyone in their personal life were constructing their lives in such a way that they could manage the pain, but they also weren't showing all of who they were to the people in their life.
It's not easy to be vulnerable, but it leads to good things when received by supportive people. It leads to you being seen, it leads to you being supported.
Sharing publicly is primarily for the benefit of others and it is something that you may or may not want to do - and that's okay. I did it because at the time I was counseling survivors of sexual trauma.
Sharing your story can help others know they are not alone.
There's this part of us that wants to hide and put on this perfect facade - but that's not real. That's not who we are. We respond to authenticity. We respond to vulnerability because we see ourselves in what other people share.
If you find yourself in a situation where you want to share publicly, I always suggest being very clear as to why you're sharing. Remember that you can control how you put your story out there, but you can't control how it is perceived by other people.
Although you also can't control how your friends perceive it when sharing more privately, but usually in those conversations there's the opportunity for discussion to make sure everything is understood.
That isn't a luxury you have when you share publicly. People will make their assumptions, and so it's very important that when you are sharing publicly, you're already in a good place with your story that it doesn't matter how someone else receives it.
Most likely you're going to get very supportive responses. But you might get a few responses based on misconceptions like mentioned earlier in this message. People might wonder why you're telling your story, or say that you should have kept it quiet. And that can be hard to hear.
I care about you and I want you to take care of yourself. Sharing your story publicly is a personal decision. It's also a beautiful thing. I've seen how freeing and healing it can be for other people who can resonate with your experience. However, you're the most important thing in this situation. You do not want to retraumatize yourself. Be very clear on your "why" for sharing and take care of yourself if you decide to share publicly.
I must mention that one of the most beautiful things is hearing from other people who have experienced something similar, when they say that your words helped them to feel seen. Just by sharing your story, you're letting them know that they may be safe to share their own - which is so powerful.
Sharing is Healing
I've said it before: the damage doesn't have to have the last word. The harm, the evil, etc. doesn't have to be the end of it. There is still good that can result.
I don't subscribe to the belief that everything happens for a good reason. But I do believe that no matter what horrible things happen in this world, there is always good that can come out of it. You can always turn that evil on its head and say that it does not get the last word. It does not get to completely destroy you.
I hope that you share your story. I hope more than anything that you share it with people around you who are trustworthy, a support group, or a counselor. Don't hold it in. I know it is so tempting to just hide it away, but it will be still destroying you. Letting it out is an important step toward letting it go.
Know that I am here cheering you on. Know that there are hundreds, thousands of people in this world that can relate to certain aspects of your story, and they are also supporting you and wanting the same thing for you: more freedom and more healing in that area of your life.
If you decide one day to also share your story publicly, please take care of yourself, and know that you only have to share the things you're comfortable with. I thought I needed to give details of what happened (thankfully I decided not to) but later I realized that thought stemmed from thinking I would be doubted.
That doubt was coming from all the misconceptions. Which is why it's important to sharing personally before sharing privately. So that when you are sharing publicly, you're sharing in a way that is maybe a little less raw.
But in the end, if you are for the first time sharing online with people, and you've never shared with anyone in your personal life, that's okay, too. I'm sharing these thoughts with you because I've seen that sharing privately first, and then sharing more publicly, can have a lot of benefits.
Self-Care When Sharing
I want to emphasize the importance of practicing self-care when sharing your story. Whether you're sharing with just a few friends or sharing publicly, you have a self-care plan in place. Having a plan in place is especially important if someone receives your story poorly. But even when received well, sharing can take a lot out of you. So have a plan.
It may be watching your favorite movie or cooking your favorite meal. Maybe it's a nice relaxing bath. Whatever it is, it's important to have a plan ready so that after you share you can have everything ready to focus on your own well-being.
I hope that this series about the lessons I've learned from trauma has been helpful for you. Please share it with others as well. No matter what people are going through, I think there's something helpful here. As always, I'm so thankful you're here. Take care of yourself. Know that you are worth it. Know that your heart is worth being cared for, healed, mended, and supported.