“Owning your story.” It is a phrase often repeated by life coaches, consultants, and therapists like myself. It is a fundamental ingredient of what it takes to live an authentic life. But what does it really mean? What is our “story?”
We each have a running list of things that we believe, understand, have had happen to us, and have had happen because of us. They encompass our greatest feats, our scar-ridden failures, our tenderest joys, and our wrenching heartaches. From the breath-taking to the mundane those moments create our story. We have this totality of things that are parts of the story, but what gives the story meaning depends on the narrative framework we put around it. Is our story a tragedy or triumph? We get messages that tell us which parts of our story we should feel ashamed or proud of, what we should deny or promote, and what we should accept as true or untrue about ourselves.
We must quiet those messages and sit with self-aware vulnerability in order to view and accept the wholeness of our narrative. Then we can truly own it. Owning our story prevents it from being a weapon against us to shame or threaten us. It cannot be used to put us on a pedestal or hold us to unreasonable standards. Owning our stories means admitting our failures with grace and forgiveness. It means allowing ourselves to feel pride for the talents and gifts we have to share. Taking ownership of our stories also means sitting with the discomfort of our trauma, fears, and losses long enough to heal from our brokenness. Once our story is fully ours, we can more easily be our authentic, vulnerable selves with others.
Owning your story does not require you to share or expose every facet of your life with every person you encounter. Was that an audible sigh of relief that I just heard from the other side of the computer screen? Whew! Right? Here is another way to put it: Owning your story does not mean you owe anyone your story. Part of owning your story is maintaining healthy emotional boundaries around your story. It is loving your story enough to share it with those who have earned the right to hear all the chapters because they are in your corner. You needn’t prove your worthiness by showing your scars to those who haven’t earned the right. Your scars (or your trophies, for that matter) are not the price of admission to belonging. Your belonging and worthiness are unconditional wherever you are in the journey of your story.