Humans tell stories. It’s one of the things that makes us human.
In an article in Wired magazine, Frank Rose says, “We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others.”
And that’s not only true of stories we tell, stories we hear, or stories we watch. It’s true of the stories we live.
Understanding your own story is imperative if you want to make sense of your world and why you’re here. Your story matters. It matters to you, to the people around you, and to the One who created you.
Here are 5 reasons (there are more!) why you should invest the time to understand and share your life story.
1 – Understanding your story opens up the possibility of a new or different future.
Too many people have been sucked into the vortex of a busy daily life that they never invest the time to understand and interpret their own story. Because of that, their past tends to determine their future in ways they’re not aware of. Life feels out of control—relationships break down, work is more difficult than it needs to be, and unhealthy patterns seem unbreakable.
If we take the time to understand our story, to reflect on the influences and events that have shaped us, our past (instead of determining our future) begins to FUEL our future. We won’t be trapped in a story that simply happens, we can actually begin to shape what our future story might be.
Intentional, personal reflection is the only path to significant personal growth. You may grow some by accident … but if you want to live a life that truly matters, a life that is truly fulfilling, a life that God designed you for, personal reflection is required.
2 – Understanding your story provides real meaning for life as a whole instead of reading meaning into each singular event.
We’re addicted to meaning. In fact, we’re so addicted to meaning that we can even find it when it’s not really there.
In a study done in 1944, 34 people were shown a short film that showed 2 triangles, a circle, and a rectangle moving around on a screen. When asked to describe what happened in the film they watched, only one person described geometric shapes on a 2-dimensional surface. Every other person created a story to ascribe MEANING to the movements of the shapes.
Maybe the two triangles were having a disagreement. Or maybe the circle was trying to get “back home to the rectangle.” While the details were different, 33 out of 34 people told a story that gave meaning to the movement of the shapes … even though that meaning was only something they created in their own minds.
Without the full context of understanding your story, you will tend to ascribe meaning that may not be present. Or you may misinterpret circumstances or events and make unhealthy or destructive decisions.
When you invest the time to truly understand your story, you can see the meaning that is woven throughout—the meaning that God is drawing out of your life. This meaning provides an overarching context and a solid foundation for you as you navigate each day and make decisions about your future.
3 – Sharing your story shows us the power of community through vulnerability.
In 2010, researcher Brene Brown gave a landmark TED talk called, “The Power of Vulnerability.” It is the most-watched TED talk of all time.
The basic point Brown makes is that vulnerability—although perceived by many of us as weakness, actually requires strength and courage … and that it’s the only way for us to find real connection with each other.
Once you understand your story, you will have opportunities to share it … or parts of it. In those moments, you will have a choice. “Should I share and be vulnerable? Or should I keep my story to myself?”
There isn’t one clear answer. You need to be wise about who you entrust with your story. But you should find safe people who truly care for you who will listen to and validate your story. This is the way to deeper connections with others. And, at the same time, every time you share our story enhances your understanding of yourself and your story.
4 – Sharing your story creates the potential for shared experience and a greater understanding of the people in our lives.
In a study published in 2010, researchers found that the brain activity patterns of speakers and listeners mirror each other when stories are shared. Using an MRI, they showed that the brain patterns of speakers and listeners almost “match” when they are engaged in telling and hearing stories.
There is a measurable, biological connection that happens when we share and hear stories. We can feel some of what they felt, we can experience some of what they experienced. We can enter their story … and they can enter ours.
Think about your closest friends—the ones who “know you so well.” What is it they know about you? They know your story. The reason they can predict your potential responses or anticipate how you will react in any situation is that they understand your history and they’ve even, in some cases, they’ve even experienced some of your story with you.
5 – Sharing your story—and hearing others’ stories—shapes and strengthens the soul.
Sharing your story—and hearing others’ stories—is a sacred act. There is something holy about our stories, especially when we’ve invested the time to really understand and tell our stories well.
When you understand and share your story, you are naming who you are today and the path you took to get here. That process strengthens your soul and gives you the power to own your story so that it no longer controls who you will be in the future.
During the Younique process, we guide people through a series of teachings and tools designed to empower people to understand and share their story. After going through this part of the process, a Younique participant said, “For nearly 50 years I’ve been carrying a burden I didn’t even know I had. And now I’m free of it … because I named it.”
We’ve made this part of the Younique process available online through our course, Your Story Matters. Through a series of videos and downloadable tools, we will walk you through the necessary steps to identify and name different seasons in your life—especially looking for God’s hand in your story.
However you go about it, make the investment in yourself and your future to understand and share your story. It has the power to both reshape the way you see yourself today and, at the same time, refocus the direction of your life in the future.