I posed this question on my Instagram
stories: “What would you like next week’s blog post to be about?”
She wrote one word: resilience.
Not really sure what she meant specifically, or what to write about, I went to bed. I’ll wake up early tomorrow and figure it out, I thought. I do my best writing early in the morning.
At around 2 am, I woke up and for the next two hours, sleep evaded me. I mostly blame the Claritin D I took to deal with my crazy fall allergies yesterday. Regardless, I tossed and turned for a few minutes, and then that word came back to my mind: resilience.
Immediately, the Brene Brown book Rising Strong
sprang to my mind. The whole book is basically about resiliency, and I’m such a Brene fan that I must admit, I didn’t think there was anything else I could add on the subject that she hasn’t already said, and much more eloquently than I could, at that.
I read this quote from Rising Strong: “The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending – to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”
In the minutes that followed, I began feverishly typing notes into my phone. For what they’re worth to you, I’ll share them here:
Why do people love reading stories about those who overcome incredible odds to live an extraordinary life? We are fascinated by tales of people owning their story, especially when it involves triumph over tragedy.
Many people don’t realize that all of us are in the midst of our very own story, one that began the day we were born, and if you’re reading this, one whose ending has yet to be written. And what separates resilient people from those who are not is the ability to both own your story and acknowledge your control over the ending.
That is not to say you can control other people, or prevent bad things from happening to you; merely that you do not have a passive role in your story – unless, of course, that is what you choose. But you do have a choice. We all do.
Being resilient is about owning your truth – all of your truth. The parts of your story that you shout from the rooftops, and the parts of your story that you hide from the world, or even from your own conscious mind, because there is simply too much too feel – too much pain, guilt, and shame.
The truth is that choosing not to own our stories of shame and struggle – the ones that are usually kept out of sight, out of mind, for everyone’s comfort – denying these stories is the very thing that keeps us trapped by them.
You’ve heard the expression, “the truth shall set you free.” As true as that is, there is something especially powerful that happens when you set the truth free. When you are willing to set your difficult, even traumatic truth free, it loses all its power over you. No longer are you showing up in your story as the hero who has all their stuff together (who wants to read a story like that anyway?), you are showing up instead as a human being, messy, vulnerable, and uncertain…but courageous, compassionate, and fully alive.
Owning your story will look a little different for everyone, but it will always involve vulnerability. It may look like wearing what you like, regardless of “how it makes you look.” It may be sharing your most recent mom fail with a close friend. Or it may be entering a therapist’s office for the first time to own a story of trauma, heartache, or devastating loss.
One of the reasons we keep our stories hidden is that we are afraid of what people will think about us.
People are also afraid to own their stories because they are afraid they are their stories. They are afraid that if they struggle with anxiety or depression, it means there is something innately deficient about them. They are afraid they are less than if their parents couldn’t make their marriage work, if they had an abortion, an abuser, or an affair. If shame is a part of your story, you almost certainly think: what does this mean about me?
It does mean something. It means we live in a broken, messed up world, where broken, messed up things happen far too often to far too many people. But that truth is universal, that is the setting for all of our stories. And the truth is, none of us are main characters showing up with superpowers that can keep the pain, guilt, and shame away. But we always have the choice to show up to our story, to our lives, with openness, honesty, courage, and love. In my opinion, those are the superpowers that make for the best endings.
I’m not telling you to overshare with strangers or post about your imperfections or trauma on Facebook. I’m just saying own your story, whatever that looks like for you. By owning your story, the story loses its ability to own you. And nothing creates resilience more than that.