How to Embrace Your Story
The following is an excerpt from my new book All the Things I Wish I Knew, available for
pre-order, release date October 4, 2022
Embrace Your Story
How to value your biggest asset
Your story is your greatest asset. It’s the one thing that is uniquely, you. It’s something no one can take from you, or replicate. It is your competitive advantage.
When I first started blogging in 2009, I did so anonymously. My blog Thoughts.Stories.Life., was the one place I could entirely be myself, unfiltered and real. It was the only “person” I had to talk to about all the shit going on in my life. It was how I sorted my thoughts and tried to make sense of past. It’s where I was honest about how hard things were, and how much I was struggling to put my life back together. And it’s where I started sharing my dreams and my plans for the future. All of that was terrifyingly personal, and I never intended for anyone to discover, it was me.
And then one day, on my first business trip to New York City, an article I’d written and submitted (I thought anonymously) to a huge website, was published with my name. It was my whole story, my divorce, the fact that I was really a broke single mom struggling to make ends meet, that I had all these dreams and how some of them were beginning to manifest, all of it. The article went viral almost immediately. I remember sitting in my hotel room with the Google alert, panicking. I felt exposed and terrified of the repercussions. I just knew I’d lose my job.
But I was there to work, so I pulled myself together and went downstairs to meet a favorite client for lunch. For whatever reason (the Universe knew what it was doing), I opened up to Bill. I told him the whole story, sharing my fear that the public knowing my story, would end me.
He looked at me and said, “Sarah, that is your story? I had no idea. That is an incredible story!”
“Thanks, but what do I do about it?” I trusted his advice, he is a big time lawyer after all, I knew he’d give it to me straight.
“You own it!” He said. “You own your story, Sarah. You don’t run from it, you embrace it. It’s incredible what you’ve been through and how you’re trying to put your life back together and it makes me respect your hustle and character even more. That is your asset, own it.”
I’ve gotten a lot of incredible advice in my life, there’s been several times when I’ve sat across from someone and in the moment, knew I was receiving life changing advice. But this was by far the #1 piece of wisdom anyone has ever given me. It changed my life. I would not be here today without it.
That advice helped me get comfortable with my story and changed how I viewed it. It was no longer something I was trying to run from or hide, it wasn’t this giant embarrassing secret, it was my past and I was intentionally creating a new future in spite of it. I learned how to be proud of that, and not ashamed.
It takes a while to see your own story in this light, but when you do, things can shift in the best possible way. We all have a story, maybe yours is dramatic like mine, maybe not, it doesn’t matter, either way you have a past that has taught you something. What is it? How have you grown or evolved from it?
In my life coach training program, I teach new coaches how to identify and share their story, and here are some of those tips.
What are some of the big highlights of you past?
Is there adversity you’ve overcome? If so, what?
Have you achieved something unique, great, special? How did you do this?
What are things you’ve learned from past experience?
Did something happen to you in the past that you’ve learned how to move on from? How did you accomplish this?
What is your “before” and “after”? Looking at your story from this angle may really help you put it together. Or what is your “before,” and what is your dream-case “after?” That can help you identify your desired outcomes.
What part of your story could others relate to or learn from? How can you share your story in a way that others see a reflection of themselves?
Answering these questions will help create a framework for your story. Then write it as a two-page descriptive essay, this will help you include the details and make it more captivating. Start with the “before” how things used to be, how you used to feel, and then describe how things are now (or how you want them to be). Re-read and re-write this story many times. Leave it for a week or two and re-write it again. Once you’ve gotten this two-pager tight, meaning it’s condensed and powerful, and says everything you’d like to convey, then write a paragraph version of it. Do the same thing. Condense it down, make it strong.
Read it aloud. Send it to a friend who will provide meaningful feedback and adjust if needed.
And then at some point, you must set it free. Put it out into the world and trust that everything will be okay. It will feel uncomfortable, exposing, raw, formidable and maybe even embarrassing, but those feelings soon fade. Once you own your story it’s only hard to share the first few times you do it in each format. The first time it’s out there in print (like a blog or social media post), the first time you speak it out loud (to someone, on a podcast or in front of an audience), and the first time you see or hear someone else share your story (like a bio or intro synopsis, an interview or article), those are the hardest. But believe me it gets easier each time. Now I can talk about my story with no emotional attachment whatsoever, I’ve shared it at nauseam, so it just rolls off my lips, that was certainly not the case in the beginning though, so give it time.
Whatever your story is, whatever you’ve overcome, chances are millions of people have been through the same thing and will take comfort, relate, or learn something from your bravery in sharing your truth.
PRO TIP: You can also do this for specific parts of your journey. For example, with my coaches, they start out writing their story as it relates to “before” they learned the HBRMethod™ (the tools I teach) and “after.” This helps to identify and convey where they were before, how they felt, what they struggled with, what they wanted to change, and then how their lives have changed after.
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