I am brave

Speak Your Truth & Be the Author of Your Own Stories

Sharing your story is the best way for you to influence, teach, and inspire others. Stories will help you bring people together to connect ideas, values, and purpose. They convey culture, history, and values.

Define Your Narrative

As a leader, service provider, helping professional or anyone who wants to set your own terms on your identity, it may be important that you write your own narrative. You define the terms about who you are, why you are here, what you believe, what you stand for, where you belong and where you choose to go in life.

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Be the Author of the Stories that Will Be Told About You

Personal stories are powerful because they bring our journeys to life. Sharing those stories help us heal, grow, and understand how we see the world. Stories are universal, they provide a pathway to common ground, empathy, and support.

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It is often said there are three sides to a story,  your side, the other side and the truth. The general consensus is the story that gets out first is the one that prevails as truth. Let me illustrate the point. Let me introduce you to a former client, we'll call her Joyce. Joyce is a well-known public official in a metropolitan area. When I think of her, I recall her speeches, her achievements, and her impact on the communities that she serves. I would probably detail some of her challenges, especially those she faced during her campaign. I was part of team of people who were responsible for positioning her to be seen as worthy to her constituent's vote. It was my responsibility to ensure her brand was aligned with my interpretation of her values, mission, and goals. That is my side of the story.

Others who have met Joyce may have a varied impression of her. Hearing from her directly would be more impactful than any images, or copy that I create for her. Joyce's energy, her voice, and body language, would have a greater impact on her followers. She could convey her messages far better than any brand manager, journalist, or public relations director could ever put forth. No one can tell Joyce's story better than her.

Many people admired Joyce because she was transparent about her thoughts, emotions, and experiences. She has shared openly childhood trauma that has shaped her views on homelessness for example. Those who heard her message could feel her passion for the well-being of children. It is because she experienced hunger as a child that she is determined to  put forth policies to help families who are currently experiencing food insecurities. Joyce fights for funding for school lunch programs to provide nutritious meals because she understands how at least 2 meals per day, for five days as week will positively impact a child's ability to thrive.

This is example of why it's important to tell your own story. Be brave and authentic. Share your story with friends, family, colleagues, followers, and constituents so they get to know who you are. Reduce misunderstandings and misconceptions by getting out front with your own truth. It is essential that you tell your story before others shape the narrative.

Emotional Intelligence

Body language experts, (and wannabes) attempt to decode little nuances in your behavior. Those nonverbal cues often speak the loudest. Body language includes physical behavior expressions, and mannerisms to communicate without words. Most body language is done instinctively and subconsciously. They are speaking to others, often without your consent. It is essentially, whether you're aware of it or not, when you interact with others,  you are continuously giving and receiving wordless signals.

Joyce, wears her heart on her sleeves. From my perspective, she was comfortable with showing her most intimate emotions in an open and honest way.  Unfortunately, for many others, wearing your heart on your sleeves is not encouraged behavior - particularly for women. Joyce's authenticity implies that she can't control her feelings in public. It was clear that she could understand the emotions of her suffering constituents, but for some voters the greater question is whether she is capable of managing her own emotions. They equated her emotional intelligence with her ability to lead effectively.

Women in leadership

The Emotional Intelligence of Service Providers Doing Emotional Work

Emotional intelligence is the ability to navigate the foggy world of emotions while also harnessing your emotions for your highest good.

Helping, Helping Professionals

For those who work on the front-lines, it is critical to be in tune with your emotions. It is essential to not only your work but equally as important, to care for your well-being.

Embrace Change

Don't fear change. Actively pursue new opportunities to grow.

Strong Sense of Self-Awareness

Do the work to understand yourself in deeper and more meaningful ways. Be confident in your strengths while maintaining attention on your areas in need of attention. When you are in tune with your emotions,  you are able to identify situations that are triggering a negative response. Further, self-awareness helps you prepare to avoid unhelpful, unhealthy, reactions.

Show empathy for others

Imagine for a moment that you are a parent struggling to feed your family, would you connect with a leader who is cool, calm and collected? Or would you prefer Joyce, who is passionate, and speaks with vigor and a sense of urgency about solutions to solve the problem of food insecurities for families?

Assertively expressive

Understanding there is a difference between being assertive and aggressive, people with high emotional intelligence are comfortable advocating for themselves, and others. They may be passionate and forceful but they do so in a respectable way. It is not necessary for you to operate from the prison of insecurity. Good leaders are able to express their needs and desires without infringing on the rights of others.

Story Variations

Joyce has a sister, who share her memories of being food insecure growing up. She too speaks of her childhood going to school and to bed hungry. Both sisters grew up in the same home, under the same conditions. However, Joyce became a public servant to ensure other children do not have her experiences. She has dedicated her life to changing policies to fight capitalism and greed while advocating for public assistance for families. Her sister however, has climbed her way to the top of Corporate America. She subscribes to the notion of "picking yourself up by the bootstraps." She doesn't support welfare programs, fair wages, or social programs. She believes CEOs should earn 324 times the median worker's pay because they work harder than everyone else. When you ask both sisters how they share their worldview, both Joyce and her sister say, "Growing up poor, not knowing where my next meal was coming from, how else would I tell my story."

Standing in Your Truth

Sharing your story takes courage. It's not always as easy to do as it is for me to write this article encouraging you do so. I get it. I understand how your truth may be harmful to someone else's legacy. If you have been betrayed by someone you love, it may be difficult for you to tarnish their story. If your truth goes against someone in authority, it may be equally as challenging to go against the grain. However, this is where you must be brave.

Speaking your truth is how you practice self-love. It affirms that you have a voice, you deserve to be heard, you should be cared for, and that you are worthy. Sharing your story, particularly if you are a helping professional of any kind, is important to care for yourself. If you are like me, it may be more common for you to advocate for others and not so much for yourself. It's time to break the cycle.

As a former social worker, I have selectively shared stories about my experience with domestic violence with clients. I used my story to help women understand the depth of my empathy. I have also been transparent with my partners, children, and women about my history with rape. Speaking to women who have the shared experience of sexual assault has been liberating for me. It has contributed to my own understanding, accepting, and the reconciliation of the trauma of it all. Sharing my story helps women resonate with me. It is a central part of my human communication and emotional expression. Telling my story gives me the authority to write my own narrative, release myself from shame in order to be empowered and evolve.

Sharing your story has the potential to help someone else not feel so alone. Would you share a time sharing your story has evoked compassion, support and influence from a stranger.

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