I often tell people that I have the best job in the world because stories have the ability to inspire and change people’s lives. That’s the power of storytelling.
But there can be a dark side to storytelling, too. Those stories we tell ourselves that keep us from being who we really want to be or doing what we truly want to do.
Case in point.
I was five days out from doing my new talk for the first time, and I was having a moment of doubt—my stomach knotting up a bit. Would what I have to say resonate with people? Would my ideas and stories be compelling enough?
Suddenly, I dashed off an email to a total of twenty friends, neighbors, and colleagues—just people I thought of off the top of my head in that moment:
“I need your input. I’m tweaking a talk I’m doing called “The Most Important Story You Will Ever Tell Is The Story You Tell Yourself.”
Would you be able to share some of your own worries, wishes, wants, regrets, or hopes that you have regarding this issue? Oh, and I need it ASAP.”
By the end of the day, sixteen of them had replied. By the next day, two more. In all, 18 out of the 20 got back to me. Their responses and stories blew me away. Not only was I in awe of the wisdom they had to share, but also I knew without a doubt that this was a hot topic, especially for women!
Here’s some of the things they shared:
My biggest regrets center around not being bolder sooner.
I spent years worrying way too much about what others thought of me.
I once thought I was fat at 112 pounds instead of 110. Hooboy, I wasted a lot of years being hard on myself about my weight.
How can I embrace the aging process and the physical limitations that go along with it?
We need to cherish the present. Tell yourself to LIVE NOW.
Intuition is so important, but I doubted my own and gave away my power—slowly over time.
I still hate that girls in my generation were denied the same opportunities as boys. I have tried to let this inequality go, but my self-esteem was surely dinged by this.
Have I done enough? As a woman, I’m confused about what I’m supposed to be. As much as I’m glad that I stayed home with my children, I can’t help but feel that I’ve missed out on working all those years.
Why did I wait so long to like myself? I feel like I’ve wasted 30 years looking at my faults instead of my fabulousness.
I started going grey in my 30’s. For me, fighting my grey hair was like my enemy. I finally let my grey hair grow out, and I am at peace with that. I hope it makes me look wise. I feel like I’m wiser in one way: I have genuinely left behind this idea that I have to fight every sign of aging as if it were the enemy.
“Hooboy,” as my friend, Roberta, would say. And these were just the tip of the iceberg. I was so moved by their responses and their willingness to share. And I was totally excited to add their insights into what I would talk about.
So off I went to do my talks….
And it was amazing. First, I did staff trainings for three different organizations. Then at various meetings, luncheons, and book talks. And here’s what I heard:
“This resonated me with me on so many different levels. My mind is a whir thinking about everything.” Another person told me, “I can incorporate so many ideas from today into my work—like ‘do two things everyday that scare you.” Someone else said, “I realized today that I am not alone.” And yet another person said, “I feel empowered knowing that we do not always have control over what happens to us, but we do have a choice in how we respond!”
People stayed long after the events, engaged in talking with one another. And they all wanted the list of books that I had mentioned throughout my talk. (See below.)
And then there were the stories people shared with me right afterwards and in follow-up emails. I was honored to hear them.
This turned out to be one of the most exhilarating and satisfying talks I have ever given. I love how I can tailor it to fit the needs of any organization! And, best of all, I get to share what I’m passionate about, and, of course, I talk about lots of books!
In the end, I had to laugh at myself for fretting about it in the first place. I still have to remind myself to to not let what others think get in the way of being who I want to be and of doing what I want to do because…the most important story we will ever tell, is the story we tell ourselves.
Know of an organization or group who might be interested in this topic? I’d love to hear from them!
List of Books from The Most Important Story:
Find a Way by Diana Nyad
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath
Help Me by Marianne Power
A Life In Parts by Bryan Cranston
Presence by Amy Cuddy
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
The Fiddler in the Subway by Gene Weingarten
If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now by Christopher Ingraham
Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Marla Schachtel says
As always, Jenny, your email messages incorporate so many life lessons delivered in an encouraging style. Thank you for sharing many of your personal stories, as well. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and all the best in the New Year.