Telling Our Stories

Post by Jessica Amos for the Love for Love series.

For most of my life I have felt like the odd girl out – alone, weird, and different. Belonging has felt contrived and elusive. Even during times of inclusion I’ve felt disconnected and misunderstood, but I wasn’t quite sure why. I’ve often heard myself say strange things because the experiences that form inside me come out sounding different and one-dimensional when I put them into words. I’ve had to learn to look to the words of others to help me communicate – and more importantly, discover the millions of unspoken things inside me. Some of my greatest moments of awareness and awakening have arrived on the heels of another person’s truth. I don’t always recognize my truth until someone else says it first. Only then can I properly identify what I’ve been feeling all along.

My grandmother recently told me that her generation was taught to keep silent. They didn’t talk about their feelings or the real truth behind things, even when the truth was obvious. And I don’t think it’s just my grandmother’s generation who has experienced this silence of truth. It’s universal and it’s been going on for a very long time. We live during an age when image is everything. We fear being exposed for who we really are: Human.

Being human is the first and most obvious thing we all have in common, and often times it’s the hardest thing to admit. No wonder so many of us feel alone and disconnected. Silence and pretense have separated us from ourselves and each other, and if we don’t find our way back we will slowly become lost and not know who we are.

There is only one way I know to break the silence and create connection, and that is to tell our stories. As Sue Monk Kidd so wisely said,

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.

Without stories – without knowing the truth about another person – we will never know the truth about ourselves. How can I know – truly know – that I am not strange and alone and different if I’ve never heard the tale of someone else’s experience? If I think my rejection or difficulty with words or childhood abandonment are unique only to me I am instantly separated from you. But if you tell me a story about your own rejection and about the time your words didn’t come out right and about your own abandonment, I am immediately connected. My shame no longer has a place to hide and I can allow my heart to be seen.

Stories are our greatest resource for fostering empathy and connection. They are our lifeblood – the very thing that gives us meaning and a sense of purpose in the world. Stories help fill in the missing pieces in our lives. They are the pathway to healing, self-acceptance, peace, love, joy, and abundance. There is no such thing as “perfect” – we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve been given – but our story doesn’t end there. If you tell me a story about your good father, I can take that story in and your father becomes my father as well. If you are hurting or made a mistake or feel scared, I can hold your hand and tell you with certainty that I’ve been there too. You are not alone. And you can believe me because, like you, I am also human, and there is nothing you’ve experienced that your human counterparts haven’t experienced as well. We are all in this together and it’s time we started acting like it.

If you can let yourself be seen, in all your imperfect glory, the world will be better for it. I will be better for it. I long to hear your story. I need to know I am not the odd girl out. I also need to know there are new experiences waiting to be discovered. I need to hear about the places you’ve been before I can know them as a possibility for myself. Just as the words of others have helped me discover the words within myself, so your story offers me a new perspective – the perspective that I’m enough, just as I am. Your story gives me permission to be myself without fear of judgment or failure, and my story does the same for you.

We need to be beacons for one another, calling out through the darkness to say, “Hello! I am here. Follow my light and I will follow yours and together we will find each other.” And when you feel nervous or scared to speak your truth, remember the words of Erin Morgenstern when she said,

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.

And if you are new to this sharing-your-story-thing, start slowly. Start with someone who you can trust with your truth, and when you are feeling more confident with your voice and your particular tale, expand your circle and share it with a world of people who need to know they are not alone.

{If you are interested in sharing a part of your story and hearing the stories of others, you are wholeheartedly welcome to participate at We can’t wait to meet you!}

Jessica Amos is the creator and facilitator of the online story co-op, Stay with Yourself – a place for real people to tell true stories about their lives and experiences as a vehicle for fostering empathy, healing, and connection. Jessica was a deeply introspective and empathetic child who often felt alone in her aloneness. Like many of us she’s had to figure life out by keeping her eyes wide open – always looking for clues on how to live. She lost herself for many years between childhood and middle-adulthood, but it was through the call of her own soul, a good therapist, an honest friend, and stacks of books by others – who were able to put words to what she never could – that she started to find herself again. One of the wisest, most profound pieces of advice Jessica was ever given was that she must learn to stay with herself, so she started the story co-op so others could learn to do the same. You can visit her website to read the stories and learn more about sharing a story of your own.

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