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Jul 24, 2017

What’s in a story?

Life is full of surprises. You think you know someone because they are family but often times, one finds surprising details about one’s parents, siblings, even grandparents. I was talking to my mother the other day and she shared an incident from her life with me that I did not know before. And I said to her, “You should write your life story ma”, and do you know what she said? “No one wants to hear my story”. I was instantly taken back to a moment a few years ago, when I was sharing something about my life with a friend and she said the exact thing to me, “You should write your life story.” And do you know what I said? Exactly what my mother said to me and I am pretty sure I added, “it’s not important enough”.

What makes a story important though? Have you ever thought about it? Does it have to be inspirational, detail adventures, provide insight into thoughts and actions or feelings? Evoke emotions?

Let’s take this Dr. Suess’s quote:


I don’t think there is anyone as wise as Dr. Suess. Mulling over this quote I found that he is right! My story needs to be true to only one person - me. My story is my experience and therefore the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are true to me, the experience is true to me. If I express that experience honestly it would be quite a story. Isn’t that how it is with the clients we work with. Their story is true to them and their experience may not be anyone else’s experience. Our jobs as counselors often time is to validate and affirm their story and their experience because we know that it is what is important in the end and we know that they may not have that validation in their lives from anyone else. Now are there parts of our story that are not pretty? Yes of course! Not just because life is full of incidents that we sometimes have no control over and in life we don’t get to be Monday morning quarterback. We make decisions in life based on the information we have in the moment and when we make a decision, we have to be ready to accept the results. But that does not mean that it makes the story any less important or valuable for others.

I recently read more than a few blogs on the NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) website from people belonging to all walks of life – some celebrities, some survivors, some courageous individuals who decided that it was important not only for them to share their story but also for others to read them. This sharing of your own truth, often heard of as an expression speak your truth holds immense power and courage for the story sharer and story reader. When we share stories not only do we validate our own truth but also help individuals who feel silenced to be able to identify with our stories. We provide an avenue for courage, hope, and inspiration – all through just one story. So let’s keep sharing! And yes, not only am I going to share mine but some day convince my mother to share hers too…..maybe….. 
Jyotsana Sharma is a Doctoral Candidate, Counselor, Educator, and human being in the making.  Visit her website at: or find her on twitter @jyots21s

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