Sometimes I find myself scrolling thru my social media, taking obscene amounts of time comparing my world to those of others. Soon I will find myself discontent, agitated and upset. I want to pretend their life is perfect. I say things about a stranger or acquaintance I know very little about like, “they must never have anything go wrong” or “their story has to be more interesting than mine”. Sounds silly, but I know you do it too. When my day to day routine seems mundane and not as “exciting” as the people I follow on social media I can easily miss opportunities such as connecting with my co-workers, taking a call from a friend or practicing self-care. If I don’t take advantage of these small, but meaningful opportunities I can feel lonely and exhausted. That is when I start to scroll thru the famous “influencers” on social media and compare their stories to mine. It is this vicious cycle I am calling us to reflect on. So I have to stop scrolling and ask myself, “what if I am creating a powerful story?”
Growing up, the people I loved struggled with their mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness. Unfortunately, not all adults diagnosed with mental illness will be treated. It is reported that 60% of adults with a mental illness did not receive treatment last year (NAMI, 2017). Unfortunately, my family member did not receive treatment for her mental illness for many years. Without proper support, treatment and care it can be chaotic, confusing and isolating for the person experiencing the illness and for their family. These are many of the feelings I felt as a child. As a young adult, there were two barriers in which I had to overcome in sharing my story: the stigma attached to this topic and my own negative narrative. The narrative that ran through my brain told me “your story is not powerful or important enough to share.” But as it turns out, my story empowered other daughters, wives, sisters, and young girls. When I share how my family and I overcame these challenges my story creates a space for other women to step into. It means I am an influencer.
What story are you waiting to share and invite other women to step into with you?
You have influence. You do not need 5,000 followers to impact lives. So the next time you are scrolling thru social media and comparing your story to another woman, ask yourself, “how can my story empower other men and women in my life?” What if instead of hiding our stories, we were to encourage other women through them? It may be that you are hiding your struggles with depression, your physical health, challenges in your marriage, or dealing with grief. Whatever it is, remember that our influence goes far beyond how many “followers” we have.
When sharing your story, here are few practical tips to remember:
- If you have one or one hundred people in your audience, always ask yourself if you are comfortable having other people pass along your story
- Seek people you can trust to share your story with in order to feel more comfortable
- If possible, have a support system around when speaking about your story
- Create safe boundaries for yourself. That may mean only sharing what you can, you are not obligated to communicate every detail with your audience. If you haven’t safely processed traumatic events in your life with a counselor or therapist it may be important to do so first
- If you are not comfortable telling your story on blogs/at speaking events then find other creative ways. For example, in a video, poetry, spoken word, art, or other medians. This was an important tool for me as I processed my story.