We are all Quietly Wonderful

So often, when I tell people I teach how to shape and share personal or ‘true-life’ stories, they’ll say, ‘I don’t have any stories to tell.’ Or ‘No one would want to listen to my stories.’

A woman said exactly this at one of my workshops. I gently asked her how she filled her days. What did she do with her time? She told me she fostered children. Not just one or two. Over the years, she had fostered more than sixty children. 

Instantly the whole class wanted to know more. She was an extraordinary woman who simply couldn’t see it. These are the people I like to help. Once they start exploring their personal stories in the company of others, they find their own quiet magnificence.

I always tell my workshop participants that stories do not need to be wildly exciting to be interesting. You don’t need to have been caught up in a bank raid in Bolivia. One of the best stories I ever heard at one of my events was a young woman talking about her first date with a particular man. She described driving back to the city with him, and said she had wanted all the traffic lights to turn red so the journey would last longer.

It was a gorgeous story. So simple but deeply human. Everyone who heard it identified with it. She was talking about driving back to Birmingham, not Barcelona. It wasn’t glamorous, it was everyday. But she told it from the heart and everyone felt it resonate. She made people care, and that is what personal storytelling is all about.

Personal, true-life, autobiographical… the terms are interchangeable. Personal doesn’t mean uncomfortably personal. You don’t have to reveal secrets. You are always in control of the material. Personal simply means that it is a story about you. You are at the centre of it.

Personal storytelling is about taking true stories from your life and sharing them with others, to entertain, inspire and embolden. It is about exploring what it means to be human. It is about connecting with people. Building empathy.

It is not therapy, but it is about self-reflection, and that can be therapeutic. It is about seeing the patterns in your life and learning from them. It is about learning to value yourself and your achievements.

And when I say ‘achievements’ that can be something as ‘simple’ as getting up and facing another day when your world is falling apart. 

Many of the best personal stories are not about famous or ‘successful’ people – they are a celebration of the strength and spirit behind an ‘ordinary’ life. We are all quietly wonderful.

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