I believe that telling and writing your stories is a powerful way to really understand who you are and to connect with your authentic self.
But I was not always a storyteller—and I didn’t always follow my own path.
Self-exploration and writing helped me find my way.
I was a first generation kid in a family of hard-working immigrant parents. They believed in education and effort. And they held fear of not being financially safe, of not being accepted, of not fulfilling the American dream as they saw it – a respected career with public approval.
I was creative and intuitive and the traditional path didn’t suit me. I wanted to be a chef or an art historian or a theatrical make-up artist. But I loved and respected my parents, and so I applied and got into law school.
I worked hard and found success as an attorney and then in finance. My parents were proud. But I never felt I was being my authentic self.
When I started my family, I left the corporate world and started to embrace who I really am. But it took time to figure out what was really meaningful to me so that I could truly be myself.
Whether you’ve been following somebody else’s expectations or have found yourself pulled by responsibilities onto a path you’re not sure you belong on, tapping into your values and digging into your own story can help unlock your authentic self.
During the crazy busy years as a stay at home-mom with a husband who traveled five days a week, I got involved in things that mattered: I raised funds for heart-centered non-profits and worked with immigrants and senior citizens. I created a community engagement program matching kids with volunteer opportunities that reflected each child’s values and personality. Knowing that that my grandparents arrived to the United States as refugees of war and persecution, I found ways to help others in similar situations.
I even pursued some of my former dreams. I volunteered at the modern art museum in San Francisco, enrolled in cooking classes, and ran the theatrical make-up team for my kids’ theater program for seven years!
Through all this I was connecting with my values, becoming more authentically me — and I was still seeking my purpose.
What really matters to you? What lights you up? How can you connect with that? It could be work or volunteering, creating a program or exploring a new hobby. And it may change. Things that were once my dream were no longer my purpose, and that was okay.
Then I found the power of exploring through stories.
I happened on a writing class that sounded interesting. In the class, each student wrote a story on a theme provided by the instructor. The first theme was “Branching Points”, otherwise known as forks in the road.
Think about all the choices you’ve made in your life. What caused you to make each choice? Was it difficult or easy? Were you confident in your decision? How do you feel about it now? What other branching points did a previous choice bring you to? It’s fascinating to think and write about.
At the next class, we each read our two page story out loud to the other five participants. I listened with awe as I heard the ordinary stories of ordinary people, people like me but with their own story. In that moment I learned that we are each unique, yet we share so much. I wasn’t the only person who followed somebody else’s dream. I wasn’t the only one who was seeking more meaning.
But the biggest “ah ha” moment for me was what happened inside of me when I wrote my own story. The story was one of anger — or so I thought.
My parents took a sabbatical, pulled me out of my beloved progressive elementary school and plopped me into the second year of a strict, all girls high school. Imagine dropping in to the second year of 14 subjects including Latin and chemistry. Of course I didn’t do very well grade wise and in that moment the words “I’m not smart enough” entered into my head and stayed.
But as I wrote about that time, I realized that many of the things I care about and love to do happened as a result of that turning point in my life, that time at Camden School for Girls.
I had felt pain and anger about an experience that happened decades ago and was carrying that around. But in writing, I realized I would never have become an athlete or musician or a lover of books if I had not had that experience. And many of my best memories and experiences since then involve being on sports teams, playing music in groups, and reading.
I even went to an all women’s college because I loved the sisterhood of that girls school. I wouldn’t be me without that experience. I started to embrace the experience and celebrate it as a positive turning point.
I was hooked, I started writing more about events in my life, both free writing and also using themes like family, work, spirituality. I discovered much about myself, including that I loved to write and that I wanted to share the power of story with you.
Your story is powerful — and the process of uncovering it is too!
Grab a piece of paper. Think about one turning point in your life. Write it down. Set a timer for 15 minutes (longer if you want) and just keep writing about that one experience. Really put yourself back there, notice and write what you were wearing and listening too, what people said and how they said it. Keep writing about how you reacted at the time, what has happened since, how you think about it now. You may remember details you had forgotten. You may reconnect with a feeling you had lost. You may gain a whole new perspective.
Writing is a tool to rediscovering yourself. Just start by remembering or wondering and putting words on the page.
Ready to start connecting with your true self?
Download my free guide, 3 Steps to Having a Meaningful Life You Love to start designing your best life with these goals in mind —a life with more energy, engagement, and clarity.