In previous blog posts, I’ve discussed the various pressures on WOC to forge on despite their past trauma. Focusing on healing or sitting with emotions is a luxury for many of us. Even when we have the time, the guilt, financial obligation, shame, or host of other excuses create barriers to healing. In order to begin the process, we have to face our story. Our untold story may be stuck in a vault in our minds or hearts, scribbled in an old journal, balled up in a kleenex in the bottom of our purse, left in the halls of our church, or forced to replay in our dreams/nightmares. We may tell our story to anyone who will listen becoming dismayed when we aren't treated with respect and understanding. We may think we are dealing with our history, but failing to share our story in a safe space shortchanges our healing. It’s time to think about who deserves our story.
The unfortunate truth for many WOC is that we carry multiple traumas in our narrative. Some of us have experienced abuse as children & adults, grown into women with body image issues, felt the sting of death and loss, lived with the pain of an incarcerated family member, experienced unhealthy/abusive relationships, dealt with mental illness, and the list goes on. Many women choose to protect their story which makes total sense. In this current social and political climate, individuals who share their stories of sexual assault, mental illness, and other traumas risk judgment, threats, unemployment, shame, and disbelief to name a few. Although the choice to preserve our stories may be safer & easier, it is not without consequence. If untold, our stories have the power to overcome our lives and the lives of the ones we love in destructive ways. (Check out these two posts on stress for WOC and the health risks for AA women). On the other hand, there has been an influx in the trend of sharing for the sake of sharing. We have to be careful where we seek validation because everyone doesn't respect our experience.
In Brene Brown's quote, she uses the phrase, "earned the right". Our stories are precious and everyone is not worthy. Let’s be real, everyone doesn’t know how to be there for us and hear our stories without judgment. This is the primary reason that we choose to handle our lives and deal with our stories our way. Our expectations of certain individuals in our lives cause us to feel disappointed when we open up and they cannot support our experience. It's important to remember that our trauma is strengthened by our expectations of the world. When we decide to focus on the good in people and seek out these traits, we open up new sources of support. People who earn our story may look different from what we are used to. Here are some tips to help identify these individuals:
Our Story, Our Rules Tips:
WE SHOULD ALWAYS TRUST OUR INSTINCTS! If we doubt someone’s authentic interest in supporting us, we do not need to share our truth with them.
There is no timeline on when we choose to share our story. What matters most is having a safe space to bring our experience. This may take months, years, decades. Take all the time you need.
We do not have to understand how we feel to want/ask for help navigating our story. Support groups may be helpful in these instances.
We do not have to explain ourselves or our experience to anyone for any reason. This applies to individuals we have already shared our story with.
Our family members or intimate partners may not be the best place to bring our story expecting support. Their close proximity to us does not equate to the ability to empathize.
We can outgrow people we’ve known for years. We don’t have to share our story with an old friend because they're an old friend. They also don’t need to understand because they’ve been in our lives for a long time. We have the right to reevaluate how we engage in these relationships.
Choosing a healer (therapist, social worker, reiki healer, religious leader) is an individual choice that requires research and desire for change. These relationships also take work to become/remain healthy. Take time sharing layers and trauma. Never be afraid to seek a second opinion if you don’t feel supported or understood.
What we don’t repair, repeats. For so many of us, our stories are unfinished, painful, recurring memories that we don’t share out of fear. Fear of being judged, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being dismissed, fear of being unheard. Although we can control many areas of our lives, we cannot change what happened to us. However, we can face our story, believe that we are worthy of supportive friendships and relationships, and share our truth with people who want us to win. We are deserving of the support and space to share that we give to everyone else. Our story matters and it’s important to have genuine supports with integrity who honor where we have been, who we are now, and where we are going without guilt or shame. Have a great weekend!