Everyone has stories, and those stories weave the threads of our lives together into a complex web full of emotion, victory, heartbreak, struggle, love, and loss.
You may have some smaller stories, about struggling at the gym to gain muscle, how you moved out for the first time, your first job, and where you first lived. But you have some deeper stories too. You may have been abused, injured, fell in love, survived a disease, or had to deal with chronic pain.
It surprises me that some people think that they are boring, or that they haven’t done anything. Every person, including YOU, is incredibly interesting! Of course I’m a bit biased in writing that because I find learning about people’s life stories amazing, and I assume that people are full of stories to tell.
You just need to become better at expressing yourself, and become aware of what you’ve done so far in your life.
You have stories, you just think you don’t, or you’re diminishing how important they are. Each person’s life brings multiple amazing stories together, and it’s by sharing these stories that humans form connections together.
Why Should I Care About Stories?
No ability to recollect or describe your stories means no connections with others, no relationships other than those out of need or your own family. Sorry, but it’s the truth. People become attracted to each other based on the mutual sharing of stories, whether that be in terms of becoming friends or love interests. That’s why we find ourselves wanting to hear more about Paralympic athletes who have overcome struggles to compete, or someone trying to start their own business. Different stories are important to different people based on their own stories and past, but the fact still remains: stories breed connection and relationships.
I will tell you how to start discovering your own stories that you think aren’t there. Then, you will learn about how sharing smaller stories at first can lead to delving into deeper ones, leading to powerful connections between people. After all, connection is what all humans desire the most.
How Do I Begin To Remember My Own Stories?
To start connecting your threads, tie them back to your emotions and senses. This will spark your memories and get things flowing.
Begin with an event you can recall easily. Maybe it’s earlier memories of school, first boyfriend or girlfriend, first job… Start with something easy. As you keep repeating this process more facets of your life will open up through jogging your memory, and you will remember more.
Now focusing on a specific event, ask yourself the following questions. If you have to (and I recommend that you should), write out the answers and explain why. The more detail you can put into it, the better:
Were emotions, or senses, or both important in the context of this specific event? Which of each?
- Emotions – Did you feel happy because of the event? Sad? Hurt? Angry? Frustrated? Anxious? For any of these… why?
- Senses, touch – Was there something that felt hot or cold? Soft or rough?
- Senses, sound – Was it loud? Quiet? What noises were there? What was creating those noises?
- Senses, vision – What was in the location? What was the centre of attention? Was it a person, and if so, what were they wearing (or not wearing ;))? What colours were there? Was there bright or dark light?
- Senses, taste – Was there anything to taste? Was it sweet or bitter? Hot or cold on your tongue?
- Senses, smell – What kind of smells were in the air? Were they good or nauseating? Pungent? What did they remind you of?
- People – Who was there? Why? How did they make you feel? Did you touch them? Taste them? Smell them? How important are/were they to you?
Connect all of these together to start having a more vivid memory of each story you focus on.
Do you still think that you don’t have any stories? Really? OK, let me help you.
Think about your first kiss… Who was it with? Where was it? What happened? How nervous were you? Did it go OK? Who initiated? How old were you? Too much tongue? How soft were their lips? Think about closing your eyes and the butterflies in your stomach, the anticipation, the final release of tension as your lips touched and your synapses fired.
Even I’m starting to get a bit heated here.
Mine was in a forest with my first girlfriend, along a path through the trees between two neighbourhoods. It was during the summer, it wasn’t too hot. There was a bit of a breeze in the air, and the sky was clear blue. I took her off the paved path onto a dirt one into the woods, held her hands, and talked about some unrelated stuff even though we both knew what was going to happen. It was really quiet in the forest other than our voices.
I looked at her and said “I really want to kiss you”. She replied “me too”.
I believe this continued for about an hour and a half. OK… well it FELT like that, maybe it was only 5 minutes… It eventually happened though… THANKFULLY!
You see it’s not that you don’t have stories… It’s cultivating an awareness of them. You need to use your senses and emotions to make them burn brighter in your memory. Then, it’s getting all the parts of the story together.
But when you have it for yourself, what happens next?
Sharing Your Stories
Remembering those stories is only one part of strengthening the threads of life. While some stories might be very painful to remember, they were integral in making you the person that you are. They are a part of your history and the sooner you accept them, the sooner you can learn from them, move on, and grow. You do not have to be defined in the present by your stories, but they are still a part of you. Not all stories are as light hearted as the first kiss. But you can develop the awareness of those stories inside and alone, or with the help of a trusted individual (friend or therapist).
More complex though, is the notion of actually sharing the stories with new people. That’s tough. See there’s all this protocol of how much to share and when. We don’t want to just outpour everything to latch on to someone because of an emotional need. You probably shouldn’t tell me about how you were left with a child after a divorce with an abusive husband an hour after we meet. Give the connection some time.
But your first kiss, love, roller coaster ride? That makes me want to connect with you more, and makes me feel like you are an endearing person.
Connection is what sparks our brains, makes our hearts burn, and sends vibrations through us. Notice how you may start off shy when talking to someone, but when they mention something that you connect with, even as seemingly silly as loving Batman, you go insane? You have found someone who understands something about you. At first, it could be something more at the surface level like the love of a specific genre of literature, skiing, or the gym. Then one step deeper to your first kiss, how nervous you both felt… The first time having sex, how awkward it might have been… And then finally, moving to deeper issues with specific events, like bullying and alcoholic parents. More specifically, on to common themes of abandonment, self-worth and self-esteem, life direction, and all the other things that make us human as we struggle to create our lives.
Because that’s all we want. People who understand and won’t take advantage of us. Who won’t throw us away. Who won’t make us feel bad. People who accept us as we are, and empathize saying, “Yeah, I know what you mean, I’ve been there to”.
How Fast Is Too Fast For Connecting?
So, you slowly move from more surface level to deeper connection topics, over time, as a relationship grows. Unfortunately it will take time to figure out when to bring what up, and what is too much, too fast. There WILL BE some rejection, weird looks, and figuring things out.
Notice when people try to invest too fast or push their stories on to you, a weird feeling arises within you? You think “Why is this person doing this? Why are they sharing this intimate detail? This doesn’t make sense to me…”. Their timeline of when they think they should invest deeper emotionally or connect more is off from yours, or you haven’t reached the level of comfort you both need. Or, unfortunately, that person has a dying thirst for someone to validate their emotions.
And there’s no real one magic answer to know… It’s just feeling it, and taking the step to do it first. Being brave.
Fear of rejection will make you not want to share such stories, even as you live them, such as being a virgin while dating someone who seems to be more experienced than you. But taking these steps builds the powerful emotional connections that make the human race amazing.
Stories happen all the time, and you are continuously creating new ones. What about your journey to become a better person? What about when you were the best man at your friend’s wedding? What about your first public speech?
Think. It’s all there. I know it is. You’ve done so much and yet you think you’ve done nothing and need to do more.
What about your first heart break?
Your first time having sex? How was it? Were you scared? Excited? Just wanted to get it over with after all those hormones had been caged inside?
Perhaps you were more interesting than you thought.
If you find you are struggling for stories when people ask about you and what you’ve done, it’s time to take stock of your life. Even as a young person you’ve been through the good, bad, beautiful, ugly, and have touched so many people in the process… it’s just gathering everything together, and being able to share it.
The Steps To Cultivating Connection
- Figure out your own stories. What has happened to you? From the small to the big, the good to the bad. Use your emotions and senses to make things brighter and clearer in your mind.
- Write things out. Talk about them with close friends or a therapist (for deeper issues if necessary) to begin to start sharing things safely.
- Begin being comfortable sharing smaller details of yourself with newer people. This is a learning process and you may over share too much. Some people will leave, some people will comment on this, some people may be OK with it.
- Keep figuring things out. Keep experimenting. Don’t get down on yourself if you get turned away, you just need to re-calibrate the speed at which you are sharing certain details.
- Share deeper stories, build deeper connections.
The deeper the stories shared, the deeper the connections. However, it’s up to the people involved to decide how deep to go, and at what speed.
So tell me a story. YOUR story.
It won’t ever stop… even when you’re dead. You have a legacy that will last forever as people carry it on.
Nobody cares about your degree. Nobody cares about your car. Nobody cares about your house.
But the STRUGGLE to pay for University and pulling an all nighter for an exam? How you’ve always dreamed about owning a certain car because your Dad had one? How you’ve wanted to buy a house to keep all your friends together? Those stories, people care about. The stories that tell us about your personality, nature, and spirit. That’s what makes someone attractive. That’s what builds connection. That’s what people value.
So you may think the stories aren’t there, or aren’t necessary, or that you don’t care about yours or others’ stories…
But stories make us human, and lead to an amazing life. So go share your life with other people, and make them a part of yours. Create stories together. The ones who are meant to stay will appreciate your stories, the ones who aren’t meant for you will leave.
Experiences make us happy, not things… Because things die, crumble, and deteriorate.
Memories and stories live on.
Image Credit: Cover picture used courtesy of Sara Lando under the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.