Healing Entails Sharing Your Story And Being Who Your Younger Self Needed

Healing Entails Sharing Your Story And Being Who Your Younger Self Needed

Sharing our story can help heal ourselves and others through connection and empowerment.
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Recently, I’ve found myself wondering a lot why I share so much. I talk about deep personal problems to people I’m close to just as much as people I hardly know. I don’t fully regret doing it, and I know I have reasons why, but sometimes, I feel uncomfortable afterward. Part of me does regret it, I guess.

In her book “Daring Greatly,” Brene Brown writes about how oversharing can sometimes be problematic or arise from issues that can be fixed in better ways. It can be part of a "vulnerability armory" in which we try to protect ourselves from vulnerability. An example I identify with is floodlighting, which can look like using vulnerability to test others, to fast-forward a relationship, or to try to discharge comfort. It’s a way to fight vulnerability by becoming overly vulnerable.

However, I don’t think I’m totally in the wrong here. Sharing my story is one way in which I became the person my younger self-needed.

Let’s rewind a little bit.

Younger Ashley quoted Spongebob often, even during fourth grade Sunday School. She played with bathtub crayons and washable markers for hours. She wore Justice t-shirts and went to dance classes.

Younger-But-Older Ashley hung out with friends a lot and participated in her school’s hype student section during football games. She did service work and peer mentorship and was involved with her youth group. She took a lot of baths still, just without the crayons and markers (most times).

So yes, I seemed pretty “normal” and successful on the outside -- and that’s not completely wrong -- however, I dealt with mental health issues and various problematic experiences and people. I was privileged in many ways but faced my own share of struggles as well.

Having been in college for two years now, I’ve learned a lot about my younger self and why I am the way I am now, for better and for worse. I’ve learned how I function, how my brain sees things, and what I need from others and from myself. It’s a lot of insight, but also a lot of work. Add in new problems that arose in college, and well, you could say I’m never bored.

I won’t overshare my personal story right now, because that's not necessarily the point. Through my journey, I've learned some of the main things I need are validation and empathy. I need to feel comfortable in having and sharing emotions. I need to be heard and understood. I need to feel like I’m turning my struggles into other people’s successes. I need to feel like I have control and worth.

So, I talk a lot. I share my story. I yearn for close relationships and connections that will erase my shame through vulnerability. I share my story with people whom I hope will feel less alone because I know what they’re going through in my own way. I go to therapy and work hard and validate myself when others don’t know how to do so. I fight for my needs and mental health and boundaries. I listen to what my current self needs.

While writing a sermon for College Student Sunday in which I shared a personal trauma, God reminded me of Genesis 50:20. Two important variations of the verse exist; the first one says “Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.” The second says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Through these verses, I am reminded that we are really all one big family, one big group of people trying to navigate life together, doing the best we can for ourselves and each other. I’m reminded of how much I value advocacy, vulnerability, empathy, shedding light, and how we’re more alike than unlike, as Maya Angelou said. I remember that I can help other people by sharing my story and by being bold and unashamed.

Sue Monk Kidd, the author of "The Secret Life of Bees," says “The truth is, in order to heal we need to tell our stories and have them witnessed… the story itself becomes a vessel that holds us up, that sustains, that allows us to order our jumbled experiences into meaning.” Ultimately, we must share, process, connect and heal. We will not be ashamed. We are human beings of light and power who all experience ups and downs and successes and embarrassing moments.

My younger self-needed that, and I’m giving it to her as best I can right now. I learned we must practice talking to ourselves like we would to the younger version of ourselves, small children who want love and peace and understanding.

Ashley, I tell you this. You are so strong. You are going through some problems that are incredibly valid, no matter what you or the media tells you, no matter the lack of stories you hear that match your own. Your feelings matter and are welcome here. Eat that ice cream. Don’t count the calories. Appreciate what your body can do for you when it’s being nurtured. Love it at all sizes. Learn how to change what you can and accept what you cannot. When no one validates you, validate yourself. Know that beyond a shadow of a doubt, things will get better. College, despite what you will face in it, will be so much better. You and your body deserve respect. You are worth more than what you have gone through and the ways some people have treated you. You are not alone in what you face, and you have people who love you well as you are and no matter what burdens you carry. You are accepted.

I come home to my younger self, my current self, and my future self every day. I talk to her with compassion. Oh, how she is worth it. How far she has come.

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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When You Make A Girl An Aunt, You Change Her World In All The Best Ways

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the happiest girl in the world.

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My brother and his wife recently blessed our family with the sweetest bundle of joy on planet earth. OK, I may be a little bias but I believe it to be completely true. I have never been baby crazy, but this sweet-cheeked angel is the only exception. I am at an age where I do not want children yet, but being able to love on my nephew like he is my own is so satisfying.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her a very protective person.

From making sure the car seat is strapped in properly before every trip, to watching baby boy breathe while he sleeps, you'll never meet someone, besides mommy and daddy of course, who is more concerned with the safety of that little person than me.

When you make a girl an aunt, you give her a miniature best friend.

There is something about an aunt that is so fun. An aunt is a person you go to when you think you're in trouble or when you want something mom and dad said you couldn't have. An aunt is someone who takes you to get ice cream and play in the park to cool down after having a temper tantrum. I can't wait to be the one he runs to.

When you make a girl an aunt, she gets to skip on the difficulty of disciplining.

Being an aunt means you get to be fun. Not to say I wouldn't correct my nephew if he were behaving poorly, but for the most part, I get to giggle and play and leave the hard stuff for my brother.

When you make a girl an aunt, you give her the best listening ears.

As of right now I only listen to the sweet coos and hungry cries but I am fully prepared to listen to all the problems in his life in the future.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the best advice giver.

By the time my nephew needs advice, hopefully, I will have all of my life lessons perfected into relatable stories.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her a number-one fan

Anything you do in life sweet boy, I will be cheering you on. I already know you are going to do great things.

When you make a girl an aunt, she learns what true love is.

The love I have for my nephew is so pure. Its the love that is just there. I don't have to choose to show love every day, I don't have to forgive, I don't have to worry if it is reciprocated, it is just there.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the happiest person in the world.

I cannot wait to watch my precious nephew grow into the amazing person that I know he is going to be.

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Why You Should Bring Your Close Friend As Your Formal Date

Before asking that cute girl to formal think about asking a friend

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Every year since I was a junior in high school I have always looked forward to homecoming or prom. When I got to college I began to look forward to my fraternity formal. I was never concerned with what to wear or the expense of formal but rather who I was going to ask. It can be difficult to make a decision. If you ask anyone friends with me they will tell you how I am one of the most indecisive people out there. There are so many people I am friendly with or have a close relationship that it can feel difficult to make a decision. But let's look at that phrase again. You might think why does he want to bring someone who is his friend to his fraternity formal rather than someone he likes or is dating. To answer this question, some of the girls I have liked I have not been able to be the true me around and that also applies to the girls I have dated as well. I am different around my friends and I want someone to know the real me rather than me just having to pretend.

Maybe I am still experiencing the effects of a fun weekend but I have noticed that every formal or prom that I have brought a date with not only was a fun formal but interacted and connected well with my friends. That is the main thing I look for in a formal date, they need to be liked by my friends and many of them are still pretty friendly after the formal. You are spending the weekend with them and the drive down for you formal. There will be a lot of time spent with your date so it is important to bring someone you know you will have fun with. I am not saying that there isn't anything wrong with bringing someone else but I always found it best to bring a friend if you are not dating someone.

Think about the people you know you will always have fun with. This can be an indication of who you should bring and why but you should also think about the positives in this situation. Your fun and the time spent with the people should be prioritized before anything else. This event is about you and you should have someone with you that you know is fun to be around and someone you can enjoy yourself around along with your friends. Friends know you as well as you know yourself so there is not an idea of having to pretend to be someone else. The good thing about friends is that you do not run out of things to talk about and there is always something new to learn. Take your formal as a trip that you get to experience with the people closest to you. That is my take.

The key for me is to know that I will have fun with my date at formal. The drive to formal can be long and you are sharing a hotel room with your date along with spending time with them during the trip. I talk a lot. I want someone I know who I can carry a conversation with and will not just respond with words such as Yeah or Sounds good. I have always been able to remember not only my formals but specific parts of it as well. I think this is possible because of who I have brought and the memories I made with them.

Formals are important to everyone so think about who you want to spend that moment with. There is nothing wrong with bringing someone who you like but there also is nothing wrong with bringing a friend. Some people might bring someone they are dating but you should not have to compare yourself to other people. Do what makes you happy but remember this weekend is about you and you deserve to bring someone you will have fun with.

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