Life is full of stories. They’re an integral part of who we are, made up of pages of our lives; chapters that start and end, capturing whole episodes of our time here. Our heritage and culture has been shaped by them; storytelling has survived generations of progress with stories from hundreds of years ago still influencing our lives today.
Our lives are our story and we all have a story to tell. Things that have happened to us in the past, go on to shape our future and so our stories continue. Some parts of our story aren’t within our control – others parts most definitely are.
Some stories stay with us longer than others. Their influence has longevity because the content has touched us deeply with a narrative that’s provided insight in to the difficult lives of others – people who’ve faced traumatic and challenging experiences of the kind that perhaps we haven’t. Listening to other people’s stories helps us to build our compassionate self but only if we listen with ‘open’ ears, without judgement or being critical of the human struggle of others. Because, the poignancy of our own stories, is they contain chapters we have yet to discover. Our story may, in the future, need a compassionate, listening ear.
Stories told today, become the reason things happen differently tomorrow. We can all learn from the moral of a story, or the message it contains. But, the greatest change happens when we do something with that message, when we share that story to help to build something for somebody else: hope, empowerment, self-esteem, progress, courage and, a desire for things to be different; a glimpse of a brighter future.
Being The Story, held at Conway Hall in London, is an event that helps to achieve just that. Created and led by Jude Habib, founder of the award-winning Sound Delivery, Being The Story has, for the last three years, given a voice and a platform to the stories of individuals that need to be heard – stories whose words challenge stereo-typical thinking, inspire and provoke action for change.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to take part in Being The Story. My initial response was panic, accompanied by Mrs Self-Doubt, who tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “You’ll never be able to do that!”. What she didn’t know, was that I had the much louder, stronger and caring voice of Jude in my other ear saying, “Yes you can!”.
I can count on one hand the events I’ve been part of during my lifetime that have had a lasting impact on me in the way that Being The Story has. I learned so much from this year’s speakers – people who’ve faced many challenging and traumatic aspects of life including poverty, migration, social injustice, prison, gang culture, addiction, domestic worker abuse and transphobia. They were people who have grappled with their experiences head on and with help and support, have developed resilience, resolve and, importantly, a desire to challenge misconceptions by sharing their empowering stories to help others and influence positive change. To bare your soul, in front of a couple of hundred people, in the hope that what you have to say inspires others to change and challenge stereotypical thinking, takes courage, bravery and a channelling of nerves that enables you to walk on the stage and speak – without drying up!
Hope, mental health and facing adversity were interwoven throughout all of their stories and it was those topics that united us all. Although we each hadn’t experienced what the other had been through, what many of us shared in common, was the effect our individual experiences had upon our mental health. It was uplifting and freeing to be able to talk openly about my anxiety and depression and the resulting effect my personal story had played on my emotional wellbeing. Hope and its song made us equals.
The atmosphere in Conway Hall on Friday 19th October, was one filled with empathy, compassion and a shared belief amongst the audience that powerful story telling inspires, motivates and provide others with a vision for change. It was an honour to be a part of the Being The Story family.
Thank you Jude for including me in your line up of speakers; I left London that day feeling part of something very special.
You can listen to my Being The Story by clicking on the link below:
PS. It’s 14 minutes, 40 seconds. Grab a cuppa and if, after listening to it, you think of anybody in your network of family and friends who might need a message of hope, please do share and pass my story on.