Over the course of my six years working at a hospice, I've helped countless patients and families tell their stories.
I have laughed and cried with them as they expressed their greatest life lessons, joys, sorrows and what they anticipated to be their legacies.
Now, as a homecare social worker, I continue to help people tell their stories.
Clients tell me what circumstances have led them to where they are in this very moment.
They share their triumphs and their failures, along with how they hope their stories will end.
I work with them to make changes in their behaviors and ways of thinking to shape their future narratives, and I help keep them in places of health and independence.
For years, I have placed so much value in listening to other people's stories that I have neglected to make meaning of my own story and personal narrative.
If you asked me what my story was a few years ago, I would have told you exactly what I thought you wanted to hear.
I am a social worker. I fight for social justice. I am a hard worker.
I am passionate about everything I do, and I am passionate about living the best life possible.
Now, let's be real.
I'm skilled at slapping on a smile and talking like everything in my world is perfect. I am an expert at the "I will do whatever you need" schtick, regardless of my own needs and routine.
Recently, some of my colleagues commented how they had no clue I struggled so much with self-confidence and body image issues until they read through my blog.
Of course they didn't know. I made it a point not to tell anyone.
Instead, I faked it.
They had no way of knowing how physically and emotionally exhausting it was to keep up with a persona that wasn't true to how I was feeling or the person I believed myself to be.
I was depressed and disheartened, but almost no one knew it.
I spent a couple of evenings each week crying before I went to sleep because I felt lost and without purpose. But, I was too afraid to let anyone in on that not-so-little secret.
I had become numb to the person I was. But, I figured if I could talk the talk to my clients and my colleagues, eventually, I would walk the walk.
One day at work, I told my closest friends I thought I might be a bit depressed.
They laughed and said I might be the least depressed person they had ever met.
Do you see how well I hid what was truly going on, even from the few people I considered my closest friends?
I laughed it off, missing the opportunity to be real and honest and to disclose what was really going on behind my smile.
I wanted people to believe everything was just so.
I wanted people to believe I was an expert.
I wanted people to believe I was the most compassionate, the most caring and the most available person around.
I was acting out a persona so people wouldn't judge who I really was and how I was really feeling.
I was afraid appearing vulnerable would make people think less of me.
I was afraid of not having the answer. I was covering up not knowing with busywork.
I was feeling disconnected from the people I cared about. I was feeling disconnected from my passion.
I was completely disconnected from myself.
So, what did I do about it?
1. I took some serious time to tell myself my story.
How did I get to where I am right now, both physically and mentally?
2. I questioned the irrational parts of my story.
Are all parts of this story true, or am I fabricating and inserting what I want to believe to justify how I am feeling?
For example, I chronically struggled with, "I have no friends."
Was that absolutely, 100 percent true? No.
Had some of my most valuable relationships changed and evolved into something new? Yes.
Did I miss the meaning of those relationships? Yes.
Had I created new, just as meaningful relationships with wonderful people in the meantime? Absolutely.
Could I learn to accept all relationships change over time and focus my energy on the people in my life who are invested in our relationships, rather than beat myself up for "not being good enough" for the others?
3. I validated and harnessed the truths I discovered about myself through retelling my story.
I wrote down these truths, and they became my mantra in times of self-doubt.
4. I examined my passions and the motivations behind them.
What drove my desire to enter my chosen field? What else was I passionate about?
How could I put my passions into action?
5. I took action to repair disconnects.
Or, if the energy to repair them outweighed the benefit, I let them go.
6. Whenever the opportunity arose, I spoke my truth.
When I was asked how I was feeling, I was honest.
When I was asked if I could take on something new, I was honest.
I pledged to be true to all facets of myself and stopped putting on a charade.
7. I let go of who I assumed people thought I should be.
I let go of the fear of not being good enough. I let go of the notion I should be ashamed of struggling.
I began believing that even on my worst day, I was enough.
8. I allowed myself to accept who I am and how I feel in each moment.
I challenge you to begin to tell yourself your story.
How has your story defined you and the way you interact with the world?
How can you begin to transform your story and your life narrative to reflect your true self?