Validating Each Other’s Stories



As a child I struggled with my voice. I suffered from tonsillitis numerous times and when my heart ached I felt it in my throat—a tightness that made it challenging to breathe.

But it was more than the physical; I struggled to speak my truth. Even to speak at all. I felt as invisible as the farmland breeze that brushed my cheeks as I played in the long grasses surrounding my home.

People spoke for me. They told me who I was and who I wasn’t. By the time I was a teenager I believed I wasn’t very much. And laying in the tall grass became hiding in the tall grass. Hiding from who and what I thought I was.

Church and God were a mystery to me and the particular community I was a part of offered no guidance in faith or life. No youth ministry. No connection. I went to confession weekly, sometimes struggling to know what my sins might be. I yearned for something more, but I didn’t find it in that place.

I loved to sing, so I used my voice to express myself through music. But it wasn’t long before my teachers told me I wasn’t “good enough” and I faded into the background chorus.

When finally I turned to writing I was too afraid of judgment to show my words to anyone, so I kept them all for me. I wrote about the daily grind of my life—home—school—home—but I didn’t know how to write about what I felt. I didn’t know how I felt, or who I was.

Nowadays that girl is still very real to me. She comes and goes according to my moods and the challenges I am presented with in life. For a long time I wanted to silence her, to shut her away and bolt the door. But she always managed to find her way out. I think she always will. That’s why I’m learning to love her.

It wasn’t until I began writing in a different way—writing expressively from the heart—that I realized the girl hiding in the long grass needed a voice. 

Because she will always be part of me.

My story is not uncommon. It doesn’t speak of major suffering, or abuse. But it speaks of silence, a lack of role models, and many years of believing lies about myself. 

I think my story represents many people who aren’t rising to be fully themselves. People who remain silent and feel unseen. They are the people who fall through the cracks because their story isn’t hard enough. As a society we idolize success and we cradle those who suffer, but the people in between often remain unseen.

In the last few years I have given the child in me a voice. I have realized the value in sharing my truth and the healing that comes in doing so. 

And now I’m helping others find their voice.

I want to speak for those people—to help them discover who they really are and see that their voice matters. Their story matters. This has become my mantra—my calling.

I think the path we choose in life so often stems from our pain and is revealed through our passion. We reach out to touch the same wounds we have experienced ourselves. I am blessed to have found a way to integrate my passion—writing—with the pain of having felt silenced and invisible for much of my life.

As a mentor I help people write their truth and give voice to the broken parts of their story. Writing is a tool on the journey towards healing. It allows people to shine a light into the dark places and hopefully see them from a different perspective.

Writing is a gift. The person yielding the pen has the ability to transcend their past and rewrite their future. And it is an equal gift for me to be able to stand alongside them and help them on their journey.

Take Melanie, for example. When Melanie asked for my guidance in writing her story, her primary concern was this: is it exciting enough or even interesting to read? She feared judgment but felt the need to write her story for both herself and her family. And perhaps even for others. In guiding her through the major stepping-stones of her life and helping her find a different perspective through specific writing techniques, she was able to find a more redemptive perspective on her suffering. 

Melanie’s story and voice were right there, just below the surface—she simply needed someone to help draw it out of her. Someone to listen, encourage, ask the right questions and guide her.

It took courage and a large amount of vulnerability for Melanie to step out and share the broken pieces of her heart with a stranger. But she felt that having someone validate her story and help her write it out was essential to her ability to move forward with her life. She had reached a place of feeling stuck and in writing her story she was able to reconnect with lost parts of herself. 

When we are mentored, we often find ourselves in that place of saying “I don’t know.” There is risk in reaching out and allowing ourselves to grow in ways that will ultimately mold us into more of our authentic selves, and bring us closer to God. 

In my early years the presence of a mentor in my life would have made a huge difference—someone who really saw me and could call out the gifts in me. But who was I to ask for that? I stood back in fear thinking everyone else had it all figured out.

But there’s never a point at which we arrive. Mentoring is something we always need, in different ways through different seasons. The blessing comes in recognizing we always have that need, and allowing ourselves to receive.

Nowadays I have many people who speak into my life, whether it’s in regard to my faith, my relationships, or even my business. Some of those people I have sought out and asked for help; others are friends, and some are people God has placed in my life as guides, so I may live out my calling.

The gift is there for the taking. But we must step out in faith and ask.


Image credit: Rory MacLeod