I was going to call this post “Lessons from Rumpelstiltskin,” but then I thought that might be a little too hard to explain. Partly because I’m not sure what age you have to be to pick up on that fairy tale reference, and partly because I know that my brain just tends to operate on different wavelengths than the rest of the world and the reference may not even make sense…
But now I feel compelled to share my reasoning, so here’s the condensed version of the story of Rumpelstiltskin, with assistance from Wikipedia:
1. Insecure miller brags to a king that his daughter can spin straw into gold.
2. King locks girl in tower and gives her straw and a spinning wheel, threatening to cut off her head if she hasn’t spun the straw into gold by morning.
3. Girl is in deep shit. Luckily, an elf comes along and spins the straw into gold for her in return for a piece of jewelry.
4. Elf does this two more times, ultimately getting the girl to promise him her first born child.
5. When the child is born, the girl (now the queen, go figure) freaks out and manages to get the elf to agree to give up his claim if she can guess his name.
6. Surprise! She guesses his name! Surprise! His name is Rumpelstiltskin.
So, the moral of this story, for my purposes here, anyway, is that when you say something out loud you take away it’s power over you. When something is not a secret anymore, you can defeat it.
In real life, I think this applies to a number of things. It applies to secrets about yourself that you’re afraid to share with others, fears you have but are afraid to voice out loud, things that have happened to you that you haven’t told anyone about… basically anything you feel compelled to keep inside out of shame or fear of judgment.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I become more comfortable speaking my OWN story out loud. While it’s scary as all hell, it’s been incredibly freeing. And believe it or not, empowering. Because when I share my experience with other people, I’m also communicating to myself that there’s no reason to hide. Because really, all keeping something inside does is reinforce your belief that you HAVE to keep it inside — that there’s something inherently wrong with you and you must, AT ALL COSTS, keep other people from learning the truth.
Well, people, I’m here to tell you that that is complete B.S. There is NOTHING wrong with you. Despite how put together they may seem on the outside, everyone has some kind of secret they’re afraid to share. I agree, sometimes this is hard to believe, but my therapist assures me it’s true. Personally, I know a few people who seem so perfect that I would love to go up to them and shake them until they divulge what their secret is, but I digress.
The point is that you are valuable just as you are, no matter what your story is. Even if some people ARE perfect and don’t have anything they feel the need to hide (it does seem that way, right? It’s not just me?), that doesn’t make the rest of us any less valuable. Perfection is not a prerequisite for value. Embrace yourself, whatever secrets you’re hiding and whatever stories you hold inside, and try to share your story with at least one trusted person this week. Stories that are not allowed to see the light of day turn into ulcers that will eat you from the inside out. Shine the light on your story. Not only do you need to tell it, but the world needs to hear it.
Links to related TED talks that have inspired me in this regard:
Susan Cain: The power of introverts (the last 5 minutes especially)
Brené Brown: Listening to Shame (her other talk kicks ass too)