Why you need to tell your story and why we need to hear it.
Before I continue - you should know that I am Asian. In Asian culture, you are absolutely not to talk about your accomplishments. Oh heck no. “You have to be modest!” (That’s my mom’s voice talking there.) And to talk about your life and misfortunes and mistakes you’ve made? Oh heck no. It’s absolutely shameful.
Yet here I am, Asian and all, going against how I was culturally raised, to tell you that you MUST tell your story.
I didn’t always feel this way. I began to take on this perspective only a couple of years ago. Let me tell you my story.
A couple of years ago my photo was part of the Shot on iPhone Apple Ad campaign. A photo that I took of my shoes (Yes, I know. My shoes. Had I known a billboard was in my future I would have taken more photos of pretty things like flowers.) was randomly selected by Apple and put on billboards all over the world. I was floored. I cried tears of joy, relief, hope. This particular moment held so much meaning for me because of what I had just gone through up until that point. I needed hope in my life, and this was a giant sign for that. (No pun intended.) You see, I grew up poor with a single mom, and we moved a lot, to different countries even. All my life I’d been searching for stability, security and my father. After finding stability in a marriage that sadly failed, security in finances that suddenly disappeared, and then finally finding my father that showed no interest in me, I realized I'd been searching for the wrong things. I stopped searching. I was lost.
Not having anything to look for, I laser focused my life around things that brought me joy - my two sons and photography. I would have to say photography saved me. Through photography, looking through a lens, I finally found myself.
And then shortly after that, Apple contacted me regarding their ad campaign. You can see how that campaign meant so much to me. I just wanted to tell everyone that it wasn’t just a photo on a billboard for me. After all that happened and then this? It was seriously, like, you can’t make this sh** up. I just wanted to share my story, not to brag, but to share the gratitude and hope and joy that the campaign brought me.
So I did. I wrote it on my blog.
My story was picked up by reporters and shared over and over. It was even told on Apple’s internal company communication.
But what was most unexpected, were the comments and emails I got. Strangers emailed me, many from women who said they were inspired to follow their passion. They said they were going through a similar thing of feeling lost and reading my story gave them hope that they would eventually find their way. They were encouraged that good things could happen to you. My story helped them believe.
I didn’t realize I could have that kind of impact. I realized that it wasn’t just my win. It was a win for anyone that was ever in a position like mine. And because of that, I share my story over and over. Not for me, but for anyone that might need that inspiration and hope.
So if you are shying away from telling your story because you think it’s self-centered, or because you were raised to believe you shouldn't, think of sharing your story as a service to others. Share your mistakes, share your glory, so that we can all learn from it or be inspired by it. In fact, it is selfish of you to keep it for yourself.