We all have stories.
Some we tell with pride, some with hurt in our voices and some others we bury deep in our subconscious, ashamed to share it out loud.
No matter the feeling it evokes, telling stories - real or imagined - is how we communicate with the world around us. It’s how we form meaning and make sense of our lives.
Which goes to say that stories have the power to affect and transform us. This is why I believe storytelling can be a powerful tool in helping people recover from burnout. Here’s why.
We remember stories better than facts
Stories are memorable and can engage your imagination. Facts are important but well, they are a little flat. Stories have texture, colours, smells and richness. When we tell stories, we not only want to be heard but also be remembered. I kid you not, think of the times when you embellished a story to make it go 'oooooh'. We all want to make an imprint with our stories.
When we tell stories about our burnout, we don’t just state how, when, where or what happened. More so than we know, we weave in our emotions, fears and desires.
We relate to stories
Stories connect information and emotions. When we hear something familiar, we relate to it because we’ve seen the pattern before. We think, 'OMG, that's what I'm going through.' We feel a connection because we know there’s a human face behind the story. Sometimes that human face looks a lot like us.
When we hear a burnout story similar to an experience we've had, we relate because we have been there. We know what they are going through. Even if not exactly, we understand.
Storytelling fosters empathy - the capacity to understand and relate to someone else’s feelings and experience from their reference point. It is not sympathy and is not always easy to do. But when we are fully present in listening to someone’s story even if we don’t fully understand all parts of it, we create the space to connect and empathise.
When we are telling our stories, empathy can bring comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone. Knowing that others have trudged the paths before us and came out on the other side better, can inspire us to carve out our own recovery story.
We release our fears when we share our stories
Telling our stories, especially the difficult ones can be scary. We fear what the reaction might be or if it will indeed change anything. And we may even think, 'why bother?'
But when we do share our personal stories, our fears, whatever they may be, slowly becomes smaller.
For a long time, I hesitated to share anything about my burnout. I fear the judgment, what people would say and think. Like what a wussy pants weakling aid worker I was. Slowly, I started sharing bits of my story. It wasn’t so bad. And I felt this enormous sense of relief. Because I didn't have to carry this heavy baggage of untold stories and mostly fear and shame.
We foster a supportive culture for others to overcome their own fears
Storytelling has the power to impact not just our lives but also those around us. When we share our stories, no matter how small, we encourage others to do the same. In doing so, our stories form a platform for us to stand on and show others what they can do. It’s not just safety in numbers; it’s courage in solidarity. There's comfort in togetherness.
Sharing our burnout stories not only inspire others to share theirs but also shed critical light to the issue - that burnout is not something to be ashamed of, ignored or spoken in hushed tones. And that when we come together, we can collectively change how we view it, address and disrupt it.
Our lives are constantly shifting, and our stories are not cast in stone. All our lives, we edit, compose and choose what stories we want to narrate to the world.
Telling our stories is only the beginning to recover. And it’s in that small beginning, we empower ourselves to start shaping what the next story could look like. For ourselves and those around us.
And the best part, you ask? You can discard the old burnout story, close that chapter and craft a new meaningful version. The version that you truly want to live in.
So what's the story you want to share today?