Everyone has a story…a history…a series of failures and mistakes that have shaped them into the person they are today. I, for one, believe we shouldn’t be ashamed of our story. Our story is what helped us become the person we are. That story is what taught us great life lessons that we might not have learned otherwise. That story is what will help us make better and wiser decisions in our future. That story is who we are…
Growing up when I heard others share their life stories, it was their mishaps and failures and even mistakes that ended up having the most profound impact on me.
I remember in Elementary School having a speaker come in and share his story of how he had bullied another boy until that boy he bullied became so distraught that he took his own life. Now this boy that did the bullying was sharing how sorry he was for what he had done and how much he wished that he could take back the teasing and the bullying so that other boy would still be here today. Hearing this boys story made my stomach sick, but it also helped me understand at a young age that our words matter, even when they are said in a teasing or sarcastic way…they hurt. And we can’t take back the words once they leave our mouths. Hearing his story inspired me to want to be careful with my own words in life.
I remember in Jr High School a woman who had been a drug addict came and spoke to us about her struggles with drug addiction. She shared how it took over her entire life to the point that she had given up all of her agency to the drugs. She even shared how she tried to cut off her own hand while high on acid because she thought her limbs could pop off and on again. She then shared how she changed her life and overcame her addiction. I can tell you that the impact of her story was so powerful that I’ve never once been tempted to try drugs in my life – not even a little bit. I think her story had a little to do with that.
I remember as a young adult hearing a business person share the story of their multiple failures before they found success. Hearing his story helped me to recognize that the times we fail aren’t really failures so long as we get back up and learn something from them that makes us better going forward. Hearing his story inspired me so much that it helped me to have courage each time I tried and failed to get back up until I achieved success.
All those peoples’ stories of overcoming hardships and standing up after falling down, along with many others, are what inspired me to want to be better in my own life. And how unfortunate would it be if those people hadn’t been willing to share their story? How different would my life have turned out if I hadn’t been inspired by hearing from them?
My life history is full of mistakes, failures, and lessons learned. And while I wish I’d been smart enough to never make any mistakes at all, I’m grateful I’ve at least been smart enough not to repeat my same mistakes twice which is the most important thing – that we learn from each of our mistakes and move forward wiser than we were before.
Never be ashamed of your history…it’s what you do with your present and future that matters most. And never discount the impact your story could have on someone else’s life. It might just be that your past mistakes and failures will be the very thing that inspires others to be better with their lives. Use your story for good.
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the newly released book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )