Two months ago, I had a huge writer’s block as I was preparing the outline for my new book. To get me unstuck, my writing coach gave me an assignment in which I had to list out all the pet names I’ve ever been called, pick one, and write a short story about a memory associated with that name.
What started off as a fun writing exercise about a childhood nickname evolved into a dark and elaborate story about a few times when I was taken advantage of as a child, and the anger I harbored because of it. I was taken aback by my own story: I didn’t realize just how much this old memory was still affecting me until I put it down on paper. Not only was my resentment showing up in my personal life, but it was also influencing how I ran my business.
This made me wonder… what else was I hiding from myself?
An idea popped into my head.
Given that I’m a brand story coach and make a living out of helping entrepreneurs tell their story, I couldn’t sit with the suspicion that I was subconsciously hiding stories from myself that were affecting my mindset, emotions, and business.
I decided to tackle this by creating a challenge called 30 Days of Radical Rawness. For 30 days, I vowed to share the rawest, most vulnerable stories from my life that have inherently shaped who I am today on social media. I didn’t hold anything back: I wrote stories about molestation, death, heartbreaks, and life-changing memories that I hadn’t shared publicly before. I revealed the good and the bad, and for every story, I presented a lesson.
The purpose of sharing these stories was not self-victimization, but rather empowerment. I wanted to showcase how I’ve alchemized my pain into strength and used it as the bricks to lay down the foundation for a life that I’m excited to wake up to every single day.
I didn’t expect what happened next.
Almost immediately, I was inundated with hundreds of comments, private messages, and emails from clients, students, and followers responding to what I shared. These stories struck a chord with my audience.
Some had gone through similar experiences and thanked me for giving them courage and inspiration to face their own demons; even those who hadn’t could still relate to the emotions that I shared. Regardless of the actual content of each story, one simple realization rang true: our success is not only measured by our achievements, but also by the struggles we’ve gone through to get there.
My most popular story was about how an emotionally abusive relationship triggered long-term acne that scarred my face. I almost didn’t post it because I was so ashamed. But then, comments started flooding in of people thanking me for sharing because they, too, had gone through similar situations and now didn’t feel so alone. I even had a woman message me saying that the man from my story had hurt her in a similar way, and his best friend reached out apologizing for his friend’s actions. The experience was extremely cathartic: I released old pain and helped others do the same.
Seeing the responses from this challenge was worth the entire month of sitting in front of my laptop, sometimes with tears in my eyes, agonizing and wondering why I was sharing so much of myself for the sake of vulnerability.
On a personal front, I experienced a tremendous amount of healing. By opening up about stories I’d hardly spoken aloud before, I worked through unresolved feelings and gave myself much-needed closure. On a business front, bringing these stories into the light helped me identify how I was holding myself back from performing in my business. For example, I grew up with a deep-rooted fear of people taking advantage of me that no longer serves me in my work. I let go of limiting beliefs and formed a deeper connection of trust and loyalty with my audience in the process.
This 30 Days of Radical Rawness challenge was a much-needed cry for authenticity in an entrepreneurship industry that is increasingly focusing on promoting the millionaire laptop lifestyle, the amazingness of being an entrepreneur, and carelessly dropping buzzwords like “location-independent,” “freedom lifestyle,” and “make money online” like it’s everybody’s business.
What many of these entrepreneurs aren’t showing the public, however, is everything they’ve gone through to get to that point of success. The long hours working, the psychological and logistical struggles, the past traumas and issues that motivated them to carve out this path to begin with.
There’s not enough talk about how entrepreneurship tests one’s self-worth and identity (which is exactly what makes it extremely rewarding when it works out). We are not spending enough time revealing the hardships that lead us to choose entrepreneurship, the moments of failure and shame, or the stories that we may not even know are affecting us until we openly discuss them.
Entrepreneurship is challenging because you have to do the inner work. Even when it hurts. Even when you’re sitting in front of a pool with your laptop and sipping on a pina colada. You still can’t escape yourself, and if you attempt to, you’ll end up creating a business that consumes rather than fulfills you.
As a coach, it is my responsibility to go as deep as I take my clients, and that starts with facing my story in its entirety.
I’m not saying you should air out your dirty laundry to the internet. But it’s worth pondering: what are you keeping from yourself that others could learn from? How can you shift from only addressing your successes to giving your audience a more vulnerable — and as a result, realistic, authentic, and relatable — look into your life?
You may surprise yourself when the results not only heal and evolve you as a human being but also help you build a stronger, more profitable business that is rooted in your truth.
The answers are contained within your story. Take the time to open it up, look at it, and (dare I say) to share it. The healing and progress that results from this will change your life — and that of others.