How to Use Your Story to Find Your Life Purpose
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou
Everyone has a story. Some stories are happier than others. Some are tragic. But below the surface of our stories, each of us have wounds that need to be healed.
My story is a mixture of happy and tragic.
I grew up poor with a dad who was an alcoholic. He loved me deep down, wasn’t a mean drunk, but growing up with an emotionally unavailable father caused some deep wounds.
I quit high school at 15 years old and managed to wiggle my way as a dancer in a strip club. This is something no 15-year-old should ever have see or do, but I was wounded and I wanted money, attention, and love. It’s taken me 33 years to realize this wasn’t my fault. I was doing the best I could with that I knew.
I loved to eat. I loved to cook. Food was my comfort from early on and being in the kitchen felt as a natural as breathing. I had a deep need to find the sense of belonging I didn’t have at home, at school, or in my town, so I started moving around. I moved to Toronto and Montreal and collected people wherever I went. These people truly saw, heard, and loved me, and this became a major part of the path to healing.
I miraculously enrolled in cooking school. My life’s dream was to move to NYC and making my dream happen was #1, even though I didn’t know how this was going to happen. Because of cooking school, I was able to offer free cooking to someone who had a room for rent in their home, and I moved to NYC from Toronto with $700.
Stripping taught me how to work for myself. I created a job around my passion of cooking and supported myself doing what I Iove. In 2008, I moved to San Francisco to continue the quest of finding out where I truly belonged, and finally found my place amongst the most amazing city in the world. It’s not until this mission was fulfilled that I was able to begin climbing the ladder of self-actualization.
Here are five ways to beat the odds and use your story to find your life purpose.
1. Excavate your story
Our story affects us in ways we don’t realize. It’s also what makes you special, unique, and YOU. Taking the time to write your story – figuring out your deepest pain points, your greatest achievements, your true strengths. You may share it with a friend, a coach, or on your blog, or you may never share it all. But having someone truly hear you, see you, and empathize with your story is a powerful way to heal your wounds. When you can find meaning in your deepest wounds, you catapult your life to the next level. You release the pain, shame, and discomfort little by little. And the next thing you know, your life feels more purposeful and you have more energy because you’re no longer entangled in your story.
2. Locate your shame points
Shame happens when we do things outside societal norms. Finishing high school, getting a college degree, getting a respectable job, having a wedding, buying a house and creating a family is the socially accepted path in our culture. When we deviate from this path, the sense of belonging we deeply yearn for can be missing from our lives. We feel deeply inadequate and a deep sense of shame over lives, as though we’ll never be good enough to belong anywhere.
Working in the sex industry, not finishing high school, spending every penny I earn without saving – these are my shame points. I shed the shame by sharing it with the world, which helps dissolve the emotional charge around it. Moving past your shame is possible. You have to realize that you are not alone, it’s not your fault, and we all have things to work on and move through. No amount of socially accepted achievements is going to make you feel like you’ve had a purposeful life if it is not truly aligned with your path.
3. Figure out what you truly value
What’s important to you? Love? Connection? Professional success? Living in a nice house in the suburbs with 4 kids or traveling the world by yourself? Being connected to what is most important naturally aligns you with your higher purpose.
For me, finding a sense of belonging has been my strongest drive. When I moved to San Francisco, I found people who truly mirrored me, believed what I believed, and valued what I valued. Finding my community healed my life in ways I cannot describe. From there, creating a career I love, spending quality time with friends, and having beauty around are the driving forces in my life today. Life isn’t perfect and things happen, but being connected to what’s important will hopefully bring you some peace at the end of your life.
When I started to make small changes in my life, everything changed. I started taking care of my body through eating healing foods. I lifted weights and felt strong. I found my take on spirituality through vipassana meditation and yoga. Instead of dwelling on my shame points and defaulting to old self-destructive behaviors, I learned that caring for myself changed the way I saw the world. I felt better, I had less desire to drink, eat junk food, or resort to other escapist behaviors. These changes didn’t happen overnight. It took years to become more aligned with my life and change my junk eating, couch lounging self-destructive behaviors.
If you don’t know where to start, pick one area of your life that needs work. If it’s diet, come up with one SMALL change you can do every day. Maybe it’s adding a serving a vegetables to your plate. Drinking more water. Eating less sugar. Create the habit and do it every day for 30 days. Don’t let your mind tell you it’s not enough. Let yourself feel the success of change. Small change creates sustainable change. Go slow and be kind to yourself. Once you’ve mastered the art of one small change, it becomes easier to create traction.
5. Realize you are NOT your story and create a shift in perception
Your story is the path to uncovering your life’s greater purpose. A person who is in a car accident and ends up in a wheelchair copes with their pain and makes the best out of a difficult situation by helping others going through the same (see the show “Push Girls” for a beautiful example of this.)
You have a choice: to accept your story and use it as a teacher, or reject it and become a victim.
Your story isn’t who you are as a human being, but knowing yourself and turning your deepest wounds into strengths is the greatest contribution you can bring to yourself and to the world around you. You may find out you are much more valuable than you think, and that all that you’ve been through has a purpose after all.
Are you ready to turn your wounds into wisdom? You can share your comments by joining the conversation in the comment section below.
This article was written by Brigitte Theriault. Brigitte is a transformational coach. She works with people who’ve tried everything from fad diets to sex to escape and helps them jumpstart their lives by situating what’s holding them back from being free, happy, and healthy. Connect with her through www.