Congratulations! You have been nominated!
I was sitting in a hospital waiting room when I checked my email and this message popped up. At first I didn’t take any notice. I hadn’t entered any awards and the last time I got a similar email, it turned out to be a company fishing for people who would nominate themselves and pay for the privilege. And anyway, it could wait. I entered a consultation room to be given the worst news of my life.
I didn’t think about the email until I saw someone else I know posting about having been nominated. I checked the email through, looked at the awards website and realised it was genuine. Some kind person had taken the time to fill out a form about me and nominate me in three categories. I had until midnight to submit the additional information required for my nomination to be considered. I figured it would be ungrateful of me to ignore the opportunity so late on Friday night, on a very slow internet connection, I filled out the form.
Then I had a dilemma. Should I announce on social media that I was nominated for an award? I’m always saying to people they should tell their stories because if they don’t, no-one will ever know. An award nomination was a story I felt I should tell. But on the other hand, it was the end of the worst week of my life and I hadn’t told that story at all.
Was I being inauthentic by telling one story and not the other?
Was I guilty of the social media cliche that is showing my highlights reel and not the other tough parts?
I announced the nomination and haven’t, until writing this, publicly acknowledged that all is not currently well in my world . Does this make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so, let me explain.
Who are you telling stories to?
When you’re telling your stories, you are telling them to someone. Ideally, you should have a picture in your mind of the person you are talking to. Whether you’re writing an email or a LinkedIn update, thinking about that one person helps you to stay on track. You know that what you are saying is relevant to them.
Imagine when you are writing or recording a video that the person you’re talking to is sitting opposite you. What stories would they find interesting – but also, what stories would you feel comfortable telling them? Is your story going to make them feel awkward? Is it going to make the rest of the conversation difficult?
At this point, I don’t feel the story I’m not telling is of interest or relevance to you. If I have told you, it’s because you’ve asked a question which has led to me sharing the story or I’ve found myself in a position where I’ve needed to.
Is your story yours to tell?
Not all stories are ours alone to tell. They might involve us but we don’t own them. The diagnosis I heard that day did not relate to me. I don’t feel it’s my news to broadcast. Some stories are private and that’s how I judge this one. Someone else in the same situation might feel differently.
As with talking to people face to face, how much you share and where you share is down to you. You don’t have to give people details you don’t want to give them. You have a right to a personal life and to keep that personal. Being authentic just means being you. It doesn’t mean getting into conversations you feel uncomfortable with.
What’s the impact of telling your story?
Telling our stories creates connections. Those stories might have nothing to do with our work. Sharing a personal story can help others in a similar situation or help to make a taboo subject more widely understood. I might choose to tell aspects of this story at a later date.
Stories can change how we see the world around us. They can alter attitudes. They can help people come to terms with situations they might be struggling with and see that they are not alone. Some stories can be painful to tell. Or you might feel they are personal and there’s a limit to how much of your life you wish to share with the outside world. There are no right or wrong answers. Do what you feel is right for you and those around you.