I just wrapped up a full day of powerful middle school assemblies – after each one, lines of students waited to talk. Some shared encouragement, hope, and thanks for the message; others told tearful stories about being bullied; and others shared their secret pain manifested in being the bully, cutting, eating disorders, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
One girl in particular touched my heart. I’ll call her Molly.
Molly had been waiting patiently toward the back of the line, and as she approached, her eyes were swollen with tears. With a friend clutched to her side, Molly began to share that she has been hiding an eating disorder, and the friend by her side was the only person who knew.
Molly had just experienced an assembly that included my story of hiding an eating disorder for years, thinking I could handle it myself. It also included my story of hope and healing in the humility to ask for help.
For whatever reason, Molly decided to trust. She agreed to tell her mom that night and also agreed to talk with her school counselor right then and there. In the face of this courageous young woman, the darkness was not going to win today.
As I watched Molly be welcomed into open arms by a counselor and a few teachers, I couldn’t help but feel that while I can still doubt myself at times, sharing this message is all worth it.
Later today, I had the opportunity to talk with a lovely mother at the school. Her genuine care for not only her own children but for the well-being of the entire student body was very sweet to behold.
She asked me what she should say when her son makes comments about being too skinny or her daughter nitpicks at her looks. She said her normal response was to say, “No, you are perfect just as you are,” or something along those lines. She wanted to know what else she could do. I suggested that she:
1. Acknowledge her son or daughter’s concern and ask loving questions: Why do you think that? Is there something you want to do about it? (My favorite question is: What does “being healthy” look and feel like to you?)
2. Consider some of her own insecurities in high school: Could she remember being insecure about her body, her relationships, or an aspect of her image? And then, could she share with them what that was like?
The vulnerability to share your story is not always easy to muster. As a speaker who does this frequently, there are still times I feel uncomfortable revealing the hard parts with new people, and sometimes even, with those closest to me.
Choosing to share the parts of our journeys that we’ve struggled through can be tough, but doing so can help people who are walking a similar path realize they’re not the only ones. At best, it can give them hope and belief in their own resilience.
Whether of joyful or hard times, stories told from love help to shine a light into the heart of the receiver. When we come from love and present our story as a gift, we have the potential to build a bridge, to foster trust, and to really get to know the truest parts of one another.
And isn’t that what we all need sometimes? – That person who simply says: Me, too.