Telling your story is hard. It’s you trying to juggle being authentic and real while bracing yourself for any rejection that might come your way. And if you are someone who has not seen stories similar to you being told, it can be an even more daunting task. Add to that if you are not just a marginalized group but also an oppressed one, it becomes even harder because oppression loves silence.
But I would say, you should still do it. You should do it because it matters. How does it matter? And why should I be the one to do it? I’m glad you asked. Here is a 7 point list that should answer those very questions:
For others like you
Regardless of what the popular narrative is trying to tell you, there are others like you. And if you want to see stories like your own, so do they. You can be one of those stories for them.
This can be really difficult to do. Any kind of pathfinding is hard, and if you are the first one to do it, you will come across problems that you would have no one to guide you through. The only way to get to the other side is to tell your story. Try to make it simple so that everyone who sees it can instantly tell what it is about and who it is for.
You need to build your own space in the world
The world is big and complicated and there is so much in it that you, who is marginalized will just feel like there is no space for you. That’s okay, make your own space. After all the universe is 99% empty space. I’m sure you’ll find some space that isn’t taken.
And this is how you can make the world better and safer for yourself. By carving out a safe space for yourself, and letting others in.
You need to leave a mark on the culture that you are a part of
Symbols matter. They are what we as humans have built our language and our civilization on. Everything shapes our and others’ understanding of the world around us. Whenever we have a symbol, whenever we have a story, we have a way to talk about things that had no language before. And the responsibility to create that language lies on your shoulders.
It can feel like a huge responsibility. Creating something that can battle narratives that have existed for centuries can feel like an impossible for your tiny self. But worry not. You just have to leave one mark. One scratch. One story. If that story resonates with one other, its job is done.
You need to learn to not silence yourself
More than any other group, if you are oppressed, the first thing that would be taken away from you, would be your voice. Because voices are powerful, and they are the only thing that has ever changed the world. Telling your story will be an exercise in learning how to un-silence yourself.
Whenever that voice inside of you says that what you are saying does not matter, you just need to refuse that side. It’s as simple as that. When you hear “ No one wants to hear your story” you just need to say “ Thank you, but I think I will still go and say it”. And then go forward and do tell your story.
You can create to understand trauma
Going through a traumatic experience can often feel confusing and can make you feel like you’re lost and you’ve got just way too many emotions that you can’t put in simple words. Or it might just leave you feeling numb.
So go make something. Something for each specific thing that you feel. With analogies. With metaphors. Change mediums. Tell a story in a painting and paint a new world in a song. Maybe someone will get it. But that doesn’t matter, because chances are, by the time you get to the end of it, you will get it. Even if you don’t, you will have made something.
You can create to explain
It’s hard to always have to speak for yourself. To defend, justify, or explain your identity. You might have allies but that can also feel not enough at times. That’s where making things becomes powerful. Send someone a story you wrote about your experience rather than having to explain it each and every time.
So, conjure something into existence. A song in the middle of the night on your guitar or a comic that told the story of your first date. You can even bring humor or joy in the tone. Things that are hard to bring when you are trying to have a hard conversation with a person.
You need to give yourself joy
Being joyful can sometimes feel like a privilege if you’ve lived your life on the margins. Every single conversation can be an attack on who you are as a person, and it can wear you down. Making things can be that tiny source of joy and delight that the external world sometimes cant give you.
Because you deserve joy. And there is a lot of joy in making something. It cathartic and it’s meaningful, but most of all, it has a sense of play, and you should experience all of that and much more.
So go out and create things. Make a painting, write a poem, draw a comic, tell a story, tell your story. Tell your story to everyone. And maybe you will inspire someone to tell their story too.