I recently met with Dr. Barbara Green, co-founder of the Center for Integrative Counseling and Wellness in Hingham, MA, to discuss her personal take on the power of sharing our stories.
In the spirit of women’s history month, it’s exciting to shine a spotlight on famous women who have pioneered their way through difficult times; shaping and influencing the world we experience as women today.
But, there is also so much to learn from the women in our daily lives; including our mothers, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, close friends, mentors, etc. Each of these women has a unique story to tell.
We Have a Tremendous Opportunity to Learn Through Narrative
Dr. Green: I find it so intriguing that we are at such a historical point in time with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking barriers and creating a pathway for women everywhere! Her story adds a new chapter to all of our lives as women.
I’ve always been a consumer of narrative literature and have appreciated the ability to learn through narrative. In discussing and celebrating women’s stories, we must acknowledge the tremendous courage it takes to share personal stories with others.
Through respecting history, we allow ourselves to weave these historical, generational, and personal stories together. This gives us the freedom to move forward.
RCG: It’s so true. When you think about it, every one of us is shaped by the stories and influences of those around us. In my own life, I think of my grandmothers and my mother and how important their stories are. Their stories have not only shaped my life today, their stories are truly part of my own.
Dr. Green: That’s it!
RCG: Their stories are the fabric of my story, and I’m on the leading edge now writing a new story. Then, my daughter will write the next story. Together we are creating a whole tapestry.
By Sharing Our Stories We Are Weaving a Tapestry of Connection and Wisdom
Dr. Green: We are weaving in the tapestry’s textures; and our grandmothers, mothers, and other important women all contribute to the texture and fabric of our lives. I think of how my life is profoundly different from my mother’s. Yet, my mother taught me compassion, kindness, and the importance of service to others.
So, even though our lives are so different, those qualities are some of the most important aspects of my soul.
My mother was brilliant, strong, courageous, and resilient. She lived through Hitler’s regime and Nazi Germany, surviving a war – with bombs dropping around her. Yet, she was not to be deterred. And that’s how we learn. We learn from these stories.
My life is so different. But, my mother’s story is a part of me.
RCG:- That’s such a beautiful acknowledgment.
Everything is evolving faster now. We are continuing to move forward. And we need to continue to share, share, share these stories.
Sharing our Stories Enables Us to See that We Learn From Challenges
Dr. Green: It’s imperative to understand that we learn and grow from challenges. A lot of growth comes from mistakes, and even from perceived failures.
How do we get through these obstacles? Often, we do so by turning to others.
It’s so important to remember that we learn from both success as well as “skinned knees”. Through sharing our stories, we can learn, one baby step at a time, how to move forward with courage.”
RCG: That makes so much sense. Yet, sometimes when we gather with friends it feels like the conversation doesn’t get beneath the surface. Why do you think that is?
Dr. Green: That’s largely from the experience of shame, fear, challenging of feeling, and sharing of our real truths. Shame traps us and imprisons us. It jails us and blocks us in. It’s difficult to be personally intimate with others when shame is holding us back.
That’s why it’s so important that we use our voices to tell our stories. We can honor them and learn from them. We learn more about who we are, and we begin to see our commonality.
RCG: Wow, that’s really powerful and beautiful. If someone is hoping to learn more about sharing their story, can you recommend any books to help them along the way?
RCG: Thank you! Well, thank you again for your time. This conversation, for me, gives even more meaning to women’s history month. I’m going to spend time gathering stories and learning more about the women in my family. I also want to take the time to learn more from all of the important women in my life, including you!
You can read more about Dr. Green and her thoughts on the importance of self-compassion for mothers here.
(This story was originally published on March 12, 2021, and has been updated for thoroughness.)