Owning Your Story

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

I watched the most interesting documentary on Netflix this weekend titled:  Tell Me Who I Am.  You can watch the trailer by clicking here.

***Spoiler Alert & Disclaimer:  If you don’t want any spoilers to the documentary, stop reading now, go watch and then come back.  Also, before watching please know that the documentary discusses sexual abuse and has very sensitive content.

As the trailer describes, the story is about two twin brothers, Alex and Lewis. 

At age eighteen Alex was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and lost all his memory.  The only person he recognized when he woke up was his twin brother Marcus.  He didn’t even recognize his own mother but he knew his twin and he knew he could trust him and what he said. 

As they both returned home, Marcus would answer all of Alex’s questions about their upbringing and current life.  Marcus described their life as privileged and "normal".  Alex believed everything Marcus told him because why would he have any reason to lie? 

Fast forward to the near end of the documentary.  Alex and Marcus are both 54 years old.  Through the years Alex has come to realize that his brother Marcus has betrayed him and has been telling him lie after lie about their childhood. 

Marcus defends his actions because of the deep secrets and shame he was trying to prevent his brother from knowing.  Marcus explained that if he could bury it away and forget all the painful and horrific memories for his brother, he could also do it for himself. 

Marcus’s rationale for lying made perfect sense.  I found myself watching the movie thinking…wouldn’t it be great to have no memory and just start life fresh?  To not have any of the traumas or bad memories follow you around...?

Alex did not feel the same way.  He wanted to know the truth about their upbringing and their mother and what really went on.  He said he needed to know not only for himself but to feel connected to his twin brother again.

Finally Marcus broke his silence years and years later and recorded a video for his brother to watch.  In the video Marcus described his "telling all" as a big FU to his mother.  He spoke to the camera and said..."... by me sharing this with you  - people watching this who I don’t even know,I’m telling everyone what my mother did wrong and who she really was."  

When Marcus said that, it reminded me of what Brene Brown said in her book:  Daring Greatly.  “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.  If we cultivate enough awareness about shame, to name it and speak it, we’ve basically cut if off at the knees.” 

That is what Marcus did - he cut shame off at the knees by speaking the Truth.  He also gave back the shame to his mother where it belonged and decided to not carry it anymore by sharing. 

What I found the most incredible about this story was what Alex said about having to know.  He said he needed to know the full truth about who he is.  He had no memory and was only being fed happy memories and told they had a “normal” childhood from his brother.

But all the "good" wasn’t enough.  Alex knew something was missing and his brother was the only one who could grant him that gift of knowing the whole Truth.

What is moving about this is: 

1) you don't need to carry other people's shame and by staying silent you keep shame alive.

2) we all need the whole story and every experience to be our true selves.  Sure, it would be easier if we didn’t have painful, shameful experiences, but what if those experiences are what you need/needed to discover who you really are?

Imagine this, every experience of your life is a key ingredient that you need to make a beautiful, delicious meal.  You need all the ingredients in the recipe.  On their own they wouldn’t taste so good but together, delicious! 

Give thought to what you may be ashamed of when it comes to your past and maybe even your present.  Then decide to brave greatly by courageously looking at and acknowledging that perhaps you needed the experience to become who you really are.

Marcus and Alex are great examples of what Brene Brown is speaking to in her work.  They decided to share their story and dare greatly so that the shame didn’t control them anymore.  They fought the battle and won - and so can you.


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