Eating My Own Dog Food

Authenticity, coming out, and the messy art of getting vulnerable

My story of self that I had so carefully crafted and nurtured for ten years was beginning to crumble. It was no longer ringing true to me, and consequently I was starting to question everything about my identity.

I recall confiding in a close friend a few weeks before I told my partner, and after having uttered those two tiny little words for the first time — “I’m gay” — I told her there were two simultaneous, opposing thoughts going through my head. The first was “Oh my god, there’s no turning back”; the second, “thank god, there’s no turning back”. Both of those things were true, and were symbolic of the conflicting narratives that are common within us in times of great upheaval.

But by avoiding it, I was burying a hugely powerful part of my story; a story that notwithstanding the individual circumstances, contained important lessons that were relevant to anyone, from the importance of treating people well in difficult circumstances to being gentle with yourself as you let your own messy stories unfold.

Quite possibly the least flattering thumbnail image they could have chosen for my TEDx Talk

Despite the terror of coming out so publicly, embracing that part of myself and telling my authentic story was a profoundly cathartic experience. It was a step that helped pave the way to healing the wounds of my past, and accepting who I was.

A byproduct of becoming more self-aware is that we become more authentic, which in turn makes us better storytellers. Over time, the simple act of authentically telling our stories makes us better at telling stories. The personal undeniably influences the collective, as it paves the way for other hidden stories to come to the surface. And it is precisely the emergence of the stories we have kept hidden all these years that can slowly but surely help shift societal narratives.

Storytelling | Narrative | Systems Change | Spoken Word | Currently writing a book on storytelling, narrative & systems change | www.alinasiegfried.com/book

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