Today there is a lot of emphasis on 'storytelling' as a powerful method of communication to influence audience in a wide range of fields, be it in science, business or brand building. I first realized the power of personal stories a couple of years ago when I shared my career story on 'how' I transitioned from academia into the industry and then into science communications. This was during a career talk at my previous work place (Mechanobiology Institute, NUS) and I was delighted to hear that people found the talk very useful. Since then I have provided mentoring to many a students and junior scientists aspiring to have a career in science.
Most recently, I shared my story in science by threading together events from my personal and professional life, through storiesinscience.org. This became one of their most viewed articles and was re-published by the UNESCO Asia pacific. Later I joined the 'stories in science' initiative to advocate the power of stories of people in science as a means to inspire and inform aspiring junior scientists. In this role, I have been reaching out to my network in science and encouraging them to share their stories. However, most people are reluctant to share for various reasons, one of which is their belief that their stories are not inspiring.
When stories become inspiring
I agree that not everyone has dramatic turning points in their careers. But the fact is, no one in this world is spared of challenges. The nature, degree, extent and timing may vary. It could be a tough boss, lack of support, lack of direction, failures, career breaks or long gap between jobs, personal setbacks etc. The sad part is once we are out of challenges, we often devalue ourselves saying ‘this is something anyone would have done’.
The fact is that anyone who survives such challenges and changes their life has a story. A story becomes inspiring when the author honestly shares the challenges they faced, and most importantly, discusses how they overcame that setback. It is not necessary for a person to have achieved a particular level in their career to share an inspiring story. For example, the story or an account of a PhD or MBA student can be inspiring to someone aspiring to get a higher degree. I am sharing this point because I had held back from sharing my story for a long time as I had felt that I had not reached anywhere close to the pinnacle in my career. However, the truth is that each point or phase in our career and life is a milestone in itself!
How sharing your story empowers you!
Besides the joy and a sense of fulfilment in inspiring others, when you take a moment to write about yourself, you will be surprised to discover an inspirer within you! When you discover this, you will realize limitless potential within yourself. Your dreams and aspirations will become clearer and you will start getting the direction towards achieving your goal. For me, communicating my story through writing or speaking has been quite therapeutic!
I have always shied away from giving credit to myself until recently. I used to even get embarrassed when my parents mentioned about my PhD to someone. I had associated humility with 'NOT' talking about your top educational qualifications or job position. However my perspectives on this aspect have changed now as I have realized that sharing one’s accomplishments, however small it is, can be a confidence booster for self and at the same time provide inspiration and hope to many. Infact approving and giving credit to oneself should be a first habit, not to be confused with superiority or blowing own trumpet .
If you look around there isn’t a shortage for people who can inspire you. The whole world is in fact swarming with people who have walked that extra mile in various walks of life. But have you looked within yourself for inspiration? Have you ever thought of yourself as an inspiring person? if not, do so NOW! As much as you look at others for ideas and inspiration, look within yourself for your innate inspiration. Then share YOUR story which not only inspires others but also empowers YOU!
Credits: Image Credit- Dr.Laxmi Iyer @Laxmionline (instagram). To me this image reminds me of human network, interconnected through stories and rooted by love.
I also thank my Lifecoach Reena Yadav of IADLIfe for teaching me how to love and approve myself.
Dr. Lakshmi Ramachandran is passionate about writing and speaking as it helps fulfill her aspiration to inspire, provide hope, and motivate people around the world through diverse stories from her life as a woman in science and mother. To know more about her, visit her page https://www.lakshmiramachandran.com/about