Fabio Cerpelloni is a qualified English teacher, photography and storytelling lover who believes that telling personal stories is the most effective, productive, and meaningful language practice activity you could ever do to improve your English.
Your Story Is Your Superpower
I’ve recently started telling my own true stories on Stolaroid Stories, my little podcast, and still can’t believe I’m doing it.
One year ago, if you had asked me, ‘Hey, why don’t you share your own true stories and photos with the world?’, I would have replied:
‘Number 1, because what I do in my life is nobody’s business but mine. The less the world knows about me, the better. Number 2, because most of my personal stories aren’t that interesting. Number 3, I’m not the kind of person who tells strangers about his private life. That’s for people who constantly need to feed their egos with likes. That’s for people who seek approval from the world and I don’t need any of that. I don’t need to share every single thing I do, see, eat or think.’
Instead, if you now ask me, ‘Why are you sharing your own true stories with everyone? Some are also very personal!’, I say:
‘Number 1, because I often listen to a lot of true stories told by storytellers, public speakers, teachers, entrepreneurs, writers as well as ordinary people like me and you. Some of these stories make me think deeply about myself, my life and the world in general. I get very inspired and motivated. They challenge my beliefs, and I think I grow as a person by listening to them. So I feel I need to make my own little contribution too by telling mine.
Number 2, because I realised that some of my stories are not interesting to me as I’m the protagonist in each of them. But they might be VERY interesting to other people.
Let me give you an example.
I used to live abroad in the past. I lived in several countries and, to me, this isn’t extraordinary. A lot of people move abroad and start a new life in another country every single day. But there are some other people who are afraid of leaving the place where they were born. They might want to do it but don’t have the courage to.
Telling my story about how I overcame my difficulties and worries when I moved abroad might help these people take the first step. They might find my story encouraging and inspiring and, as a result, change their attitude towards the idea of leaving their homes.
Another example. I became vegetarian in 2011 and then vegan in 2016. Guess what inspired me to change. That’s right, a story told by an activist.
So, don’t forget that you’re the only person in the world who’s been living your life. Your stories are unique. And you really don’t need to have an extraordinary life to have something powerful or inspirational to tell. Actually, the most interesting moments and events you can use to build a story are often simple.
In his great book called ‘Storyworthy’, Matthew Dicks, one of my favourite storytellers, who nearly died in a car crash, says:
If I tell the story about the time I died on the side of the road and was brought back to life in the back of an ambulance, it’s going to be challenging for an audience to connect with my story and with me. It might be exciting and compelling and even suspenseful, but audience members are probably not thinking, “This is just like the time I died in a car accident and the paramedic brought me back to life!”
The point he makes here is that although stories about exceptional events might be interesting, they might not make a very strong connection with the people you are telling your story to. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tell these stories. But more ordinary events can make better connections. Examples of ordinary events are:
- Talking to a friend and realising how special your friendship is.
- Playing with your kids and realising how stupid you were five years ago when you said, ‘I don’t want kids. Ever!’
- Going for a walk in your neighbourhood and noticing how beautiful it is and how lucky you are to live there.
These ordinary moments and thoughts that come into your mind often go unnoticed, but they are powerful topics for a story. And this is where photography comes in. Capturing details, brief instants, small things.
Number 3, because the process of writing and crafting my stories makes me feel good about myself and my life. While I’m creating a story a lot of memories come back to me. I remember small details I had forgotten. I reflect on how I behaved, what I was thinking at that particular moment. It makes me think about who I am and why I do the things I do. It’s deep reflection.
Not only that. Look what a student emailed me the other day:
I finally found some time to write and record my voice telling my last story. It has been like giving birth to something I have had in mind for long. It has been an opportunity to verbalize old but meaningful memories in order to exorcise them. Thanks for that.
She shared with me a story about her childhood, and getting it off her chest was liberating for her.
So this is really not about getting likes on social media. This is not about being popular. But it’s about creating connections with the storyteller. It’s about getting a better insight into yourself and what it means to be human.
I love it!
You might now be thinking, ‘Wait a minute, I’m here because I want to practice and improve my English. What’s this all about?! How will my English improve by telling a story?’
This will be the topic of my next blog post. Stay tuned!