Take 10 seconds and finish this sentence, “At a party I like to…”. Don’t overthink it, answer with the first thing that comes to mind and focus on your own, personal and simple truth.
Personally, at a party I like to have the right amount of fun. I enjoy going to parties and I am a social person, however I am always conscious of how much I’m drinking and what I’m doing the next day. Hence, one part of me is at the party telling stories and the other part is monitoring my actions, making sure I don’t overdo it so that I can have just as much fun tomorrow.
My personal behaviours are full of these types of quirks and contradictions. Authentic storytelling is about being yourself and sharing the stories that represent who you are. When I was 10, I remember being in the house alone, the phone rang and I went to my bedroom and hid under my duvet until it stopped. Now I’m 33, I have a third level education, I am a stand up comedian and I’ve travelled to many places in the world alone. I am still terrified of phone calls. Ask me to perform in front of 1000 people, that’s fine, but make a phone call to my Uncle, I will put that off for days.
But how can these stories about my neurotic tendencies save the world? Well, the interesting thing is, when I tell people these stories, more often than not they share my irrational fear of phone calls. Similarly, I am not the only person who’s embarrassed that they can’t name trees (not even a Birch tree) and I don’t think anyone has actually seen that b list cult classic movie when it comes up in conversation. So by being honest about these things we can liberate ourselves and others as we shake off the embarrassment of not knowing everything (or anything) and not having it all ‘under control’.
In essence, being authentic means “being yourself”, a concept which is scarier than making phone calls. Likewise, the idea of “making something personal” terrifies us because we think it means we have to share our deepest, darkest secrets and most harrowing stories. But no, all you have to do is admit that maybe you are a person who has cycled your whole adult life and after an encounter with a bike repair person last week, it turns out you don’t know which part of the bike the wheel is. Making something personal simply means telling us some true information about yourself. Maybe you’re a person who has never seen a b list cult classic movie and never plans to because you prefer to look at birds. That’s why you call them ‘b list cult classic movies’ and not ‘b movies’. That doesn’t have to mean you look down at people who do watch these films, you’re just not interested in them.
So, tell yourself, honestly, what do you like to do at a party? Are you the opposite of me and do you always have a great time? Are you genuinely relaxed and in no way conscious of yourself? Or are you normal and do you like to look at other people and think “how can I get a better dress sense”? If you’re the one dancing on a table by the end of the night, I want to know why you’re doing that. Do you need it to seem like you’re the one having the most fun? If that’s true, that makes me feel so good. I can also be counted on to perform attention seeking acts at events. I’m not suggesting that we stop doing these things, I just think that so much beauty can emerge if we’re honest about our true motivations and vulnerabilities. Trust me, they’re pretty normal and we don’t talk about them enough.
The more honest stories we share the better we feel because we’re being ourselves. The weight of trying to fit in and be cool is gone and we can simply basque in our love of Harry Potter. Similarly, it helps other people to connect with us and there is much less pressure to be the one who’s having the most fun. Then, and this is how this all ties in with saving the world, because people are happier they don’t need to do crap things. For example, they don’t have to put other people down, kill themselves with anxiety by constantly comparing themselves to other people or they don’t need to earn loads of money to feel good about themselves. People feel comfortable and happy with being themselves, the bad things stop and the world is saved. Easy. Good storytelling is also about exaggeration but in this case, I’ve never been more certain of the simple truth.