It takes courage to tell your story. To tell the truth even when your voice shakes. To shatter stigma and stand for all of who you truly are—the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Our culture is defined by some sick storytellers. People who tell us that we should be quiet about the pain we’ve seen, that we should even be quiet about the amazing things we’ve done. Our culture tells us that our job is to be acceptable. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t be too much, and if you are too little, oh well, better than too much.

But there is a new wave rushing in. It is a brave, honest, loving group of storytellers whose mission is to tell the truth and be seen. They understand that their stories, big or small, are necessary if they want to live in a world that is more loving and accepting of who we truly are.

The truth transforms.

When you take the mic and share your story, and give voice to topics and issues that are usually kept silent, you immediately make more space in our culture for someone else. Imagine if Oprah had never shared her story of being raped. Imagine all the young girls who might never have realized that their lives didn’t have to stop at their assault. Imagine what it felt like for trans people across the world when they saw transgender actress Laverne Cox on prime-time TV sharing her story. Imagine what changed for the men in the world who were taught to never talk about their emotions when NBA all-star Kevin Love revealed his struggles with depression and anxiety in his essay “Everyone Is Going Through Something.”

Well, it’s not just celebrities changing the game. In classrooms, in auditoriums, in conference rooms, and at kitchen tables across the world, people are sharing their stories and changing everything. Women and men are breaking the silence on taboo subjects like abuse; parents are speaking openly about the challenges of having a child with a developmental disability; leaders are sharing how it feels to be paralyzed by self-doubt; fathers are publicly reflecting on the difficulties of raising sensitive sons; teenagers and senior citizens are talking about their depression; teachers are coming out as gay in front of the whole school; undocumented youth are taking extraordinary risks to assert their rights to education; and you—you have a story that is part of this culture shift. It’s time to tell it. 

Here are five steps that can help you get started telling your story.

Step #1: Write down the description of one specific person who really needs to hear your specific story.

Step #2: Write down the message you want to deliver to that person.

Step #3: Reflect on and write down what your audience member believes about your message before hearing your story.

Step #4: How do you intend to shift their perspective after he hears your story?

Step #5: What parts of your story do they need to hear to trust you as a messenger on this topic?

“Excerpted from How Your Story Sets You Free by Heather Box and Julian Mocine-McQueen, published by Chronicle Books 2019.”