By Loren Negron

A family member once told me: “Your story is the hardest book you will read and write. Embrace it.” My story was something I used to fear. I was ashamed of my childhood experiences and the trauma I survived. Growing up, I silenced myself from sharing my story because I lacked self-esteem. I lacked the courage to embrace my story because I could not accept the circumstances I experienced.

To embrace one’s story means to accept one’s personal truth. To accept one’s truth means to acknowledge both the good and bad moments in life. This is a lesson that took me years to learn and understand. I didn’t realize I was depriving myself of happiness and contentment by being silent about my experiences. I was broken, and I didn’t realize how broken I was until I shared my story with my family in 2014.

My story is what makes me unique. It is one of the most valuable things I can ever share with another human being. Stories are grounded on a bedrock of vulnerability, humility and hope. They are powerful testaments of our beliefs, values, dreams, strengths and character. Thus, we should not be afraid of our stories. We should embrace our personal truths. Our stories can inspire and empower one another to be true to ourselves. More importantly, each of our stories connect us, despite our diverse backgrounds, because they reveal the thread that links us all together: we are all human beings striving to live, to succeed, to love and be loved.

As leaders, it is important for us to embrace, live and share our stories. Embracing our stories help us to hold on to our roots and find our purpose in life. Likewise, we become more grateful for the opportunities presented to us, as well as the people in our lives. Embracing our stories, including the chapters that are painful to read, is challenging but worth it.

When I finally embraced my story, I learned to fight every single day because, despite knowing abandonment, abuse and trauma, I also know that love exists and what love feels like. I will have those bad days, but I know my story. I know I have friends and family who are willing to wait for me and help me in my journey.

Every day, we are writing pages of our lives —p ages bound together by patience, passion, perseverance, vulnerability, humility and faith. The books we’re writing increase in size daily, and they never stop growing. The ink-filled words hold the tears and sweat we have accumulated to accomplish our goals. Our chapters remind us of our successes and failures, our sunny and stormy days.

Moreover, each of our stories are worth being told. Our stories are unique and inspiring. As we write and embrace our stories daily, let’s find inspiration from the world around us, cherish the stained and dusty pages, and never forget those who have helped us write our stories.