Telling Our Stories So Others Don’t Define Us

Cover of Know My Name

Abut a month ago I wrote a blog post about the importance or telling our own stories. I talked about how we should be free to tell our own stories about ourselves and about how others don’t have the right to tell our stories without our permission. Since then I’ve given this some more thought.

Last week, during my vacation, I purchased a copy of Chanel Miller’s memoir, Know My Name. Miller was the victim in the Stanford rape case for which her attacker Brock Turner received a sentence of only six months. The judge was later recalled by voters over this. 

I’m reading Chanel Miller’s story, but also reading her quoting some of the things that were said about her in the media, by lawyers, by commenters online. Her story is raw, yet through it readers learn about Chanel Miller from Chanel Miller instead of from those other people. She wrote this book to tell her story instead of letting everyone else tell the world who she is, what she did or did not do, and the impact that it had on her.

This made me realize that I missed an important part about why we should tell our stories (when we feel safe to do so). If we don’t, other people will tell their version of not only our story, but of who we are. When we leave it to others to tell our stories, we let them define us.

I’ve told some of my story here, but not all of it. There are still things that I keep close to me, that I’m not ready to put out there for others to interpret, judge, and respond to.  

The story that I tell myself about Chanel Miller is that she’s courageous (remember, bravery requires some fear). I tell myself that she’s a human being, and like every human being out there, she deserved to be treated better by both her attacker and the judge in the case. I tell myself that she’s a guide for others on how they too might make it through trauma. I tell myself that she wrote this book not only for her own healing, but also as a metaphorical hug around others, telling them “you deserved better, it wasn’t your fault, do not lose yourself because of the horrible thing that someone else did.”

Yes, her story can be very raw at times, but in addition to everything else I said earlier, I know that Chanel Miller is a very talented writer and artist. Below is a short video that she made (with the assistance of a talented crew) about her story. Like her written words, the video is raw, but beautiful, and may be difficult to watch, but life is difficult and reading or watching her story will be no harder than what she went through.

We owe it to her to listen to her tell her story.


  1. Cecile says:

    Beautifully done video! What a beautiful and talented woman! Thanks for sharing your blog… always inspiring! Two other books come to mind of women sharing their amazing stories… Educated … and, A House in the Sky.
    Much love to you, Heather!

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