3 Ways to Overcome Thinking, “I Don’t Have Great Stories”

Stop telling yourself you, ‘I Don’t Have Great Stories.” If our ancestors thought that, they were wrong and so are you. Wouldn’t you give ANYTHING to have a story or two, no matter how mundane, that gave you insight into your ancestors? Well your family, immediate and extended, want your story. So start writing about yourself.

1. Your Story is Behind Your Photos

My now-husband proposed to me under Albriton Tower on Texas A&M University Campus. It was the summer of a lengthy triple-digit heat wave that lasted for days on end. Our story hides behind the moment this photo was taken.

The Hours Before The Photo

I was working at the Dallas / Fort Worth Airport and had a weekend off. My plans involved leaving work, picking up my boyfriend in College Station and then driving to Houston to introduce him to my parents. The trip would take a minimum of four hours.

Unfortunately, I only had two-door air conditioning for the trek. Translation: the actual a/c was out in my red Chevy S-10 extended cab pickup truck and the temperature was 104° Fahrenheit. The only way to stay ‘cool’ involved rolling down my windows and pressing a lead foot on the gas pedal.

The Preparation for the Photo

Andy had planned out a lovely proposal. Since I had left straight from work, he had expected me to look hot. He hadn’t planned on me stopping somewhere to change my clothes in order to endure the 100+ degree heat.

I did look hot, but not the right ‘hot.’

His plans were in motion and I would just have to look like trash when he popped the question.

Now, I could go on and on about the intimate details and minute planning that went into the proposal, but I’ll save those for our scrapbook.

The point is, your photos are the BEST PLACE to find the stories of your life. The key is to RECORD the stories behind the moments captured on film (or digitally these days).

If you would record the stories behind your photos, you will quickly stop thinking, “I don’t have great stories.”

2. Your Story is in Your Lingo

If you have lost your photo collection or do not find joy in revisiting them, then start listening to what you say. Pay particular attention to what you repeat often.

As a teenager and single young woman, I was very boy crazy. I had several boyfriends and dated often when I was between relationships. However, I couldn’t seem to find ‘the one’. My mother told me:

“When you stop looking you’ll find him.”

She was absolutely right. I met my husband when I wasn’t looking. In fact, I was distracted by another guy entirely. Then along came ‘the one’ and I knew it when I saw it. As our engagement photo above shows, there was no looking back.

I have my own collection of often-repeated phrases

  • “Do your work: quickly, correctly, and without complaint.”
  • “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be left.”
  • “Repetition is the first law of learning.”
  • “Kindness begins with me.”
  • “Obedience is the first law of happiness.”
  • “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit, or you lose it.”
  • “I love the snot out of them.”
  • “I hate orange juice!”
  • “It’s bigger than Dallas.”
  • “If family history isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.”

Can you tell that many of my phrases revolve around my role as a parent? But others need some explaining.

Why do you use certain phrases?

The origin of the “bigger than Dallas” phrase makes some sense when you realize I grew up in Houston, Texas. As a child, I heard that Houston was big, but Dallas was bigger.

This phrase has traveled with me when I speak at genealogy conferences and have lived in South Carolina, upstate New York, and Iowa.

Even though I have seen the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, I still use the phrase, “It’s bigger than Dallas.”

I know folks in California and New York can not understand why I compare things to the size of Dallas when they have, well, some of the most populated cities in the US.

But that phrase tells you so much about me. As I record the simple details of the phrases I use, my children can then hear my voice and have a chuckle many decades after I can no longer say them. That’s my story.

If you think, “I Don’t Have Great Stories,” then write down your often-repeated phrases and how they came to be part of your lexicon.

3. Your Story is in Small Moments

Some moments just happen and they can define who you are, in grand ways. For example, a favorite memory that epitomizes my middle son happened during dinner several years ago.

During dinner, my youngest son complained about his meal. I insisted that I would get his dessert if he didn’t finish his food. (Typical mom mantra. No great story, yet).

Then, the middle boy decided said, “If you don’t finish dinner, I’ll eat half of your dessert, and mom will eat the other half.

My eyebrow raised in skeptically. Was he attempting to thwart my parenting to get extra desserts?

It really seemed like he was encouraging his younger brother in this direction. So, I did what any parent would do. I said that wasn’t going to work.

Without missing a beat, my middle son said, “I know. We’ll cut it in fourths! I’ll eat two and you’ll eat two!”

Stop Searching for a Great Story

Truthfully, you may be realistic and accurate when you say, “I don’t have great stories.” But you’re missing the point. You do have small stories that, when recorded, end up being collectively endearing to your family.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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