Pacific Storytelling: confidence, courage and connection

Storytelling isn’t just about speaking. It’s also about showing. We don’t always tell our stories through our words. We show them through our actions, our work, and most importantly, in the way we treat people.

For centuries, Pacific people across Oceania have been telling their stories. Not just vocally, but also through dance, pottery, weaving, motifs, markings, paintings, costumes, masks, war clubs, pendants, traditional ceremonies, food preparation – the list is endless.

Today, our culture is more diverse than ever – a beautiful mixture of ancient and modern beliefs and practices, making up today’s Pacific culture. What we haven’t changed is the ability to show our stories. We show them through music, film, tech, dance, fashion, art, education, sports, humanitarian aid, environmental conservation – again, I could go on forever.

You too, are a Pacific storyteller. Without realising, you are telling people in your world who you are through your actions, your work and through the way you treat people. If you’d like to be more intentional about your storytelling, and hone in on your own unique style, here are 3 important lessons I’ve learnt that you can benefit from.

Just… be yourself
Who are you? Where do you come from? What do you love to do? What are you good at? What lessons have you learnt? What do you value? Why are they important to you?

Your answers make up your story, and how you communicate that story is completely up to you. Many people ask how they can be authentic in the way they tell their story. My answer is always – just be you! Produce work and art that has your personality, wisdom, foolishness, creativity and logic written all over it. Self-expression will allow you to stand out as unique, as an individual. By telling your story, you will make your mark. It’s exactly how Pacific storytellers have made their own mark in history.

Understand your why
It’s one thing to know who you are, and another to know why you’re sharing it with an audience. As a storyteller, you owe it to yourself, and to your audience to ask yourself – why is this important to me?

Your answer will help you determine when, where and with whom you share your stories with – both on an intimate and broad or distant level. It will help you remain focused, especially when there are challenges, barriers, changes and new opportunities.

Remembering my why keeps me accountable and motivated when working towards a better future for Talanoa. It also helps me decide what I say yes and no to. My why, is because I love people. I value their stories, and I find joy in sharing them. I‘m obsessed with writing, and I love the freedom of telling my own story too. This is why I do what I do. The why is not an external motivator. It’s an internal purpose, belief and value that will keep you focused, while driving you forward.

Confidence, courage and connection
Here’s the catch. It’s not always as straight-forward or as easy as it seems to be yourself, remember your why, and tell your story in a world where millions of people would rather blend or follow the crowd. People dream of originality and try to duplicate it, without realising that the answer is not by copying someone else, but by expressing who you are. Fear and self-doubt get in the way, stopping many people in their tracks, and sadly their stories are never shared.

Thankfully, we can learn from Pacific people who have gone before us. They show us it takes confidence to be yourself, and courage to share who you are by telling your story. Their example doesn’t teach us to ‘fake it til you make it’. Start off by being true to who you are. Never compromise that, because it’s what makes your story unique, original, and powerful. Walk confidently and courageously, even when you succeed and are praised, or fail and are criticised.

So what’s there to gain after going through all of that, just to tell your story? Connection. People crave connection. We crave connection. And not just any connection. We want to find meaning in who we are, our work, our experiences, and in our relationships. We want to know we aren’t alone, that someone cares, and that we matter – that we are loved. Storytelling is how we do that. It is the bridge between communicating a message, and connecting with a person. Pacific people have always known that. Its why we’ve been telling our stories for thousands of years, and will continue to for many more to come. We are Pacific people. We know how to tell our stories. The question I pose is this: when you are asked to share your story, will you step up to the challenge? I hope you are courageous enough to rise to the occasion, talanoa, and say yes.

Photography by Rae Photography.

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Lisa Jameson