Why Helping Others Live Their Dreams Helps Us Live Ours

The following two tabs change content below.
Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

Latest posts by Lisa Powell (see all)

Buy The End of Subtlety by Manuel Rebollo

It is still scary to stand up in front of a roomful of people and speak my story out loud.  I am going to have to get used to this since my dream is to complete my memoir.

The trauma that was my little secret, the dark parts of my past, everything I kept hidden for so long — it’s all gradually becoming more public. I’m glad because I promised years ago that I would tell my story someday if I thought it would help others.

Yet it’s also frightening to leave behind the carefully constructed image of someone who is happy-go-lucky, and has it all together, who acted for so long as if I’d never been through anything at all in my past — when frankly, we all have been through SOMETHING.

By speaking our stories out loud, I believe we can give others permission to speak their truth, to bring into the light what was hidden, and hopefully to heal from it.

Sharing My Story to Help Others

Last night I told my story again in a roomful of young women at Russell Sage College. I’d spoken last fall as the keynote speaker at a Take Back the Night rally in Troy for victims of sexual assault.

That night, I met a young woman from Russell Sage College who befriended me, and we kept in touch. She organized last night’s event.  That talk, last October, was terrifying and also empowering. I couldn’t look at my best friend in the audience or I would have burst into tears.

Standing right in front of me was a row of fraternity students from RPI, twenty-year-old men watching me, eyes wide open, jaws agape, as I described being raped and stalked. I will never forget the expressions on their faces.

I just powered through it and held back the tears. I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of a roomful of people telling them details about some of the worst things that had ever happened to me.

I decided to write my memoir in part because I’d promised myself years ago that I would tell my story if I thought it would help others. I’d finally reached the point in my life last year where I felt ready, healed enough, to start sharing my story.

I thought, and have found it to be true, that speaking it out loud would also take away some of the power it had over me. My story is about what happened to me in the past — it doesn’t define me.

Showing Others They Can Do Anything

I want other women, especially young women, to not suffer as much as I did, to learn to love themselves sooner, to seek help if they need it. So I tell them the awful details of what happened to me, the years of dealing with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, how long it took me to really find peace and happiness in my own life.

I tell them how I healed over time, hoping they will find shortcuts to happiness in their own lives, and learn to love themselves sooner. The good news is I’m living my dreams now and believe anyone can too — no matter what we’ve come from, and what we’ve lived through, we always have a chance to live our dreams now.

Making Dreams Come True

As part of last night’s talk, I asked the women in the room to write down their biggest dreams for their lives, and let them know I’d share some of those dreams anonymously on the blog.

In the room last night, we had college women who want to:

  • Become a mayor and then a senator
  • Be a photographer and writer for National Geographic
  • Start a theater company in Salem, Massachusetts for battered women
  • Write a book of poetry
  • Find a cure for Down’s Syndrome
  • Be a super-sexy attorney
  • Cause world peace through music
  • Be a psychologist and open her own business


And one young woman who simply said she wants to “travel a lot, eat lots of food, meet lots of people, and play a lot of soccer.” Amen to that!

Living Their Dreams Here

I asked the young women I met last night to keep in touch and hope some of them will live their dreams here with us. Putting my dreams out there in front of others helps motivate me more as well during the challenging times – I want to realize my dreams in part to inspire others to live theirs.

And I believe that when we lift others up as we work toward our dreams, it helps our dreams along  as well.  Isn’t that what 8womendream is all about?

Whatever your dream is, would love to hear how it’s going this week.

How are you helping others else live their dreams?


  • Veronica

    Lisa, I work with abused women daily, its amazing how many people in this world are abused in one way or another.
    We get to stay i the light…..

  • Laurie Allen

    Thanks for the honesty. Why is it so hard for us to talk about this shit? My husband and I were both molested. What blows my mind is when I talk about it to another woman…9 times out of 10, something similar has happened to them! Thank Goddess for women telling their stories. The pattern is changing. My daughters grew up knowing my story, therefore they have been safe, and felt safe sharing all their fears, worries etc. with me. I on the other hand told my Mom nothing because I was convinced it was my fault…..so, there you go. Shit happens and we need to free ourselves from it so we don’t make that the story that defines the rest of our lives.
    Keep your heart open,
    Big Love, Laurie

  • Rachel

    Lisa, this is exactly why I am always sure to come here and read your posts each week, even when I’m so busy that I miss most of the others. About every third post you managed to come up with a gem that I want to hold on to forever… save up your ideas, make them my own, and share them.

  • Remy G

    Lisa, the most important reminder to me in your post is that we have all been thru something. Regardless of what it is, we all have events in our lives that shape us, form our decision making, create memories, (or create nightmares) and set up dreams for our futures.

    I have things in my life that have happened to those I love, and things that have happened directly to me. For the longest time, I wouldn’t share alot because there is a part of me that didn’t want to put the burden of that information on those I meet or even those I already know and love.

    The look on someone’s face when they hear about an event in the past – and that they know their sorrow or anger about that wont change anything – I get a feeling of guilt almost, making them a part of something they cant influence either way. It is not the same for me if someone else is hurting or is telling me a story of what has happened to them – all I feel is love and support for them and what they are doing to get thru it.

    Its only been a few years that Ive been able to allow that support to come to me and I’ve been grateful to those around me who love me no matter what. I think your passion to help others speak their truth, and your unwavering determination to change lives, is inspiring.

    I am thankful you are a part of 8wd. Keep at it. You already have impact and it can only get stronger from today forward.

  • Thanks Toni and Cath :) Toni, this is indeed my hope: “By giving these shortcuts, you will enable women to embrace their own healing and pursue their dreams and aspirations that much sooner.” I will feel like my life was worth living if I can do that for other women! (well it’s a great life anyways, definitely worth living, but that gives it so much more meaning for me…)

    Cath, I do hope so too… I’m far from perfect, such a work in progress (aren’t we ALL? :) and yet I am really happy and at peace and want others to see they can find joy for themselves again no matter what they’ve been through…

    I feel so lucky to be part of THIS team at 8womendream – don’t know what I’d do anymore withoutcha :)


  • Catherine, Site Admin

    You go girl. I think people will connect with you and look at you and think, “Wow she turned out okay, then I can be okay.”

    Baby steps can take us over the mountain too.

    Great job – Cath

  • Toni Schram

    You have given many women comfort in knowing they are not the only ones and in no way, is it ever their fault. By giving these shortcuts, you will enable women to embrace their own healing and pursue their dreams and aspirations that much sooner.

    This invaluable book will have a viable voice~one that has walked the walk.

    I’m damn proud of you!


  • Erin, that’s beautiful, thanks for sharing! Wishing you luck and love as you live your dreams… which will make such a difference for others as well. Have fun traveling when it’s time to do that – I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot and it’s one of the great blessings of my life (and, being able to make a difference in all different places in the world, even better!).

    Appreciated you being there and participating… Keep dreaming! :) (AND living those dreams!)

    All my best,

  • Erin

    I was a part of the discussion last night at Russell Sage, I wanted to share my dream now… I want to be able to adopt kids with that have multiple disabilities. I also think that I want to travel in the future and help in other different countries. I really liked the activities that you had us do at the end of the presentation.

    Thank you!

  • I am REALLY grateful to Sarah Israel and to all the women of Russell Sage College who came out to hear me speak last night… and who bravely shared your own dreams. BRAVO! Now, go make it happen in the world! :) (can’t wait to hear about your successes here…)

  • Oh Chris that just made me cry (seriously!). I hope that you will do all that you need to do to heal (reaching out for help takes courage, and I wish I’d done it sooner!) and that you can know deep down inside that what happened to you DOESN’T define you. Know your own beauty, value, worth and strength.

    At least in my own life I found that there *was* finally a time when I could speak my story out loud… but it took a long time. Knowing that it helped even one person makes it worth it. So you sharing here makes me feel like I have made the right decision to share my story. :)

    And it’s definitely true that the more I speak it out loud, the less power it has over me… I also learn again and again that I am not alone (this happens to SO many women… 1 in 4 will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetimes… and to men as well…).

    Take care of yourself, have courage and know that YOU are not alone. :)

    With love,

  • Chris

    I too, have had something bad happen to me. It helps to think that there will be a day when I can talk about it without feeling like a freak. For many years, it kept me away from people because I did not want them to know about my secret and avoided those that knew because I could not stand to see it in their eyes what I read to be pity. Thank you for standing up and putting it out there. I have never considered it a dream until recently how I am choosing to take back control of my life.