The Essence of You


Recently, a friend placed a vintage photo of himself on his social media page. No doubt, it’s him. But it is a smiling and engaged version of him. A him that feels a bit lost at the moment. A version of him that has gotten left behind during the past 20 years of life.

The wonderful thing is, seeing the picture woke him up to his essence. It led him back to his open and eager nature that he knows intimately. The image has become a map of sorts to who he needs to reclaim. Something tells me things will change, for the better, quickly.

At the start of a new Memoir class I usually ask clients to bring a picture that depicts the essence of who they are. An image that captures the je ne sais quoi, or that certain something, that makes them uniquely who they are at their core. Further, the quality or qualities, they understand and know themselves to be. What I call personal essence.

It is a good starting point when writing our story for the page.

By describing what qualities they see in the image, they establish a benchmark, for how they see and think of themselves. It helps me to guide them in portraying that perspective on the page – which sometimes requires excavation.

Like the purity found in plant essences – our personal essence is our intrinsic nature. It is evident from the beginning, throughout and at the end  of our life. Sometimes, it gets covered over as we make our way through life. But it is always there.

A good memoir requires a writer to effectively convey their personal essence. The more successful they are at integrating essence into context and meaning through narrative, and demonstrating how it has played into their life story, the more satisfying a book usually is.