The following are discussion questions offered by the author, Diane DeBella. These questions will work well for book group discussions, as well as other contexts.
I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths
to Reclaim Ourselves
Guided Discussion Questions
from author Diane DeBella
In the book one of my students notes: “Women have been sacrificing themselves to tell their stories so that we can be where we are now. To stop now would belittle the selfless deeds of these women” (xxi). Why do you believe women have sacrificed their livelihoods and sometimes even their lives in order to tell their stories? How have women collectively benefitted from the sharing of our truths? Have you benefitted? How?
An important concept discussed in the book is core self-esteem vs. situational self-esteem. Women who lack core self-esteem often rely on situational self-esteem, which can lead them to “fill the void” in destructive ways. Do you know women who are struggling to fill a void? How can we become more aware of the role situational self-esteem plays in our lives? How can women begin to shift from destructive to constructive coping as they work to build core self-esteem?
In the book I quote Linda Shierse Leonard: “The attitude of blame might lock us forever into the roles of passive prisoners, victims who have not assumed responsibility for our own lives” (8). How can we help others and perhaps ourselves break out of the role of victim – to move beyond whatever has brought them or us to this point in order to reclaim responsibility and discover a more genuine and fulfilling path?
Do you know women who have overcome adversity to not only survive but thrive? Perhaps you are such a woman. What are the key elements necessary to move out of the role of victim? (For example, one that I don’t go into too much detail about in the book is humor. Maya Angelou, Pam Houston, Amy Tan—all of these women have an incredible sense of humor. When you can find humor in looking back at your own life or even in the absurdity of life’s everyday moments, you are more likely to thrive).
In the book I discuss putting on armor as protection, and the need to feel in control (21). Some women rely on the exterior affirmations of who they are. If you peeled away all of your external layers, who would you be at your core? Would you like that person? If this person were someone else, what kindness would you extend to her? What gifts would you give her so that she would know she is valued and loved?
Can you identify your main methods of coping with adversity? Perhaps consider making a list of them. Are these methods healthy or unhealthy—constructive or destructive? If some of our coping methods are destructive, it is important to acknowledge that at one point in our lives these methods served us; we turned to them for a valid reason. However, it is just as important to acknowledge that they may no longer be serving us. How can we work to develop healthier means of coping?
Providing a safe place and space to explore women’s truths and to establish a connection between others’ experiences and our own allows women to gain a level of awareness that can lead to deeper analysis of our own truths. Did learning about other women’s experiences throughout this book allow you to increase your own awareness? What kind of support do you need to move forward with this exploration? How can women actively support one another in this growth process, within and across generations?
If you are interested in requesting Diane’s facilitation of a discussion of her book, please contact her for more details. Diane is a seasoned professional speaker and workshop creator and facilitator.