Every so often I’ll hear something that completely changes the way I think. Or poses a question I’d never stopped to ask. Or offers an insight I didn’t realise was missing.
Of course, this happens way more frequently when I go on one of my TED talk binges. So addictive; one intelligent, 20-minute, eye-opening talk after another. It’s a drug that makes you smarter.
The TED concept alone is inspired. Their mission is to spread ideas that “change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world”, and to provide this resource of knowledge free to anyone with the internet. Too often, though, I forget it’s even there.
But now I’ve got a hot, new date set up. Tuesday evenings, when the day’s work is done, instead of TV, I’m going to sit down with TED for a little mind expansion. Ah, how my concept of Hot Date has changed, hitting 40!
Some talks I have to watch several times, with ideas so juicy that, as a kinaesthetic processor, I need more than one go to digest.
Often what’s said will keep resonating far beyond 20 minutes, and launches a rabbit hole of investigation to learn more about the speaker and their work, often culminating in yet another Bermuda Bookstore purchase.
One TED I’m particularly crushing on at the moment is “The Art Of Being Yourself” by Caroline McHugh. It’s not new. It’s been on YouTube since 2013 and, with 4.5 million views, I certainly didn’t discover it. But as I’m sure someone’s said, and I quote, “when the listener is ready, the right speaker will appear ... in the YouTube ‘recommended for you’ line-up”.
What’s so great about Caroline McHugh’s 26 minutes? What isn’t, in my opinion. First off, and it just has to be said, what a powerhouse of a female.
Describing herself as “untragically woman”, this striking, elegant, couturier-clad figure with her gentle, lilting brogue personifies, for me, the idea of being truly comfortable in your own skin. She walks her talk, which, as you can guess from the title, is all about embracing our authentic selves.
Personal authenticity is a concept I explore regularly, you may have noticed. It is something I strive for in my life and yet struggle with. “Just being yourself” is easier said than done as McHugh notes on the website of the company she founded, Idology, coaching authentic engagement in the workplace.
“Being nobody but yourself is hard in a world where most people would rather you were everybody else. Being like everyone else? Well, that’s a low fence.”
How do we go about being ourselves though, in the face of continual external expectation and often years of practice in not?
“Put, at the service of your goals, the unique gift the Universe has given you ... ” is one insight McHugh offers in her talk. Doing what is truly YOU, “dictates how you do what you do”.
She says that it’s not our job to be like the famous and celebrated people we see and admire. In fact, she advises quite the opposite, “be unlike them ... it’s your job to be as good at being you as they are at being them.”
She discusses the obvious dangers of people-pleasing, self-consciousness and the need for admiration. To have a “disregard for where your abilities end ... or for being the centre of attention,” are lessons McHugh says she learnt early on. “Who are you?” she asks. Beyond what other people think you are, or who you wish you were, beyond your thoughts, your feelings, what you have or what you do ... who are you?
I am still very much on that journey to find out (and on my way to order Caroline McHugh’s book), and am grateful for another nudge in the right direction. I am always seeking ways to add to and deepen that conversation, to peel back the layers of years of conditioning, crack open assumed conventions and be the authentic person within.
Thanks, TED, see you next Tuesday xx
•Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on (441) 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com.</i>