Home » Caroline McHugh on The Art of Being Yourself (Full Transcript)

Caroline McHugh on The Art of Being Yourself (Full Transcript)

When you’re a kid, you’re fantastic at being yourself because you don’t know how to disguise your differentness. That’s why you see kids on the beach, you know, naked up until the age of five, and then suddenly at the age of six or seven they want a bathing suit, they want a bikini. Who’s got a four-year-old boy? Anybody got a four-year-old boy? I’ll take a three-year-old. Jose, you’ve got a three-year-old boy.

So I want you to imagine I go into Eduardo’s class in school, and it’s a class of three-year-old boys, and I say to the boys, “Who’s the strongest boy in the class?” What’s going to happen? Every hand, right? Every single hand in the class will go up. They’ll be competitively strong.

If I go into the same class, but it’s full of seven-year-old boys, and ask the same question, they’ll say, “Him,” because they know by time they’re seven. He’s the strong one, he’s the fastest runner, he’s the funny guy, he’s the bully. Society archetype emerges round about the age of five, six, seven, eight. That’s why the Jesuits say, “Give me a boy until the age of seven, and I’ll show you the man,” because that’s the birth of consciousness. And from then on you become more self-conscious, and by default less good at being yourself.

The other place you’re fantastic at being yourself is when you’re a wrinkly, because you can’t be arsed. You get to that stage in your life where you realize there are more summers behind you than there are in front of you, and everything intensifies. You become more honest; you become less compromising. So you’re going to tell people, “I don’t want the spinach, I’m not going to eat it, I don’t like it. And I don’t like jazz, so you can shut that noise off. And while I’m at it, I don’t like you!” And we call these people eccentric. We call our oldies eccentric. In fact, what they’re doing is being authentic.

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So it’s kind of like an hourglass effect. When you’re young you’re great at being yourself; when you’re old you’re great at being yourself; but the bit in the middle is sometimes the most problematic. That’s the bit where you have to socialize; you have to accommodate; you have to adapt.

So I’ve developed the “I complex,” and the “I complex” is a model to help you figure out which “I” you mean when you say “I.” You’re very familiar with the superiority complex. If you have a superiority complex, you pretty much think you’re the most important person in the room. If you’ve got an inferiority complex you suffer from an over-modest self-regard. Now these are both signs of a fragile ego. One of them is about delusions of grandeur, and the other one delusions of insignificance.

There’s a third way of being in the world, and I call it “interiority.” This is one of my made-up words. So the word “interiority” describes a particular disposition, and there’s two reasons it might be useful to you. Number one, it’s completely uncomparative. If you have a superiority complex or an inferiority complex you need other people around. For a superiority complex you need other people to be smaller. For an inferiority complex you need to suffer from the I’m-going-to-be-found-out syndrome, so somebody needs to find you out.

Interiority is entirely unrelative, so to operate from this position of interiority, it’s like a perceptual vantage point. It’s a sensibility. It’s an orientation. And it’s the only place in your life, the only place in your life, you have no competition. Try and find a comparison to yourself, and you’ll draw a blank.

So I could talk to you about interiority till my tongue bleeds, or I could just show you what it looks like. So I want to introduce you to a woman called Jill Scott. You might have her on your iTunes playlist, but Jill’s a singer, and she’s just about to go on stage and perform, and in case you missed the question, there’s a French filmmaker who’s filming her. She’s going on stage after Erykah Badu, and he says to her, “Are you nervous going on after Erykah?” And I want you to listen to what she says. –

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[Voiceover – “That chick right there has definitely led the way for me and a lot of other sisters. Now, I appreciate it”.

Interviewer: Are you nervous you’re going to perform after her?

“Have you ever seen me perform? I am the Lady Jill Scott. I am a poet, and a singer, and a lot of other things. We all have our own thing — that’s the magic– and everybody comes with their own sense of strength, and their own queendom. Mine could never compare to hers, and hers could never compare to mine”. ]  

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