Full text of YouTuber Khanh Vy Tran’s talk: Challenge yourself to step out of the norm at TEDxVinschoolHanoi conference. In this talk, she talks about her journey to discover her passion, and deliver a beautiful message of challenging yourself to be out of the norm.
Best quote from this talk:
“I realized that the hardest person to forgive on this earth is not someone who betrayed you, and not a friend who wasn’t there for you when you need the most, is not your ex-boyfriend who broke your heart to pieces; the hardest person to forgive on this earth is myself.”
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Khanh Vy Tran – Author & YouTuber
Hi. Good morning.
Hello. Thank you for having me. So, let’s get started with my TED Talks. My very first time.
So, I am the last born in my family that follows and honors traditional values. My oldest sister is a lecturer, and my second sister is working for the public sector, and their paths are exactly the same as my parents expected –finishing college, getting married at the age of 24, having a job, and then having kids.
And my parents expected me to have the same path.
In my sophomore year of high school, when both of my sisters both got married, my family got a big debt. I still remember my parents, they had to get up every day, work very hard to make sure that I still got a decent life and a good education, regardless.
I still remember my mom, she had to borrow money so that she could have enough 23 million Vietnam Dong for me to pay my tuition fee, when I was the candidate in the National Excellent Student Contest, the subject of English; which was pretty expensive back then.
And then I passed the contest, which meant that I got direct offers from several universities within the country. And when we got the news, my mom was the happiest and she was like, ‘Hurray! Now you are able to get into Security Academy.’ [Foreign language]
So, for your information, to get into that university, you had to get a score of around 29 out of 30 in the entrance university exam; which was obviously impossible for me because I was super bad at Maths. And plus, you were very likely to get a job offer after graduation; and that is the reason why my parents wanted me to study to that university, because they wanted to feel reassured that I got a stable job, I got a foreseeable future. The so-called foreseeable future.
As much as I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, I knew that this path was not for me. I knew that I was not cut out for this job as a police officer, because all I wanted to do was television and communication. And that was my very first step outside the norm which, I think, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the first person to do something in the world; it just simply means that what you are doing is not normal, is not familiar in your close network of your friends, of your family; and you have no idea how things would turn out.
So, I got into college. And on a very beautiful day, I posted a video of me covering a very cute song named [song name in Vietnamese].
So, after one night, that video went viral all over the internet. And wow! After a few weeks later, I got an invitation to film the music video and write some parts to the song with the songwriter. And wow! The song became a hit, and the envy got millions of views.
And wow! A CEO of an entertainment agency contacted me. Everything happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to process it. And the CEO persuaded me into becoming a singer under his company. And I was like, ‘Yeah, I was pretty interested but I still have a college to finish.’
And then he told me his story of dropping out of college in his senior year to become a director, and now he made it. And I was like, ‘Wow! That would be a lot of fun. I think, this would be a very big opportunity for me. My time to shine.’
On the other side of the spectrum, the music video got good response in general but regarding my voice and my singing, people didn’t like it that much. And of course, I was very sad, pretty sad, sad, sad, and discouraged.
I asked my parents for advice and my mom asked me, “So, despite all the opinions of people on your voice, do you still want to pursue a career as a singer?” And I was hesitating. I told mom, “Mom, I’m not so sure.” Another story.
Still during that time, I hosted three English shows on VTV7, which is the national education channel. And everything was going pretty well until I read comments on the internet, and most of the audience did not like my voice; and they complained about my hosting skills, my English. And, you know, these shows were for learning English, so the host is supposed to have good English.
If I was trying to sell you a pen and you didn’t buy it, okay, I could blame the pen is not good. But when the product is me, when it’s me appearing on the national TV and serving millions of audience all across the nation, it is getting harder and harder to sleep at night.
And seeing me getting disappointed, being sad in myself from time to time, then my mom asked me, “Have you ever considered quitting this job? I mean, you’re still a student; you don’t have to work. You can fail. You can try. I just wanted you to be healthy and happy every day.”
And an inner voice in me, right at that moment, told my mom that no mom, I still want to keep working because I know that I can fix it.
And then my mom told me, “Then congratulations, I think that you have already found your passion.”
And I was like, “Passion? I have found my passion?” And yes, I found my passion on that day.
I soon realized that passion is something that pushes you through difficult times, because you don’t care whatever it takes to become better. I like to sing but I didn’t have enough determination to push myself through people’s opinions on my voice and I quit; that means I don’t have enough passion for it.
I like to do the job of a TV host and I know that I have strong willingness to face and overcome adversity for what I love. And as a result, I rejected the offer of the CEO. And a lot of people I know, when a lot of the experts in the industry told me that, “I think that was a bad decision. I think if I were you, I wouldn’t do that.”
But the thing here is that the best advice is the advice that people give you for you, not the advice what would they do if they were you, because everyone is different.
And the lesson I learned hard way from this big event in my life is that people cannot take the right decisions in your life; only you can, by listening more to your inner voice and by staying true to your vision.
And I know that my vision has always been that education. Education has always been my backbone, my family’s backbone. And finishing college and using what I learned, to bring value to people, as a host, as a social influencer, as an author, has been always my ultimate goal.
It can be very difficult to navigate in at first, but it is sometimes better to take a conscious decision that might appear very crazy, very not right for others than just following the norms blindly.
And then, getting back to my story, I still continue with my work as a TV host at VTV7. I still be a full-time student at my diplomatic academy of Vietnam. And regarding my voice, as a lot of audience complained about my too high-pitched voice, which was very irritating to listen to and they didn’t like my voice, I decided and I was so determined to change my voice by lowering the tone of my voice when speaking English; from ‘Hello, this is a very nice day.” Yes, this was exactly my voice in the past. To, “Hello, this is a very nice day.”
Everything was going pretty well once again and one day, the producer and the director of the show that I hosted, uploaded a podcast that had me hosting with that high pitched voice, I guess, probably back in the season one; the first season of the show.
And then I asked him if it was okay to delete the podcast, because I thought the voice was terrible and the audience might not like it, and I was too afraid to be judged again by the audience.
And then he texted me back, and I could feel the disappointment and the anger a little bit in his text messages, and he told me, “That voice was a part of you. Why did you deny it? Okay, so no more podcast that had you will be uploaded ever again.”
And I was like, “What? Did I do something wrong? What was happening? Am I making you angry? I didn’t know what was happening back then. I was so stupid.
It was not until when I talked to people, I talked more to my audience and I read more comments, and people started to say, “What happened to your voice Vy? You spoke too quietly and softly that it’s really hard to listen to you, and we couldn’t really find the positive energy, the fun vibes like before.”
And that moment left me speechless, because I was too confident that the positive energy was something that I could always bring to people; that was my unique selling point. But when the audience couldn’t find that in me, it felt like a loss of a part in my body. I really lost sight of who I was.
I listened to people’s opinions and I changed who I am, because I think others might accept me for it; but I was strong.
What I had been doing so far is not trying to become better by trying to become someone else, by rejecting myself, by seeking validation from every single one.
And what the producer and the director told me just went on a loop in my brain for weeks. ‘That voice was the part of you. Why did you deny it?’
Why did I deny it? I didn’t know. I think because we, as humans, often make a lot of mistakes; and we often, very often, punish ourselves for those past mistakes because those mistakes often come back with an overwhelming feeling of guilt, of shame, of ‘I’m not good enough and I have never ever been good enough.’
And I realized that the hardest person to forgive on this earth is not someone who betrayed you, and not a friend who wasn’t there for you when you need the most, is not your ex-boyfriend who broke your heart to pieces; the hardest person to forgive on this earth is myself.
And then my best friend told me to stop doing what I have been doing so far, which is pleasing every single one. And he said, “Just be yourself.” That three words.
I know, we listen to this phrase all the time, ‘Just be yourself.’ I mean, when I’m having a shower, just be yourself; when I’m eating, just be yourself; when on the stage, just be yourself; when I’m talking to you, just be yourself.
Just be yourself. Just three words that we hear all the time and we’re getting tired of it. But it’s the use of the word ‘just’ that really surprises me because when we use the word just, it means that it is something very easy to do.
Then, why just being myself is still the hardest thing for me to do. Why? I didn’t know. And after talking to my therapist, after learning more about meditation, about my inner peace, listening more to my inner voice, I realized that my true-self is actually being covered up with a thinking and with a perception which is based on fear.
My true-self is who I really am, when I let go of all those stories, of all the judgments that I myself place on me. Do you still remember a challenge on Facebook where people would post, 10-year challenge, where people would post their pictures when they were kids, and people and your friends would comment, ‘Oh, you look so cute. You look so happy. You look so nice.’
And then, the person would say, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, I look cute. I was a cute kid back then.’
But my challenge, I think, for you today is that take a picture of your face today and remember that in 10-years time, you will be amazed at how gorgeous and beautiful you are; because right now, you are already gorgeous and beautiful because you just don’t see it yet.
My story is of stepping outside the norm, is challenging myself; but it is not about changing myself because as you can see, I failed when I try to change myself.
At the end of the day, we as humans, we are allowed to make mistakes; we are allowed to laugh at ourselves; we are allowed to do something wrong, just make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world.
Who on earth has not made a mistake? Tell me a name, who? No one. So, it’s okay to feel bad. It’s okay to feel down and heavy sometimes because the cloud rains when it’s heavy too, so it’s really okay; it’s totally normal.
You don’t have to try to become anyone else. You don’t have to try to become this guy, that guy, this lady, that lady. No. You don’t have to try to become anyone else; you just be you. And being you, being authentic, being an individual is enough because individuality makes diversity; and individuality and diversities are two most precious things on this earth.
I know that some of you here, every single one of you here might be having some problems and pressure to deal with every single day, maybe with your friends, with your family, with your work, with your study, with your love life; and I just want to tell you that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are the one and only; and that’s what makes you beautiful and special in your own ways.
And no matter what you are facing right now, and I don’t know, no matter what the future holds for you, please, never change yourself. Love yourself, accept yourself, and then transform yourself.
I really hope you have a great day today. Thank you.
Resources for Further Reading: