Here is the full text and summary of Bevy Smith’s talk titled “How to Discover Your Authentic Self — at Any Age”. In this talk, Bevy Smith, shares her journey of late blooming and finding authenticity. She quit her successful fashion advertising career at 38 to pursue a more adventurous life. She emphasizes the importance of not settling and embracing aging. Bevy also discusses the negative impact of comparing oneself to others and the power of extending grace to others.
Listen to the audio version here:
I am a late bloomer. In fact, a friend of mine you may have heard of, Chris Rock, he once called me the most late blooming mofo he’d ever met. Now some people might consider that snide, but I revel in it. I’m 55 and I’m here in this curvy body as someone who has done the work, lived the life, walked the walk in these very high heels, and therefore is qualified to testify in the church and in the court of law that it does in fact get greater later.
Now coming to this realization wasn’t easy. At the age of 38, I was a very successful fashion advertising executive and I was really living what most people consider a dream life. I was jet setting to fashion shows. I was receiving free designer clothes.
I was double kissing my way across the globe. I was. And you know, it was everything that I ever wanted it to be and then one day I realized I was only pretending to be happy. But I couldn’t blow up my good life in my prime earning years, right? Wrong.
Which leads me to lessons my mother Lolly taught me. Lolly’s number one lesson: DON’T SETTLE. Don’t settle.
Now I’m aware that my well paying glamorous career is not exactly the humdrum, I hate my job stereotype that most people equate with settling, but it was a settle for me. Because when I actually did quit my job at the age of 38, it was with the intention that every day be a great adventure. Now sometimes it was a very scary adventure like being broke from the age of 40 to 45. But even still, I wouldn’t trade that for the safe and settled version because if I had, I would not be here with y’all today.
Yeah. So you know how when you like buck the system and go against the status quo, it makes people really uncomfortable. And invariably people will ask, where do you get your confidence? Now some people mean it as a compliment, but very often it’s shady. And it’s a silent judgment.
And to those people I respond with a quote from this Brooklyn poet you may have heard of, Jay-Z. She get it from her mama. I am she and my mama is the epitome of a grown ass woman. Someone who has always been very comfortable in her skin.
In 1965, my mom was 37 years old. She already had one child, my big brother Jerry. And she married my dad, but she kept her maiden name. And then she had my sister Stephanie and I back to back, but she continued to work because she refused to be beholden to my dad for money. And I bet my mom was the only woman in our neighborhood who cooked once a week. She made Sunday dinner. It was an extravaganza, but that’s all she did. She cooked one day a week.
My mom is just amazing. And she also had this ability of talking to her children about real life and making sure that we understood the virtues of going your own way, which is why I believe today at the age of 94 and a recent widow, my mom is still carving out ways to find and determine and define her own version of happiness.
She cooked for herself. She maintains her home exactly as she sees fit. She enjoys champagne and R-rated films. My mom has managed to maintain her glamor, her sex appeal, her independence. And I really hope some of that rubs off on me.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about one of the best lessons that my mom ever taught me, which is the literal beauty and aging. Now we all know that black don’t crack, right? Okay. Black don’t crack. So at the age of 50, my mom could have easily passed for the age of 35. And you know, that’s back during the time when people, women were really queer about the age. Oh, a lady never tells her age. My mom never subscribed to that.
She was always proud of her age. As a matter of fact, she believes you may not tell your age, but your hands and your neck will. So make peace with aging or prepare for an entire wardrobe of gloves and turtlenecks. Yeah, my mom has always done these wonderful things like that.
But I wish she could rub off on everyone because I feel like I’m looking at even 20-somethings who have a fear of aging. I watch them on social media, compulsively practicing the latest 10-second dance craze. And it feels like they’re angst and asking, is that all there is? And I just want to yell, yes, that is all there is. If all you’re going to do is settle for dancing to someone else’s TikTok beat.
Settling is very insidious. It keeps us dancing on this string, waiting for this elusive better day to miraculously appear. Now, thanks to Lolly’s tutelage, that’s not my story. In fact, I take each day as it comes by trying to make it better than the last. So, you know, I’m single, but I’m always ready to mingle. I’m an entrepreneur, but I keep multiple revenue streams. I’m a solo traveler, which means I’ve done the version of Eat, Pray, Love on six continents.
Because I don’t settle, what that means is that I also don’t second guess my decisions. And I’m also not worried about my future because I’m firmly rooted in the present.
Settling is a really sinister thing. It will keep you up at night, tossing and turning, trying to figure out why. And trying to answer that age-old question of, is that all there is? Personally, I don’t have time for that. Because the only time I want to be kept up all night long tossing and turning is when I’m in the company of a fine-ass man. That’s it.
I wish I could tell you guys that I learned all these valuable lessons from Lolly, and they were instilled in me, and it was great. But alas, I am a late bloomer in all regards. So I had to learn a couple of lessons from the era of Bitchy Bevy.
What kind of person has 10 assistants in five years? Bitchy Bevy, that’s who. Now, I didn’t start out my career with a toxic attitude. No, initially, I was really happy to be in the fashion industry. But then I began to compare my trajectory to others, and I also began to feel burned out because I was burdened by these personas that I had created that were allegedly going to help me progress in my career.
I made a couple of mistakes. One, I thought that being snarky was a good career move. It wasn’t. I also thought I looked good in the color brown. I actually don’t. In my dream montage, I wanted to get away from Bitchy Bevy. I wanted to get away from the color brown. And so in the movie version of my life, as soon as I quit my job, I’m a yoga guru.
I’m extremely limber and very happy. Come to think of it, though, guys, I’m actually limber and happy right now. But I would be lying, and I believe it is against international law to lie during a TED Talk. So I’m not going to do that. And as a matter of fact, my insecurities popped back up as late as last year. I was minding my business as one does, perusing social media, and I saw people excelling in a space where I, you know, traditionally had a lot of success.
So I’m looking at it, and I’m like, well, why the hell they didn’t call me for that job? And I have this, like, angst. And then I realized they didn’t call me for that job because you already said you didn’t want that job. You told the universe you weren’t into working like that. You don’t want a job. I really don’t.
I’m not into it. So that’s why it happened. And what I realized is that intellectually, I had grown and evolved, but emotionally, I was Tom Petty, and I was living in Petticoat Junction. I told y’all that brown doesn’t look good on me. Petty looks even worse. It’s not my shade. And so what I wound up having to do was really get a grip. I had to assess a few things about myself, and I decided to do a little self-help ritual called take a note, give a note.
And it’s easy. When you see someone having something that you believe you deserve, you take a note. You ask yourself a few questions. Is it something that you really want? Perhaps that person is better suited than you are for that. Does the universe, is the universe inspiring for you to have that? Really kind of try and be honest with who you are and where you’re at in life. Once you do that, you take a deep breath, and you say their wins have nothing to do with my worthiness.
And then you’re ready to give a note. You go on social media, and you say congratulations. Or my personal favorite, you pick up the phone like it’s the 20th century, and you say congratulations, kudos, you did that, ow, you go girl. You do all the things.
Instantly, you feel like a better human being because you have actually extended grace. You’ve extended grace. You’ve extended grace to someone else. And I believe that when you remove malice from your heart, not only do you feel better, you look better. I think you lose your frown lines, and your wrinkles lessen, and your age spots disappear. I believe it’s better than Botox, extending grace. I do. Yeah.
No, but let me get back to the note thing. So one of my favorite notes is from Willie Shakespeare, to thine own self be true. Now we’ve all read self-help books, and the first line of defense is always be your most authentic self. And I believe in that. I believe that nobody can be you but you. So you might as well show up and show out.
But here’s the quandary that the bard never put forth. What if you don’t really know who you are because you have suppressed your inner self? You’ve suppressed the core of you. You’ve suppressed the best parts of you because you took on these other identities and these personas in an effort to make your life better. Because you know, we all buy into some things about what we’re supposed to be doing and who we’re supposed to be.
So what if you’ve squelched that? Because I know I had to excavate to dig up Little Brown Bevy. But the way I found it was through three questions. Who am I at my core? How am I being perceived? How would I like to be perceived?
Who am I at my core? At my core, I’m looking to authentically connect with people. I don’t like a cursory, you know, interaction. And I do not believe in networking. I like an authentic connection. I’m also curious, and I’m adventurous, and I’m kind. And I’ve got big dreams.
How am I being perceived? Well, y’all know the nickname, Bitchy Bevy. So, duh. But here’s the problem. There’s a lot of power in that persona. And I actually really enjoyed it for a time, you know. Because you can make a lot of money being a bitch, especially in fashion. But it’s also incredibly lonely and isolating.
And I didn’t want to live that life anymore. And so, I decided to change my life. And I left all of that alone. I really did, like, just change my spirit. And leaving fashion obviously helped. And when I did that, all of a sudden, I let Little Brown Bevy out to play. Little Brown Bevy. I love her so much.
Little Brown Bevy is a nerdy girl. And so, I let my nerdy pursuits come out to play. I must have joined every museum or museum mile in New York City. I began to travel the world just to look at architecture I’d always dreamed of. I learned how to be alone without being lonely. My spirit shifted. I became a better person. You can ask people. I became a better person.
And now I get to stand here in front of you guys with no bravado, with nothing to prove. I tell you, with nothing to prove. I’m not trying to prove nothing to y’all.
Thank you. I have an open heart. And I can’t even believe that Little Brown Bevy from 150th Street and 8th Avenue, from the Hamlet of Harlem, is now an award-winning radio and TV host, an author, an actress, a creative consultant. I would do all those things for free.
But here’s the thing. I ain’t cheap, and I’m definitely not free, so don’t get any ideas. But I am here in this mama-I-made-it moment as someone who can show up as her most beviest self because I’ve done the work. Yeah, my most beviest self.
So, you know, I’m going to show up. You guys some of you’ve met me. You know I’m vibrant and boisterous, aka loud, okay? You know that I’m going to show up and I’ve got a pep in my high heel, red bottom step. I do have heaving cleavage. And I’ve got to tell it like it is, approach the life that’s always dosed with a ladle of love. It took me 55 years to get here.
So Chris Rock, you’re right. I’m a late bloomer. And that’s okay. Because I’m right on time. Because it gets greater later.
SUMMARY OF THIS TALK:
Bevy Smith’s talk, “How to Discover Your Authentic Self — at Any Age,” is a powerful and inspiring journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Here are the key takeaway points from her talk:
- Embrace Late Blooming: Bevy Smith celebrates being a late bloomer, defying societal expectations that success must come early in life. She proudly asserts that life gets better with age.
- Don’t Settle: Bevy emphasizes her mother’s lesson of not settling for a life that doesn’t fulfill you, even if it means leaving behind a successful career. She encourages others to follow their dreams and seek adventure.
- Confidence and Authenticity: Bevy draws her confidence and authenticity from her mother’s example of being a strong, independent, and self-assured woman. She believes in staying true to oneself.
- Embrace Aging: Bevy’s mother taught her to embrace aging and be proud of her age. She advises against fearing aging and instead encourages people to make peace with it.
- Avoid Settling: Settling for less than one deserves is insidious and can lead to a life filled with regrets. Bevy’s refusal to settle has allowed her to live a fulfilling life, unburdened by second-guessing or regrets.
- Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery: Bevy discusses the process of self-reflection and self-discovery, highlighting the importance of understanding one’s core values and how they are perceived by others.
- Transformation: Bevy underwent a transformation from her “Bitchy Bevy” persona to her true self. She realized the power of authenticity and the loneliness of pretending to be someone she wasn’t.
- Embrace Your True Self: Bevy found her true self by letting go of her pretenses, embracing her nerdy pursuits, and seeking genuine connections with others. She learned to be comfortable alone without feeling lonely.
- Personal Growth: Bevy’s personal growth journey allowed her to become a better person. She learned to open her heart and live a life that’s authentic and filled with love.
- It’s Never Too Late: Bevy’s journey teaches us that it’s never too late to discover your true self and live a life that aligns with your values and passions. She emphasizes that everyone can find their own path to greatness, regardless of age.
Bevy Smith’s talk serves as a reminder that authenticity and self-discovery are lifelong processes, and it’s never too late to live a fulfilling and meaningful life on your own terms.
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