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Home » Julie Lythcott-Haims: Be Your Authentic Self TEDxStanford (Full Transcript)

Julie Lythcott-Haims: Be Your Authentic Self TEDxStanford (Full Transcript)

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Julie Lythcott-Haims – TRANSCRIPT

This is a storytelling session, so I’m going to begin my talk with a story. Once upon a time, a child came upon a butterfly struggling to emerge from its chrysalis. And filled with compassion, the child helped by peeling back the papery shell, and soon, the butterfly emerged. But it could not fly.

As it turns out, the butterfly needed the process of struggling on its own in order to be able to fly. As a college dean, I’ve spent a lot of time observing 18- to 24-year-old humans in their natural habitat. It is a true joy to work with this population, to be alongside them as they emerge. But I have to say, what worries me and my colleagues nation-wide is the steady decline in the number of them who seem capable of going out into the world as adults. And set against the backdrop of this context, to me, the butterfly allegory is a warning.

I am also a parent, and I know we parents want to do all we can for our kids, but I’m worried that in American middle and upper-middle class society today, with the best of intentions, we’ve constructed what I call “the padded cell of childhood.” Nervous giggle. Do you know what I am talking about? Everything is safe; everything is planned. We tell them they are great, we solve their problems, we are there to catch them and prevent them from falling or failing, and within the padded cell, they are protected from having to figure things out on their own, from having to cope with disappointment, from learning what makes them happy. We hover, we hover over them to ensure their success, poised to intervene when needed. And you know what the message we send is when we do that?

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