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Home » Say your truths and seek them in others: Elizabeth Lesser (Transcript)

Say your truths and seek them in others: Elizabeth Lesser (Transcript)

Elizabeth Lesser at TED Talks


Like many of us, I’ve had several careers in my life, and although they’ve been varied, my first job set the foundation for all of them.

I was a home-birth midwife throughout my 20s. Delivering babies taught me valuable and sometimes surprising things, like how to start a car at 2 a.m. when it’s 10 degrees below zero.

Or how to revive a father who’s fainted at the sight of blood. Or how to cut the umbilical cord just so, to make a beautiful belly button.

But those aren’t the things that stuck with me or guided me when I stopped being a midwife and started other jobs. What stuck with me was this bedrock belief that each one of us comes into this world with a unique worth.

When I looked into the face of a newborn, I caught a glimpse of that worthiness, that sense of unapologetic selfhood, that unique spark. I use the word “soul” to describe that spark, because it’s the only word in English that comes close to naming what each baby brought into the room.

Every newborn was as singular as a snowflake, a matchless mash-up of biology and ancestry and mystery.

And then that baby grows up, and in order to fit into the family, to conform to the culture, to the community, to the gender, that little one begins to cover its soul, layer by layer.

We’re born this way, but —

But as we grow, a lot of things happen to us that make us want to hide our soulful eccentricities and authenticity. We’ve all done this. Everyone in this room is a former baby with a distinctive birthright.

But as adults, we spend so much of our time uncomfortable in our own skin, like we have ADD: authenticity deficit disorder. But not those babies — not yet.

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