Following is the full transcript of 21-year-old South African model, and motivational speaker Caitlyn Roux’s TEDx Talk: Self-Love, Be Intentional at TEDxYouth@CapeTown conference. This event occurred on October 13, 2017.
I have a question for everyone. That question is: what defines you as a person? What makes you you?
A lot of us tend to define ourselves through our physical image of jobs, or bank balance and a lot of the time to what others have to say about us. I used to define myself through three things.
In high school, I was quite the people pleaser. I wanted everyone to like me because I thought that the more likeable I was the further that I would get in life, because being popular was so cool. And I tried so hard to become this person that everyone would like. A majority of the time I was living my life through other people’s opinions of me.
From the age of 16, I started to obsess over my weight. I wanted to look like the cover girl in Cosmo magazine, you know, the Photoshop one. My diet consisted of just salads and used to [leech-eat] on every single calorie that my body was consuming. I even went to the extreme of harming my body for many years to try and get rid of the food that I’d eaten because I needed the thigh gap and I needed the thin waist.
I was in a relationship for the last two years of school, and I truly believed that my happiness came from someone else giving it to me. I had put so much pressure on this other person to be everything to me, to make me feel worthy and make me feel like I was enough.
And then when the relationship ended, I was completely broken. I didn’t know how I was going to stand on my own and I felt like I lost a little sense of identity that I had and I was terrified of being alone.
I know today that the only reason I felt so empty and broken inside was because I didn’t know myself at all. So it was the hardest five months – the hardest and most emotional five months of my life, and I didn’t know how to deal with how I was feeling all this pain, all this emotion. And one day I called the person that I used to be with, and I asked: are you happy? And he said yes. And it was from that moment that I decided that I was going to be happy. And that I was going to find the happiness that worked for me, that I wasn’t going to deal with this pain and these waves of emotion anymore.
So I started journaling my breakup. I wrote down my feelings, and my thoughts. And recently looking back on my journal, I realized how would end my writing off with positive affirmations towards myself — things like you can do this, Caits, and I’m a huge fan of quotes. So I was putting quotes all around my room in places that I could see the view. And I started reading motivational books on positivity and powerful thoughts and how to change your mind. I was trying everything to get through how I was feeling something that seemed so impossible. But just like these positive affirmations that I was writing towards myself, I knew that I had the strength to move on. I just didn’t know how strong I actually was.
So I had to pick myself up in some way and I did. I slowly started to… and for the first time in my life I realized just how capable I actually was of standing on my own and being my own person. I just had to learn through loss, that all I needed to have was me.
So for the whole of high school I laid those three things define me: Other people’s opinions of me; my weights; relationship. And by allowing these things to define me I let them control and consume my life. And I was looking for happiness in those three places but I could never ever seem to quite find it.
I believe that happiness is something that you create for yourself, by yourself, on your own terms. The world that we live in is something that we create for ourselves. And I’m not talking about society’s world. I’m talking about the individual world that each and every one of us experience because as we shape our world and our lives, we shape ourselves too.
So I’ve learned through picking myself up through a breakup and letting go of the things that I thought define me. Just how important it was for me to take the time out to figure myself out, get inside my own mind and understand myself. And there’s only one part of the universe we can all be certain about improving, and that’s ourselves.
I’m currently reading a book called the The 15 Invaluable Laws by John Maxwell and in this book he says something that really made me think. He says, “As children, our bodies automatically. A year goes by we get taller; we become stronger, become capable of doing more things, facing new challenges. But a lot of people carry with them a subconscious belief into adulthood, that spiritual mental and emotional growth occurs automatically, too”.
Now just think about that for a second. Because I was one of those people that believed that those things occur automatically but it’s not. Personal growth has to be intentional. We have to take ownership of our growth process, because we do not simply improve by accident. Think about a close friend of yours. The longer you spend time with them, the more you learn about them, and the closer you become. And it’s exactly the same with yourself. The more you focus your energy on getting to know yourself, spending time by yourself, the more you will learn about yourself and the closer you will become to yourself and let me tell you that is such a beautiful feeling when you realize how close you are becoming to yourself.
I’ve decided to make myself a priority in my life. And self-discovery is the best gift that I’m giving myself and it’s the one gift I wish I could give each and every one of you who don’t have it already. It has allowed me to grow in my own terms, without someone else telling me how to. And by doing this I’m becoming the person I want to be rather than the person I was told to be.
And a lot of people think that putting yourself first is selfish, but putting yourself first simply means taking — for me it simply means taking a stand, looking at yourself and saying that I’m going to do everything in my power to see myself succeed and reach my dreams. I’m going to make the best choices in my life, including the people that I surround myself with — people that add nothing but value to me.
And once you decide to love who you are, you can then take that love that you have for yourself and spread it to other people, because without that self-love, you limit your ability to pour into the lives of other people and add value to them. Living the best version of yourself inspires other people to live the best version of themselves, too.
I was speaking to one of my friends the other day, and she asked me two questions. She said, “Caitlyn, how did you decide that you wanted to make a change in your life within yourself and your mindset?” And secondly, “How did you make it stick?”
So I had to think quite hard about what she asked me. But I said to her: I knew that I wanted to make a change in my life the moment that I decided that I was going to be the only person that was going to determine my happiness. That I was going to be the only person I was going to define me, not those three things.