Full text of speaker and trainer Mindy Gibbins-Klein’s talk: Sometimes You Need to Change Yourself to Be Yourself at TEDxHolyhead conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Sometimes You Need to Change Yourself to Be Yourself by Mindy Gibbins-Klein at TEDxHolyhead
Be yourself, just be yourself. Hashtag Be yourself.
I see this every day, all over the internet and social media. Lots of people say it, you may have even said it yourself at some point.
It’s a popular phrase, but it can be a bit over simplistic and trite. And for some people instead of helping them to feel better, the phrase “Be Yourself” actually causes a lot of anxiety.
How to be yourself is not always clear and not always easy. And some people really don’t like themselves. Therefore, they’re not sure they want to be themselves.
Three years ago, I came home from a business trip, tired and jet lagged. There was a letter waiting for me on the kitchen table. The postmark was Bradford, where my eldest was at university.
As I opened that letter, I had no idea that my life was about to change beyond all recognition. One word jumped off the page at me. Transgender. What? I’d heard the word but I didn’t really know what it meant.
What it means is feeling like you were born in the wrong body or gender. I didn’t understand what was going on. I had a little girl who grew up to be a big girl who was now telling me that she was a boy. All my dreams for how life was going to turn out were shattered in that moment.
The letter went on, to ask us to refer to him by his new name and gender. I didn’t want to know about this. I couldn’t handle a big disruptive change in my life. All I knew is my kid was coming home in just four days and I was tired and jet lagged from my trip. I deal with this later.
So my son came home. We didn’t talk about it on the day he came home; we didn’t talk about it the next day, or the following day.
A week went by, then two weeks, then three, a month, two months. For two full months, I resisted the reality of the situation. I didn’t want to talk about it or even think about it. We cook together, ate dinner together, wash the dishes together.
We talked about all kinds of other things but never that subject. For two full months, we all tiptoed around a pretty big elephant in the room.
Now I knew exactly what I was doing. I was hoping it would all blow over and go away. I could pretend it wasn’t happening. If I thought about it, I could get myself really upset about it. Why did this happen? What had I done to create it? Had I been a bad mother?
I knew I traveled a lot and worked a lot. Maybe I hadn’t been there for him. We women can be really good at the guilt and blaming ourselves. I also had the grieving process to go through.
When my husband and I had this news presented to us, we couldn’t just instantly be fine with It, it was a big shock. It was a classic case of the five stages of grief and I had been alternating between denial and anger with a bit of depression thrown in for good measure. I had definitely lost my sparkle.
Then one day I happened to read an article about transgender issues. A strong feeling came over me and I knew I couldn’t lie to myself any longer. I hadn’t been acting like the kind of person I wanted to be. I’d been acting like some horrible person, somebody I would detest if I bumped into them in the street.
I call myself a thoughtful leader, I hadn’t been acting thoughtfully at all and I couldn’t be that person any longer.
So I went up the stairs and opened the door to his room, I stepped across all the clothes and papers on the floor, maybe it was a boy. I sat down on the end of his bed.
What’s going on mom?
You know… he knew, he knew exactly what I was talking about, and he shook his head.
No, Mom, you don’t understand, you don’t realize what some of my friends had to go through, being kicked out of the house, disowned.
And then he said something to me he must have heard me say many times before. He said: you’re only doing the best you can with the resources you have.
Wow, I am doing the best I can with the resources I have. I felt so free and lighthearted. I gave him a big hug and I went downstairs.