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.
I began to think about this transition as they call it in the transgender community. I began to think about what it meant to our family. For our son who had been born in a body that just didn’t feel right, it meant fully owning who he was all along at his core.
For us, yes, it meant using a new name and gender, but still appreciating he was the same person inside. I decided to see it as a chance to make my own transition too: to become a better person, a more tolerant person, a person who speaks up for an act in the interest of the LGBT community, and many other victims of discrimination.
Transgender kids, and adults have been in the news a lot lately. I’m very happy about all the progress and support but the haters have also come out of the closet, saying nothing, doing nothing. That wasn’t an option for me anymore.
That would be like openly attacking my own son and all the other brave and beautiful individuals carving out their own paths in the face of such hatred and adversity.
I chose to see it differently. I chose to see our situation as an opportunity and a blessing. I chose to do the right thing, which I thought was the hard thing. But actually, it wasn’t that hard.
You see, we always have a choice, unconditional love and acceptance, or change. We either unconditionally love and accept ourselves, or those parts of ourselves, or our situation, or we change something which is mustn’t stay stuck and unhappy.
Think about a physical aspect of yourself that you don’t really like. It could be anything. You’re not going to say it out loud.
Got it in your mind? Okay, well with the exception of your height or maybe the size of your feet, I think you’d agree that you could change just about anything else if you really wanted to. Your hair color, hair style, we do it all the time, eye color, got these fancy contact lenses nowadays.
How about your weight? I’m an expert in this one having lost 100 pounds. It was the same 20 pounds five times but still.
All right, thinking about that aspect of yourself if you had to choose between unconditional love and acceptance, or change, which would you choose? And if it’s something that you really can’t change, like your height, I suggest you choose unconditional love and acceptance.
Now think about an aspect of your character or personality or behavior of yours that you don’t really like. Could you change it? Could you become more patient? Less nervous? More generous, less angry?
Again, if you had to choose between unconditional love and acceptance, or change, which would you choose? Thinking about these things make some people feel defensive or upset.
Some people even make excuses for their personality defects. They say to me, that’s just the way I am, I’ve always been short tempered, I’ve never been very organized. This is resistance. Plain and simple.
We know it’s going to be hard or painful or scary to make a change, and we think it’s easier not to change. But there may come a time when you look at yourself and say enough. There may come a time when you can’t lie to yourself and others any longer.
There may come a time when it’s actually easier to make the change, then have things stay as they are. Now that time might be right now, it might be tomorrow, it might be next week, it might be when something comes along and shakes up your world, like what happened to me.
Or it could be every single conscious moment of every day. Becoming aware is what we call mindfulness these days. Living consciously or mindfully means staying aware and choosing to improve ourselves or our situation all the time.
When someone close to you makes a change that affects you too and makes you feel angry or fearful, you can use that anger or fear as a catalyst for change.
If your son or daughter, father or mother, sister or brother is going through their own battle or change, it’s up to you how you deal with it, and how fast. They may tell you they’re gay, or trans or struggling with debt, or getting divorced, they may have a life-threatening illness and addiction, they may be depressed, self-harming.
When something happens in your life that you didn’t expect, or maybe didn’t want, you can stick your head in the sand like I did at first, or you can choose to change something, including yourself.
If someone you know is going through something, ask yourself, could I do something to change this? What could I do? What if I just changed my attitude about it? Ask yourself if you could choose unconditional love and acceptance, so that you could move forward.
Now, I’m not perfect. I still don’t always get this right. And I’m still learning and changing. For example, the other day, I learned that we shouldn’t say we’re being tolerant, did you know that means we’re tolerating a person or a situation.
I learned that, and I learned about the two options that I’ve been talking about, by openly planning and discussing this TEDx talk with my amazing son. He’s a really talented communicator, and a very good friend to many, including me.
But mostly, I learned that we’re not always doing the best we can with the resources we have. We’re not, we could usually do better but that involves changing ourselves.
In my case, I had done a lot of studying, attended a lot of seminars, read a lot of personal development books and yet I still wasn’t doing what I knew I could and should be doing. This is tough, it’s not easy looking in the mirror and admitting that we’re not doing our best. But that’s exactly where we need to start.
These days, I constantly ask myself: am I doing my best right now? Am I really doing my best, or could I do more? Could I do better? Is it time to choose unconditional love and acceptance, or is it time to change something?
And sometimes we need to change ourselves to be ourselves.
Download This Transcript as PDF here: Sometimes You Need to Change Yourself to Be Yourself_ Mindy Gibbins-Klein (Transcript)
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