Here is the full transcript of Trista Sutter’s TED Talk on The Value of YOU at TEDxVail conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: The Value of YOU by Trista Sutter at TEDxVail
Trista Sutter – original Bachelorette
It was May 17, 2015, and a handful of today’s speakers were on our very first conference call. All from different towns, it was a way for us to virtually meet and introduce ourselves, learn about the process, and get started on our TEDXVail journey.
We heard from Stephen who has been studying the nature of consciousness for 40 years. Daniel who would be creating unique intro songs for every single one of the speakers today, on top of doing an enlightening talk of his own. And Ira who not only would be speaking about something so globally important as the prevention of nuclear war, but his organization is none other than a past recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. And that was just three of them.
When it came time for my turn, my self worth had been beaten down so badly by my insecure inner demons that I said, “I wish that I could say that my life has been as meaningful as all of yours, but really, I’m most known for handing out roses on the first season of reality show called ‘The Bachelorette’, where, crazy enough, I met and fell in love with the man of my dreams. Marrying him in what some said were overly pink nuptials that just so happened to be aired on national television. And now, I’m just a mom.”
Sitting on that call and envisioning this day I couldn’t even come close to picturing myself sharing the stage with such remarkable people. It didn’t matter that I had actually written a book on gratitude, the very reason I was nominated to speak, in the naturally grateful section of today’s talks. My demons were telling me that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t important enough, and I wasn’t at all worthy.
My fellow speakers had titles, status, talent, and inspirational messages to share. I had mommy brain, three loads of laundry to fold, a pile of bills to pay, and was feeling the need to go hide under my covers. I got off the phone and thought, “I feel so honored that they even considered me, but no one is going to want to hear what I have to say.” At least that was my initial reaction.
I replayed the conversation later for my husband Ryan, and when I got to the “just a mom” part, it reminded me of how I was feeling during a conversation I’d had with my kids especially my son Max, just the year before. It was a couple of days before the first day of school and to keep up with the Mommy Joneses, I was preparing the Pinterest-inspired poster boards that Max and Blakesley, my kids, would naturally hold for the obligatory photo commemorating the day. I planned to include the year, their grade, and just for fun, what they wanted to be when they grew up.
So I asked them both. Blakesley, our very ambitious girly girl immediately jumped up and said she wanted to be a dancer, a singer, a teacher, an artist, a movie maker, a nail person, a hair person, a veterinarian, a physical therapist, and a mom. Max, our introverted boys boy took his time; after a bit I looked down at him and said, “What do you think bud?” Finally, after a few minutes, he looked up at me and said, “I want to be like you, Mom. I want to do nothing.” Wait, wait, what? How could he have said that I do nothing? Does he think that I do nothing? That I’m just a mom? And there it was, those three little words: “Just a Mom.”
But this time, my inner demons were pushing me to go on the defensive. Doesn’t he know that I do anything but do nothing especially when it comes to our home and our family? I mean, I know that I don’t have a flashy title like race car driver, inventor, or CEO, or lawyer, or even firefighter like his Dad, but it’s not like I sit around on our couch all day long. Just like all the other hard working stay-at-home parents I know, I spend my days picking up this, putting that away, cooking, cleaning, planning, sending, painting, driving, and anything else necessary to help keep a roof over my family’s heads, food in our bellies, and smiles on our faces.
To think that he didn’t appreciate or recognize that made me question my value, especially, when his innocent honesty hadn’t yet been jaded by what he should say. So it had to be the truth, right?
Well, looking back, it was, it was his truth. He’s a very competitive and determined kid who gets upset if his best isn’t the best. So I know that one day, he’ll dream bigger than wanting to be like me, a self-professed, stay-at-home and work mom, minus the mom part of course.
With a little reflection, I have since chosen to believe that in Max’s case, what he said was an incredible compliment. He saw being just a mom as being happy and fulfilled, giving the phrase the most positive of connotations. In my case, when I used those three little words during the conference call was I being positive? Not so much. I said that I was just a mom as a way to protect myself and beat my fellow speakers to the punch in judging me. They were renowned from the worlds of art, science, education, and athleticism. I was infamous from reality TV, and I felt like if I let them know how worthless I was feeling in comparison to them, then maybe, it wouldn’t hurt so much if they came out and said they felt that way themselves. Sound familiar to anyone?
Ever said that you were just “a something”? Like “Oh, I’m just a teacher,” or “I’m just a volunteer,” “I’m just a student” for exactly the same reasons? If so, then you should know that what I’ve learned is instead of protecting yourself you’re actually the one holding the hammer that’s chipping away at your own self-worth, and that is a hammer you can control. In a world where just about anybody can connect to the Internet, hammers can come from all different directions now, vocalizing criticisms for everyone to see on websites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s easier than ever before and also usually without consequence. I know so from both feeling hurt and regrettably causing hurt with the words I’ve typed.
We’ve been given an incredible resource to instantly connect with people everywhere, and speak our mind, but with that privilege of free speech and connection can come judgment. Even if you have a life to be grateful for, and I most certainly do, it’s hard to not brace for the worst with the past that includes any amount of judgment.
I’ve lived a life in the public eye for 15 years, I’ve had so many wonderful people lift me up with their kindness. I’ve also experienced the wrath of people hiding behind their computers and posting their criticisms on message boards back in the day, comment sections of interviews I’ve been asked to do, and even on my personal social media pages. I’ve been told that some think of me as an inspiration to women and light in the world. I’ve been thanked for being a perfectly imperfect role-model and honored in hearing that children have been named after me.
On the flip side, I’ve been told that I’m a short wrinkled old bag face and sad, pathetic loser. I’ve literally read that I should do everyone a favor and off myself, that nobody cares, and that I don’t matter. I tried to brush it off and not play into any negativity, but when someone I most likely will never meet is telling me that I don’t matter, it’s really easy for me to summon the courage to verbally fight back.
Sadly enough though, when that negativity is coming from inside myself, my insecurities usually win out and fighting back against my own demons seems impossible. But why is that? Why is it so much easier to let the bad stuff win out than fight back and lift myself up from the inside? I cower to my own negativity all too easily, and I know that I’m not alone. Just as we should fight to defend ourselves against someone else’s malice, we should fight to defend ourselves against our own personal inner demons.
So do me a favor, just as I need to do, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re “just” an anything, especially yourself. You deserve the same praise, effort, and validation, that hopefully, you give to all of your favorite people. Make yourself a priority, put time in every day into building a foundation of strength rooted at your core, through inward reflection and gratitude. Whether it’s making a mental note of one of your strengths, jotting down a favorite memory in a jar or journal, or waking up to a minute of positive mediation, do something. We all have value no matter if we’re a distinguished scientist, talented musician, super cool race car driver, heroic fire fighter, inspirational teacher, selfless volunteer, or a devoted stay-at-home and work mom.
Live your life knowing that you are unique, important, and worthy no matter your title, or lack thereof. Be grateful for the gifts you bring, be grateful for the life you lead, be grateful for who you are now, and who you will continue to grow to be.
My name is Trista Sutter, and I am a mom.