To Be, Or Not To Be Yourself? This is the title of a 6-minute speech I gave last year in Toastmasters.
If you are one of my clients, chances are I talked to you about Toastmasters; I am a big fan - and a member. If you have never heard of it, Toastmasters is a worldwide organization whose members teach each other public speaking. The way it works is that you choose a series of speeches to deliver and the first one is always an ice-breaker - you have to talk about yourself.
After a few years, I rejoined my Toastmasters group and of course had to start with (gasp!) an ice breaker speech again. Today I want to share the audio recording and transcript of that speech with you in which I talked about what shifted for me when it comes to "being myself."
Here's the audio recording of my icebreaker speech "To be or not to be yourself?" + find transcript and images below. Enjoy!
Victoria: Aurora Meneghello is excited to be back at Century City Toastmasters and the icebreaker speech is still her least favorite. Aurora is originally from Italy, but has lived in California since she was 19 years old. She's a Transformational Coach and is looking forward to practicing, sharing some concepts in her speeches that she finds hard to express, starting with speech #1 "To be, or not to be yourself." Please join me in welcoming Aurora.
Aurora Meneghello: Thank you, Victoria, and good morning, everybody. I'm excited to be back.
So "Be yourself, everybody else is already taken." I am gonna put this quote right here on the screen, and I'm gonna ask you if you've ever heard it before. Yeah. I see a lot of nods. Okay. Some of you. And do you know who said that?
Well, apparently it's attributed to Oscar Wilde. And one thing that you have to know about me is that I have been a huge Oscar Wilde fan since I was maybe in second or third grade and I read his short stories for children. And since high school he's been my Patron Saint, I even have the Oscar Wilde doll. Yes, there is an Oscar Wilde doll.
So this "being yourself" as a teenager in Italy, I was of course obsessed with being myself and how to be myself and how to be my different self.
And when I was 19 years old, I moved to Los Angeles to study filmmaking and again, an ardent commitment to being myself through filmmaking school. And also when I moved to San Francisco to study photography.
If you've been around artists, or if you've been to art school, you know, there's a huge emphasis on finding your voice, expressing yourself, being original and communicating what comes from the self. During that time, I also had a therapist for years who was very much into setting some boundaries and finding yourself, teaching people how to treat you, making sure you are assertive and speak for yourself.
When I look back, I have to ask myself, was I happy? Did this really help? Did I feel more like myself? And the answer is Yes, sometimes I was happy. And it was mostly when I forgot about myself. And a lot of this being myself brought up a lot of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness, right? Which is not a good word. We do not wanna be self-conscious. Try giving a speech being self-conscious. It took me a long time to see this correlation between the self-consciousness and the commitment and the interest and the effort of being myself. And it wasn't until I moved back to Los Angeles, I changed careers and I worked in marketing and I started to bump into things that were not working - and yet I had worked so hard to be myself!
On December 30th, 2015, I made a commitment, a different commitment. This time I made a hard commitment to letting go of the self. I started to see that the controlling and the judging and the trying to do things go my way, because it was me, was actually keeping me separate from life from other people, from something deeper. And it took a while.
But as I let go of the self, something unexpected and spontaneous started to appear. I spontaneously started to drop in what I call a different Self, the Self that doesn't have a small s, but the Self with the big S, where you are not there at all, you don't feel yourself at all. And yet, who else are you gonna be? It comes through you in your own flavor. And yet it's in everybody.
So imagine my surprise when last week I looked up this Oscar Wilde quote, because I was curious, is this really Oscar Wilde? And I found out, mmm, actually it is not. It is just attributed to him. This quote comes in fact from Thomas Merton, who was a Trappist monk and a Catholic priest, and wrote an essay in 1967. And it's not even a quote from him. It's a paraphrase of what he was trying to say. And this is what he wrote:
"In an age where there is much talk about 'being yourself' I reserve to myself the right to forget about being myself, since in any case there is very little chance of my being anyone else. Rather it seems to me that when one is too intent on 'being himself' he runs the risk of impersonating a shadow."
I guess I had to go through my own realization before I could fully appreciate Thomas Merton's words. But now I feel like all I have to do is relax out of self-consciousness and where else am I gonna drop but in my own self.
My name is Aurora Meneghello and I'm very excited to be back at Century City Toastmaster. Thank you.
Victoria: Thank you so much, Aurora, truly.