Who Do You Think You Are?

In my Child Development class, we recently watched a Ted Talk by Caroline McHugh. In this Talk titled, “The Art of Being Yourself,” McHugh discussed individual identity. Specifically, one part that really stuck with me was her view of the word “just.” A frequently used phrase for advice is “just be yourself.” McHugh points out several things she sees is wrong with using the word “just” in that phrase. First, she claims that just implies that “being yourself” is easy, and second, the word “just” claims that this is an “original piece of advice,” as if someone couldn’t think of it themselves. I never thought about it before listening to her Talk, but after hearing her view I would agree; the word “just” seems to change them meaning as if it is something that can be easily done. Is interesting to me that using the word just can change the meaning of the phrase.

This reminded me of our class work with the academic probation letters; specifically, in Ian Chipman’s “The Power of Realistic Expectations” Urstein’s and his researchers revised the letter given to students placed on academic probation from saying Academic Probation to academic probation. Urstein shares that by not using capital letters they reframed being on academic probation from a “status” to a “process.” By changing the letters, students began to see their position as a situation that can be changed, rather than as a “fixed” position. This change caused student report “lower feelings of shame” and be more likely to ask for help. It’s crazy how simply changing letters or words around can completely change the way one perceives advice or information given to them.

Another thing McHugh shared that I especially liked she said when she was when she was talking about several successful and why they are successful. She then said “Your job is not to be anything like any of [these] people… In fact, your job is to be as unlike them as you can possibly be. Your only job… is to be good at being you.” This reminded me of Reflective Writing and its section “Doing the Groundwork.” This section is about writing “your story.” Specifically, the part that claims that “plenty of people have done XYZ, but no one will have precisely your take on it or way of expressing it.” Both McHugh and Reflective Writing emphasize the value of each individual. They both claim that many people have similar goals in life, but the paths that each person takes is different.

This last chapter of Reflective Writing begins with the question “What’s your story?” In a similar way, McHugh asks a question that she believes is “the simplest and most complicated question you’ll ever ask: who do you think you are?”

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