Last week I was asked to speak to the Post Oak Chapter of National Charity League (NCL). NCL is a group of moms and their middle school through high school age daughters who volunteer for various agencies needing help in their communities.
I had so much fun addressing this group and wanted to share my message here on the blog as well. I mention some aspects of my journey growing up, and I really wanted to encourage the girls to embrace their uniqueness and gifts, which is sometimes hard to do at their age. So here’s my NCL talk. I hope you enjoy it.
As I started to think about what I wanted to say to you today, I began to think about what an organization like NCL and ELAINE TURNER have in common. My brand purpose is to use fashion as a platform to connect and empower women and to give back and change lives in the process; much like that of NCL who strives to foster strong mother-daughter relationships and give back to the community. So, it must be serendipitous that I am here today speaking to all of you. It’s all about empowering women and serving others. Amen to that.
Just to tell you a little bit about myself, I grew up in Sugar Land just around the corner. I come from a creative, entrepreneurial family and was told at a young age I had a gift for fashion. My mom encouraged me and told me it was my own unique form of self expression. I guess you could say that my talent in fashion did, in fact, manifest into a career, but I’ve also discovered so much more about myself on this journey. I’ve turned my SO CALLED talent into more of a purpose.
I’ve come to discover that even though fashion was my chosen career path, there was more I was supposed to do with it. I’ve used this platform to connect and empower women and change lives and make a difference. It’s been a long journey for me in finding the deeper meaning in my talents, my own uniqueness, and my gifts to share with the world. In essence, it hasn’t just been a one dimensional road of using fashion to make money and build a business. It’s been about something much deeper, as I have discovered a part of myself in this journey that I never expected. I am in the process of discovering my true self — my authenticity, my voice, my power, my place in the world.
This is what I wanted to talk to you about today, the journey of becoming who you are truly meant to be, how can you discover who you are by embracing what makes you different and using that difference to find your purpose.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that the word “purpose” is a lofty word. I sometimes get intimidated when people use it because we are always being told to find our true purpose and that places a lot of pressure on us. So I want to clarify to you that when I use the word purpose, I am talking about finding that place where you feel like you are truly being who you were meant to be, where you are existing in a place of truth and authenticity.
As I thought more about the idea of embracing your uniqueness and discovering who you really are, I thought about my daughter, Marlie. Marlie is twelve years old and has special needs. She’s different and she is aware of her differences; being in a club like NCL would prove to be challenging for her. She would be desperately trying to fit in and be what we all perceive as so called “normal.”
But, I challenge you all to think just for a minute — what if the exact things that make us different are exactly what we are supposed to bring into this world? Even for me being her mother, I at times feel different. Not everyone has a special needs child and at times, you feel alone, searching for like minded people and a sense of understanding. I’ve had to work through this and realize that this is exactly why I am here. Having this beautiful, incredible daughter is a huge part of my journey on this earth and I am constantly asking myself, “What can I take from this to help others? How can I positively impact others through my own unique experience?”
We all have differences. We all have our own unique blueprint that makes us exactly who we are. An example I can share is one of my best friends is adopted. I remember very distinctly that she didn’t want to tell me. We were roommates in college and had lived with each other for over a year before she told me she was adopted. I remember asking her why did you wait so long to tell me this and she said, “Because I didn’t want you to think I was different.” That’s such a natural response for a young woman trying to to find her way in the world, but it’s also a sad truth that we don’t feel free to truly own our unique stories.
You all are at an age where you are just probably starting to think about who you are and you are asking yourself all types of questions — what am I good at? What am I not good at? (Or, what do I “perceive” myself to not be good at?) What do I love? What do I dislike? What do I have a passion for? There is probably a part of you that squashes what you might have a natural inclination for because you just don’t trust it or you think you are weird for liking something your friends don’t or that somehow what you like or what you are good at isn’t okay because it’s not like everyone else.
This is completely natural and a necessary step in your development and we all succumb to this type of thinking from time to time. We are all walking a fine line of striving to be our own person while also remaining firmly grounded in a community, as we all need and have a sense of wanting to belong. This is the quandary that we all face and you girls are are smack dab at the crossroads of figuring all that out. How do I remain a part of the group without sacrificing my sense of self?
Today I encourage you to challenge the feelings that make you question who you are. Listen to the messages you are being sent. It’s so easy to dismiss your intuition and not trust your gut in favor of following the group. Allow yourself to question those self-created myths that can inhibit you from being who you are truly meant to be. These constructs can be self created but they can also be built based on the messages we receive from society, pop culture, teachers, friends and even parents.
At a very young age, we are told who we are. And in some ways that’s comforting and offers us a template to follow, but as we get older these labels can limit our growth. We might hear – you are the funny one, you are the smart one, you are the athletic one, you are the chubby one, you are the skinny one. All of these labels penetrate our psyche and if we aren’t careful they can stifle us from becoming who we were meant to be. We are not labels. We are human beings with a soul and purpose on this earth. We are so much more than any word or blueprint could ever describe.
For example, I come from a family of writers. My parents own a publishing company and my brother and sister are both incredible writers. I just never thought I was a good writer because everyone around me already was. I was the funny one. I was the good athlete. I was good at fashion. These labels seem harmless at the time but then you grow up you realize how deeply embedded they have become inside of you.
Well, over this past year, I began to write more and more for my blog and I’ve loved it. It’s been a new a part of myself that I am discovering. It’s been healing and extremely satisfying for me to express myself through words, but I cannot lie, I often find myself sitting and staring at the blank screen thinking: who the heck do you think you are? You are not a writer.
Well, after I had posted several pieces my mom called and said, “Elaine, I had no idea what an incredible writer you are. You have a gift.” Somehow my writing talent decided to show itself a little later in life and thank God it did! If I hadn’t had the courage to listen to my gut and begin to write, it would still be buried deep within, another gift unrealized.
So I ask you — is there something you have already decided you are not good at? Is there a self limiting story you have decided is true? Is there a part of you, you are rejecting or hiding because you don’t feel it’s normal? Well folks, I’m here to tell you — normal is overrated. Learn to QUESTION these internal myths and bring them to the surface and ask yourself is that really true? I can guarantee you most of the time, these stories are self made, false and completely untrue.
Let me just say, I know it’s not easy figuring out who you are, what you are good at and what inspires you. Honestly, I’m a little suspect of people who think they have all the answers at a young age because in reality answers are slowly revealed over a long period of time. We are always in a constant state of learning and growing. It never ends. But if my words can bring something to light or help you redefine yourself in a more positive way then I have done my job.
I’ll leave you with some food for thought. I started to think about talking to the 15-year old me and this is what I would want to tell her:
– DO YOU! Embrace who you are, even the parts you wish were different. Those parts are usually where the answers reside. I always wished my laugh wasn’t so loud and that I wasn’t so emotional, but I have slowly come to realize all of those things are why I am uniquely me and they are gifts I bring into this world.
– Let go of perfectionism because it doesn’t exist. Laugh at yourself and the world, and don’t take it all so seriously. I say this especially now in this day and age, you guys are exposed to a false sense of reality through social media and pop culture. It’s dangerous to link your self worth to how many “likes” or “followers” you have. Remember to stay grounded in who you are and what you know to be true. Existing in real life with its messy, flawed moments with friends and family is the gateway to a fulfilled sense of self.
– Stay humble and listen to your mentors. There is wisdom in knowing what you don’t know.
–Stay open minded, adaptable and always remain curious. Let go of the idea that it all has to be a certain way. Look at the opportunities that come across your path with eager eyes. There is always something to be gained in any task. No matter what you think “should” be doing, stay focused on what you “are” doing because the present task could lead to things you never imagined. Be flexible on your journey. Don’t live in resistance, know that there is meaning in the struggle and there is a reason expectations go unmet. Those obstacles can lead you to the truth.
– Don’t be indifferent about what you stand for. Have the courage to stand up for what’s right. You never know, you could be the person who stopped an unkind act from occurring. Indifference can be the source of so much destruction.
–Develop grit. You have to build a certain amount of resilience in life. Don’t give up even when people tell you you aren’t going to make it. Always remember that other people’s feedback and criticism usually has more to do with them than you. Don’t allow a few dark days or unforeseen obstacles veer you off your path.
And lastly and most importantly:
–Have faith. Have faith in the process, have faith in the outcome, always know there is something much bigger out there that has your back. If we aren’t careful, we can easily allow the fear to creep in, but the real antidote to fear is faith and love. Just remember we are not in this alone.
I believe we are here to bring our own unique gifts into the world and it’s our job to figure out what those gifts are and to manifest them with others. You are exactly who you are for a reason. So I say to you now:
Be YOU. There is no one else in the world like you, so embrace HER and see where SHE takes you.
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