12 Must-See TED Talks for Purposeful Women


TED talks are amazing resources of motivation, innovative theories, and powerful ideas across a range of topics and interests. While the wide variety of themes is in part what makes TED a popular concept, the sheer volume of talks accumulated since TED launched its first symposium can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are some fellow TED talk enthusiasts out there who sift through the horde and come up with neat little lists for your viewing pleasure. This list, from blogger Erica Layne, gives you twelve of the most powerful and inspiring TED talks given by or for purposeful women. Whether you’re a lady yourself or you just love seeing strong-minded women motivating and helping one another, these twelve talks are sure to get your gears turning. Enjoy!

When my husband first started cueing TED talks for us, I’d try to convince him to go for Modern Family instead. But it wasn’t long before I caught on. A TED talk means you are twenty minutes away from feeling like you can do amazing things. I’ve spent a lot of time narrowing it down, and these are my twelve favorite TED talks for purposeful women. Happy viewing!

1. Lessons from the Mental Hospital by Glennon Doyle Melton. Although at first glance this talk seems to be about the grip of addiction, it’s actually about the bravery of living with our whole hearts in this big, messy world. The amazing writer of Momastery speaks here with as much humor and honesty as she writes with on her blog. “Life is beautiful and life is brutal

…I used to numb my feelings and hide, and now I feel my feelings and I share.” (TEDx – 500,000 views)

2. How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy. How we hold our bodies shapes the message we send ourselves, not just the people around us. The day after I watched this talk, I found myself in a job-related situation where I needed to defend myself. I squared my shoulders and stood tall, and I really felt my confidence follow. “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.” (15 million views)

3. The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown. What do people who have a sense of worthiness—of love and belonging—have in common? They believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful. (14 million views)

4. The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship by Esther Perel. For this one, I stopped multitasking and took full-on notes. AND watched it with my husband the next day. :) She dives into the contrast between love and desire. On the one hand, we crave stability, companionship, and connection. On the other—adventure, novelty, and separateness. A few (of the many) gems: Sex is a place we go—a space we enter—not something we do. Imagination is key. “Responsibility and desire just. butt. heads.” (FYI, she lost us with the parent-child analogy toward the end. Was it an analogy for the self, literal parenting advice, or a subtle plug for open marriage? Let me know what you decide!) (4 million views)


5. Why 30 Is Not the New 20 by Meg Jay. No matter how old you are, this talk is an important reminder of how to make our time count—now. And as a mom, it helped me think about how I’ll teach my children about the significance of their choices in the decade after they leave home. (5.8 million views)

6. Listening to Shame by Brene Brown. “Empathy is the antidote to shame. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” This talk picks up in the second half and is all-out beautiful by the end. It will make you want to dare greatly. (3.6 million views)

7. How to Spot a Liar by Pamela Meyer. I loved when she described the evolution of the ability to lie as children grow. Moms gotta be able to spot the half-truths! And while I laughed at the fact that we start telling more white lies to our partners once we’re married (compared to when we’re dating), it was a beautiful reminder of how important it is to live truthfully. (7 million views)

8. The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. I was inspired to value what both personality types have to offer the workplace and the world, and I’m watching curiously to see which way each of my children lean. (Also, now I know why I always groaned inside when teachers said the words “group project.”) (7.5 million views)

9. How Schools Kill Creativity by Ken Robinson. Ken talks about how children gradually pick up the fear of being wrong, because our society stigmatizes mistakes. This is SUCH a good one for moms who want to help their kids retain the creativity that drives them to turn every piece of silverware into a stealth bomber. (Also, I know

 I’m not the only girl out there who is a sucker for a British accent and a quick wit.) (25 million views)

10. On Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz. After you listen to Ken Robinson’s talk, cue this one. If Ken’s is a description of how children develop the fear of being wrong, Kathryn’s is the extension—how we as adults safeguard ourselves against being wrong and how it feels to think we’re right even we’re not. (2 million views)

11. All It Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes by Andy Puddicombe. Pull this ten-minute talk out of your back pocket on a day when thoughts and emotions are pulling you too many directions, when you can’t remember what the point is. (3.5 million views)

12. Living Beyond Limits by Amy Purdy. After losing both her legs below the knee at age 19, Amy went on to win two World Cup gold medals in snowboarding. She challenges us to start looking at our limitations as “magnificent gifts that help us ignite our imaginations, and help us go further than we ever knew we could go.” (Tedx – 500,000 views)

Have any of these impacted you? And do you have a favorite that I missed?

12 Must-See TED Talks for Purposeful Women | Erica Layne

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