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10 Unforgettable Lessons From 2014 Graduation Speeches

10 Unforgettable Lessons From 2014 Graduation Speeches

Wisdom is timeless. We never get too old to hear it, learn it, or benefit from it.

While not all of us are graduating from college this year, it’s safe to say we are all graduating from something in our lives. Whether it’s old habits, homes, jobs, or even parenting, we’re all graduates to some degree. (No pun intended.) So why let new college grads hog all the wisdom? The following quotes highlight poignant life lessons we can all learn from the 2014 graduation speeches.

1. Bill Nye: Knowledge can be acquired anywhere.

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t. Respect their knowledge and learn from them.”

These were the words of Bill Nye, who gave this year’s commencement speech at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Considering the source of this lesson (everyone’s favorite brainy scientist), it’s safe to say it is true. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. The world is filled with infinite diversity, perspectives, and unique experiences. When you meet someone you don’t like, challenge yourself to learn something from them.

2. Charlie Day: The most fulfilling things in life come with risk.

“You cannot succeed without this risk of failure, you cannot have a voice without the risk of criticism, and you cannot love without the risk of loss.”

While you may not have expected the quirky, illiterate janitor from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to share wisdom, Charlie Day delivered this brilliant advice to Merrimack College’s graduating class. Day also spoke about fear and acting in spite of it. The driving point of his speech was to not let fear become a barrier.

3. Bill Gates: Optimism is not irrational.

“Optimism is often dismissed as false hope. But there is also false hopelessness.”

Bill Gates spoke these words at Stanford University’s 2014 Commencement. After a heart-breaking account of his trip to a diseased and poverty-stricken town in Africa, Gates confidently gave this advice and spoke about the importance of innovation. Optimism is not naive, and sometimes hopelessness can be an irrationally negative perspective.

4. Peyton Manning: Being a beginner is not a weakness.

“When you are chided for your naïveté—and you will be—remind your critics that an amateur built the ark and experts built the Titanic.”

Peyton Manning delivered this clever remark at the University of Virginia. Echoing the theme of Bill Gate’s quote, Manning is saying to disregard the naysayers, while maintaining faith in your own innovative ideas. He went on to talk about being a newbie, and how it doesn’t eliminate you from being able to contribute value. Well said.

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5. Jim Carrey: Choices are made from love or fear.

“The decisions we make in this moment are based in either love or fear. So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.”

Of course there were plenty of jokes in Jim Carrey’s commencement speech, but this was one of his most notable statements at the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa. “Fear disguised as practicality” is the key phrase. How many of us live our lives this way, avoiding certain dreams because they “just couldn’t happen?”

6. Rainn Wilson: Happiness doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

“Happiness is so fleeting — it’s like cotton candy. It looks amazing, delightful, fluffy and pink. You joyously eat it and almost immediately regret your decision. Your fingers are sticky, you’re undergoing an insulin crash from the half-pound of sugar you just sucked down, and you’re hungry again almost immediately. In this me-me-me culture, focus on yourself and you will find only misery, depression, emptiness. Focus on helping others and you will find joy, contentment, gratitude and buckets and buckets of eudaimonia.”

The delightfully quirky Rainn Wilson gave this advice at the University of Southern California. Comparing fleeting happiness to blood sugar swings is a pretty genius way of saying “don’t fall for the hype.” Personal possessions, money, or other self-focused versions of happiness are about as reliable as cotton candy for a diabetic. And in case you were wondering, eudaimonia is basically Greek for happiness. (I had to look it up.)

7. Melinda Gates: Hardship spawns our greatest efforts.

“If you want to do the most, you have to see the worst.”

These are Melinda Gates painfully truthful words, spoken at Stanford University’s graduation ceremony. After telling a personal story of interacting with poor AIDS victims in hospice, Mrs. Gates extracted the positive, much like her husband did in his speech. There’s nothing more motivating than hardship – especially witnessing the hardship of others.

8. Marc Benioff: The secret to life? Give stuff away.

“The real joy in life comes from giving. It comes from service. It comes from doing things for other people. That is what is so powerful about this. Nothing will make you happier than giving.”

Although these are probably not the words you’d expect from a CEO, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, said just that at the University of Southern California. Coming from someone with wealth and a successful business, this says a lot. You can feel the certainty in his words – he’s been around the block and wealth isn’t everything.

9. John Legend: You can’t be happy with yourself if you’re not even being yourself.

“Soul is about authenticity. Soul is about finding the things in your life that are real and pure. The things that are at your core. The things you know you were put on this earth to do.”

Ask a soul singer the meaning of soul, and you might regret it hours later, when they’re still talking and philosophizing. Luckily, musician John Legend kept it concise at the 2014 University of Pennsylvania. This speaks to the idea that everyone “belongs” somewhere. Everyone has a passion, gift, knack, or whatever you want to label it. Maybe you already have an inkling as to what your’s is.

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10. Parker Mantell: Doubt is more of a setback than actual setbacks.

“Doubt, as has been observed, kills more dreams than failure ever will. Yet if doubt were a disease, its cure would be confidence.”

You probably haven’t heard of Parker Mantell, as he’s not famous. He is, however, the inspiring student who gave the 2014 graduation speech at Indiana University (which is now going viral). Mantell had the courage to give this epic speech despite his stuttering problem, an obstacle he mentioned during the speech.

We can all circumnavigate our failures and setbacks in one way or another, but doubt is pervasive. It will eat up any motivation we have, limiting our potential until we silence it.

Featured photo credit: thatericalper via thatericalper.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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