TED Talks: ‘The Beauty of Being a Misfit’

UPDATED: April 11, 2020
PUBLISHED: October 19, 2016
misfit strength

Lidia Yuknavitch, a writer and self-proclaimed misfit, once lost the potential of a book deal by simply remaining silent. She had just won a literary contest and met with famous authors and editors, a prize full of possibilities—but it was the feeling of not quite fitting into their world that caused her to stumble over her words, softly turning down an offer from a literary agent and others who insisted she had a story to tell.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Sure Self-Sabotaging Beliefs Don’t Wreck Your Success

In this TED Talk, Yuknavitch tells her misfit story and shares the most beautiful trait about people who feel like they don’t belong, even when their talents speak louder than their words.

“Misfit people—we don”t always know how to hope or say yes or choose the big thing, even when it”s right in front of us,” she says. “It”s a shame we carry. It”s the shame of wanting something good. It”s the shame of feeling something good. It”s the shame of not really believing we deserve to be in the room with the people we admire.”

Yuknavitch says even when she got the letter stating she would meet with her idols in New York City, she was still counting her previous failures. With rehab visits for drug use, jail stints and other difficult moments in her life, she felt like the opportunity would make her an imposter.

Related: I Know What the Imposter Syndrome Feels Like—and It Hurts Like Mad When You’re Alone

“I was thinking about all the ways I”d already screwed my life up,” she says. “Who the hell was I to go to New York City and pretend to be a writer? Who was I?”

But after the trip, when things began to work out later in life, she realized her failures were portals to a beautiful ending. She became everything she thought she never would: a mother, writer and teacher.

She says the key was giving a voice to her story. No matter what anyone has lost or gone through, their story deserves to be heard, and only the main character—or misfit—can tell the story the way they would, she says. The story may include failures, but getting knocked down provides the opportunity to rise to a new reality.

“Even at the moment of your failure, right then, you are beautiful,” Yuknavitch says. “You don”t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That”s your beauty.”

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TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics—from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world. See more at TED.com.