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Iconic TED Talks: 5 Ideas That Changed Me

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Up until recently, I was never someone who was into listening to TED Talks. They seemed to be the kind of lectures I would probably receive from my high school teachers. This made me think: if I was already partaking in classes, why should I subject myself to more of the same content? However, as I started my freshman year in college, I noticed that my professors would link some of these videos for optional viewing. I thought of giving them a try and was immediately invited into a world of diverse and captivating ideas. These ideas have helped in shaping how I see the world around me, but also help evolve my sense of self. Here are some of my personal favorites! 

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The danger of a single story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie takes the stage to narrate her experiences growing up in Nigeria, being influenced by American and British cultures through storybooks. They shaped her perception of literature, removing any connection of hers to characters she can identify with: particularly African characters. She was the victim of several “single” perspective stories throughout her life – from Fide to her university roommate, a flight announcement to a professor, and from Mexicans to Africans. “Show people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become,” she says, describing the dangers of cultural assumptions based on literature and media. 

The sex talk – Marnie Goldenberg

Dr. Goldenberg talks about the importance of familiarizing children with the concept of sex and sexuality instead of throwing a biology book in their faces. Truth be told, the 21st century lies at the intersection of immensely advertising hyper-sexuality, yet awkwardly leaving when it enters conversations. This is not just confusing but is also harmful to children who are growing up, forcing them to rely on other non-reliable resources like the internet. They need to be made aware of the broad and very real picture of sex and sexuality. After watching this, I caught myself wishing that I had her TED talk to aid my teenage mind

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Confessions of a bad feminist – Roxane Gay

This one has my heart! Pink has always been my favorite color and for a long time, I was scared to admit that, thinking that I was letting down my fellow feminists by giving in to the stereotype. Gay talks about the heightened sense of perfectionism that feminist movements today demand, which is inhumane and apathetic. She lays down the foundations of modern-day feminism in ways that are easiest to understand, pertinent to question, and humorous beyond measure. From forgiving her own internalized misogyny, yet being perversely aware of them, Gay teaches us the realities of intersectionality in feminism. But beyond everything, she makes us realize the importance of being a feminist, even if it’s a bad one!

My year of saying yes to everything – Shonda Rhimes

For a year, Rhimes said “yes” to everything, including a play date with her toddler when she was neck-deep, panicking about work. One of my favorite creators – someone who is fiercely attached to her “dream job” – Rhimes was taken aback when she couldn’t feel the same spark anymore: the spark she calls “the hum.” “And then the hum stopped. Overworked, overused, overdone, burned out,” she says, as she recalls her disheartening experience. This is her story of what happens when there is all work but no play, and more importantly, how and why saying “yes to less work and more play” is so crucial to remain passionate and truthful to your work and life.

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Grit: The power of passion and perseverance – Angela Lee Duckworth

Transitioning between jobs has never been an easy task, but for Lee, it brought forth a refreshing, yet tough realization about what predicts and gives shape to success. Working a high-paying job as a consultant, she switched to teaching seventh-grade math. There, she was able to realize the differences between her students were not simply explained by IQ. Over the years, she attended graduate school to psychologically study in challenging settings. She says, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals…Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Here, she explains what we know and also, what we don’t know about that immeasurable value. 

As finals week zooms in on us and this academic year comes to a close, use these wildly addictive TED talks to not just refresh yourself between all the academic load you’ve been carrying, but also to be a reminder of the ebb and flow of the real world!

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Rhea Mukherjee

U Mass Amherst '24

Rhea Mukherjee is a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is majoring in Psychology and double minoring in English and Biology. A people's person, Rhea has a deep passion for mental health, awareness and adolescent wellness. When she's not nose-deep in work, you can find her strumming her ukulele, reading memoirs or writing poetry!
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