By Tiffany Brown

America is deeply entrenched in an identity crisis. According to the Barrett Values Center, which is an organization that studies cultures and nations by analyzing actual and desired values within a given framework, there is a deep incongruence at the moment between where we are in America vs. where we would like to be. This stands in contrast to other nations where values are more in line and cultures are facing lower levels of uncertainty and political upheaval. But, could this be the beginning of a rebirth?

According to the latest National Values Assessment, America is a culture marked by corruption, bureaucracy, blame, crime, uncertainty and wasted resources when what we really want as citizens is accountability, employment opportunities, the ability to care for future generations, affordable housing, quality of life, and peace.

At the same time, as individuals within society, we are also coming to grips with a split personality disorder of sorts as we navigate not our analog lives (as cultural anthropologist Amber Case referred to in her 2010 talk on the TEDWomen stage who studies how technology is impacting humans), but our digital lives too. In her talk, she specifically referred to the idea that people nowadays must experience two adolescence periods as they manage both actual and digital lives. She opined:

“I’m most worried about the fact that people aren’t taking time for mental reflection. They aren’t slowing down and stopping being around ‘all of those people in the room’ all of the time who are trying to compete for their attention. And really, when you have no external input, that is the time when there is a creation of self, when you can figure out who you really are.”

So by now you may be wondering, how can we as both a nation and as individuals, move from point A to point B? How do we form healthy identities in the midst of perceived chaos and ever-changing conditions? As the world restructures itself, where do we fit into the equation? What matters most, and why do we matter? How can we bring about the change that we want to see in the world?

Well, this process begins with YOU, and many of this year’s TEDxUniversityofNevada talks directed us toward the same answers. As told through the collective story that unfolded throughout the day’s talks, it soon became evident that the formulation of a healthy identity, re-imagining our role in society, and then taking action on those realizations were key steps toward solving the riddle of our shared identity crisis. In short, this year’s TEDxUniversityofNevada talks urged us to recapture our humanity and to reflect on our role in the connectivity equation. Uncover the answers for yourself as told through this year’s series of moving TEDx talks, all summarized below.

Forming Healthy Identities

The vast majority of this year’s talks asked us to look within versus without for answers, and above-all to be accepting of who we are, as illustrated by the following examples:

  • Iskra Lawrence – “Ending the Pursuit of Perfection” reminds us that we need to be accepting of ourselves and practice self-care to move forward and flourish
  • Adam Kramer – “How Paris Hilton Changed My Life” explores the need to make a positive difference and meaningful contribution, a talk about following your inner voice
  • Ashley Clift Jennings – “Have You Met Your Soulmate?” focuses on the concept of a soul mate, forces us to look deep within ourselves to decide what true love really means
  • Ashley Evdokimo – “Do You Know How You Want to Die?” asks us to consider long-term planning for ourselves in a culture where death is not often discussed, and how those decisions impact the ones we care most about
  • CamThrough sharing the meanings behind some of her songs, Cam provided a journey through the  full range of emotions and explained how music can be used as a tool to deal with difficult to talk about things
  • Marc Roberge – “Fans for Life. Real Communication in Real Time” reflects on the importance of living your own life and telling your own story, concepts shared through song
  • Ming Li Wu – “Poetry as a way to be Authentically Vulnerable” gives perspective on what it feels like to be multiracial and coming to terms with different aspects of self as told through poetry
  • Mariana Atencio – “What Makes You Special?” asks us to be humanists, and to realize that we’re all special in our unique ways
  • Tara Conner – “Recover Out Loud” features a story about overcoming obstacles, and specifically addiction
  • Tyler Glenn – “I Found Myself When I Lost My Faith” talks about finding authenticity within a pre-defined context
  • The Warning – “You’ve Been Warned!” highlights the individuality of three Mexican sisters who are pursuing their dream in the music industry

The Concept of Self in Society

In addition to the talks about looking within ourselves for answers, there were also plenty of discussions that asked us to consider our role in society, where we fit in, and whether or not we need to re-think what it means to be a citizen in today’s world:

As you can see, in many ways the entire day’s worth of talks and performances hinted at a more general, underlying theme about coming to terms with ourselves and the need to re-define, or at least re-discover our role in a deepening and ever-connected world.

Beyond that, of course, there were talks that gave us an understanding and structure for how to move forward and create positive change. Listen to these three talks for inspiration to take meaningful action in your life:

  • Bill Eckstrom – “Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life,” provides a backdrop for understanding the process behind and need for personal growth
  • Jocko Willink – “Extreme Ownership” pushes us to take ownership of our lives through sharing a story about a grave situation in which stepping up was the only solution
  • Michael Jr. – “More Than Funny” guides us to uncover our defining life purpose, and why we must consider our own punchline

By now, it is hopefully evident that the real answer to forming a healthy identity begins with the the process of self-introspection, and it absolutely begins with us. We genuinely hope you will take these ideas worth spreading, and use these talks as a tool to spearhead the type of change you would like to see in not only your own life, but the world.

Feel free to share your own stories of how these talks have inspired you in the comments section below.

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