I watched the Bruce Jenner Dianne Sawyer’s interview, not out of any curiosity, but because I couldn’t get the clicker away from my mother as I was having a late dinner.
I neither expected to like Bruce, nor to find personal relevance to my life in his story, but through Sawyer’s brilliantly compassionate interview I got both and I think you will too. (You can watch it below)
Here are seven things I think we can all learn from his story:
1) From the mouths of babes
Be open to receive brilliance and wisdom from the least likely of places.
Kanye West, the impulsive Grammy winning husband of Kim Kardashian—best known to many for his tasteless comments towards other Grammy winners, and the person you would least expect to be supportive of Jenner’s life choice—helped Kim accept Bruce’s choice by telling her, ‘Look, I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I can have the most beautiful little daughter in the world, and I have that. But I’m nothing if I can’t be me. If I can’t be true to myself, they don’t mean anything.”
Wow! Who would have thought.
So don’t underestimate people or prejudge them. When you’re desperate and alone, wisdom, help and support can come from the most unexpected quarters, but you have to be open to receive it.
2) Paradox makes life interesting
Bruce told Sawyer he is conservative, and I had to laugh at the thought of that. Bruce aligns himself politically with the people most likely to disapprove of who he is (becoming).
And that’s OK. If he can square that circle why can’t we?
Relationships often sour because most human beings have difficulty holding two apparent contradictions as true of the same person—at the same time; that a person could support the right of a woman to have an abortion, yet never support a woman in making that choice; that someone can support the military yet vote to reduce military spending; or that someone can be for you yet critical of you.
We insist on seeing things as either black or white, good or bad, right or wrong, yet good people do bad things and bad people do good things. The world is beautiful, colourful and wonderful, because truth is bigger, greyer and more nuanced than we can imagine.
3) Appearances are not deceiving
Dianne showed pictures of Bruce in his Olympic glory days when he won the 1976 decathlon and the guy epitomizes the rugged handsome look of American masculinity.
You could never imagine that inside that rugged all American male was a woman screaming to come out,
Yet pictures of Bruce in more recent years gave clear indications that something was happening to his sexuality. Many correctly guessed that he was likely taking female sex hormones.
The lesson I think is that the cliché ‘looks are deceiving’ is true only if you look at the surface. If you look long enough, with care and interest, the truth will slowly reveal itself.
Most of what we see of other people is surface; what lies underneath will shock you—and often in a good way. But you have to take the time to look—really look—to see what’s there.
4) It’s never too late to answer your calling
In the interview Bruce volunteered he was 65 when Sawyer asked why he would make such a difficult choice so late in his life. Bruce said he couldn’t bear the thought of going to his grave and never having given himself a shot at living life as who he felt he really was; at never expressing the yearning he felt since he was a boy.
Makes you feel like a wuss for not pursuing your dream doesn’t it? What’s been calling you all of your life? Start doing something about making it happen.
5) Our potential to become
I once wrote an article asking why we alone are called beings (human beings), and I offered that it’s because no other creature wonders what their offspring will become when they grow up.
We alone have the creative ability to show up as anything: from a Branson—the charismatic billionaire entrepreneur—to a Manson—the 70’s mass murderer.
Our ‘beingness’ brings an inherent potential for surprise in what we do or become in our lives, and Bruce is not only proof of this, but that this potential can be realised several times—as an Olympian, a father, a reality show celebrity, and a trans-gender— no matter the stage of our lives.
6) Love really does conquer all
At the end of the interview Bruce’s mom, who he also described as conservative, said that she never thought that she could be more proud of her son than when he stood on that Olympic podium in Montreal, and she now discovered that she could.
Bruce’s family knew he would be mis-understood and attacked and because they knew it was something he needed to do, they stood with him. This undoubtedly provides Bruce with the strength to have the courage of his convictions. When life is tough and everyone and everything is going against you, it’s the love of friends and family that will get you through.
7) Don’t underestimate the courage within you
Answering the call “Stand up; be a man” has always been a test of a man’s courage. Who would have thought, that the supreme act of courage for at least one man would be “Stand up; be a woman!
You might think that Bruce’s transgender story has no bearing on your life, but maybe it’s really a clarion call to courage for all of us.
- What have you been running from all of your life?
- What are you afraid to face?
- What have you been afraid to fight for?
This man having the courage to stand up in the face of the world to be who he feels he really is deep inside—a woman—perhaps is metaphor for all of us to stop living a lie. The lie that you are small and can’t make a difference or have what you want in life.
Bruce’s (Caitlyn’s) story is metaphor for your standing up and being who you are or want to be in the short life you have on this earth.
Stand up and be the Caitlyn in you! Carpe diem!