The role of music in identity formation and self-expression

Earlier this month, I had the incredible opportunity to deliver my second TEDx presentation at the Lurn Inc center in Rockville, Maryland. As a singer/songwriter intent on making music with a message, this was a deeply meaningful experience for me.

Reflecting on my journey, from attending my first TEDx experience in Auckland, New Zealand, to standing on the stage myself, I am reminded of the power of music and songwriting, and how it's helped significantly in shaping my identity and ability to self-express.

The Power of TEDx and Fresh Ideas:

Back in 2014, I attended my first TEDx event in Auckland, where I was inspired by the incredible stories shared by various speakers, including former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Dr. Paul Wood. The concept behind TEDx, to bring fresh, innovative ideas that can potentially impact and change the world, deeply resonated with me. Little did I know that one day, I would find myself on a similar stage, but this time: in the United States: using both my music and message to contribute my voice to the global conversation.

Expanding My Mission as a Singer/Songwriter:

In 2019, I realized that I wanted to be more than just a singer/songwriter. I wanted to expand my mission of "saving the world one song at a time" to empower the voices and healing of young people. But in doing so, I knew I was venturing into uncharted territory. How could I encapsulate the profound significance of music in my life in just one elevator pitch? Nevertheless, driven by my passion, I took the leap.

I started focusing more on why I make music. The messages and purpose behind my songs. The audience I wanted to reach, and the impact I wanted to have - specifically on young people. Music, by itself can be an incredibly powerful tool for connection, healing, and learning about self identity and expression... but I don't believe anyone is born to simply revel in their own magic. Magic is exponentially more powerful when it's shared... which is why I started diving more into talking about the messages behind my music... the stories behind the songs I wrote... the struggles I managed to identify, simplify, cognitively understand, and eventually overcome through the music I made wasn't just for me. I soon realized it was a toolkit for helping teens identify, simplify, understand and overcome their own trials and traumas.

From Pain to Playlist: Turning Struggles into Song:

I was humbled to have the opportunity to share my first TEDx Talk: How Songwriting and Music Saved Me After Ten Brain Surgeries" where I explored the neurological, emotional, mental, creative, spiritual, and social impact of music in my life. But I wanted to take it a step further.

In my second TEDx performance this year, however, titled "From Pain to Playlist: Turning Struggles into Song," I delved deeper into my journey as a singer/songwriter, using music as a means to transform personal struggles into empowering messages for others.

I'm super looking forward to the official video dropping over the next few months, and - of course - if you want to be ahead of the curve, and be one of the first to be notified when it drops, make sure you join my email list here.

In the meantime, here's my 2022 TEDx Talk in case you missed it.

This year, however, as I've reflected on the experiences of TEDx, and what it means to somehow be considered a "thought leader", I'm reflecting on a few things.

The importance of celebrating our wins - which I talked about last week

Each one of us is the hero of our own story, and, while it's good [and important even] to be able to reflect on our "mistakes", it is crucial to acknowledge and celebrate our growth instead of dwelling on regrets.

In a society that often emphasizes perfection and achievements, it is essential to take a step back and acknowledge our wins, big and small. Each milestone, no matter how insignificant it may seem, deserves celebration. There's a saying that "No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch", yet we tend to forget that part.

We tend to want to compare our struggle bus to everyone's highlight reels instead... and that's not helpful at all.

Instead: take the time to honor your progress... high-five yourself in mirror Mel Robbins style... create a celebration playlist and have a you-dance party... or better yet: write your own winning songs. We can all create anthems that commemorate our triumphs, reminding ourselves of the progress we have made and the obstacles we have overcome.

By celebrating our wins, we cultivate a positive mindset, fueling our motivation and confidence to tackle future challenges.

Embracing Authentic Vulnerability - which I talked about a few weeks ago:

Throughout my TEDx experiences, but especially as musician, singer and songwriter, I have discovered the power of leading with authentic vulnerability. It allows me to connect with the audience on a deeply emotional level and share my story in a way that resonates with them. Authenticity became the key to unlocking genuine human connection and opening the hearts of those who listened.

We all want to be seen, acknowledged, validated, and connected. And while busking might not be the most conventional career choice: it certainly gave me a way to connect authentically, be vulnerable, and validate the existence and magic of everyone I came into contact with. Of course, if you're a fan of Brene` Brown or Amanda Palmer: you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, but music goes hand in hand with vulnerability. And authentic vulnerability can serve as such a powerful bridge that connects us, enabling others to see themselves in our experiences and fostering empathy and understanding. It's through this shared vulnerability that we break down the walls that separate us and create deeper, more meaningful connections.

By leading with authentic vulnerability, we create a safe space for others to do the same. It encourages honesty, openness, and empathy within our relationships. When we allow ourselves to be truly seen and heard, we invite others to join us on this journey of self-discovery and growth. It's a powerful invitation that can transform not only our own lives but also the lives of those around us.

But of course, there's The Unavoidable Truth: You're Not Gonna Be Everyone's Cuppa Tea

While authenticity invites connection, it also comes with the realization that not everyone will resonate with my message or my music. And that's perfectly okay. The truth is, I'm not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and that's a fundamental aspect of being an artist, speaker and - dare I even call myself this - a "thought leader". In a world full of diverse perspectives and tastes, it's natural for some to connect with my music while others may not.

But it doesn't matter. The fact is:

Music is a Liberating Power of Self-Expression:

As a singer/songwriter intent on making music with a message, I've come to understand that self-expression is an integral part of identity formation. Through my songs like "Puppet," "Barbed Wire," "Superhero," "Living Proof," and "Together We Rise," I embrace my uniqueness and use my platform to communicate powerful ideas and experiences. By doing so, I hope to inspire others to find their own voices and confidently express themselves, even if it means standing apart from the mainstream.

Finding Community in Uniqueness:

While not everyone may resonate with my music, I've found a profound sense of community among those who do. Music has the incredible ability to bring people together, creating bonds between individuals who share similar values, experiences, and perspectives. This community of like-minded souls reinforces the understanding that being different is not only acceptable but necessary to spark positive change in the world.

Standing on the TEDx stage and sharing my music and message with the world has been a transformative journey. Through my performances, I've learned that leading with authentic vulnerability and embracing my uniqueness has allowed me to connect deeply with my audience. I've come to accept that not everyone will be drawn to my music, and that's perfectly alright. In fact, it's a testament to the diversity of human experiences and tastes.

As a singer/songwriter, my mission is to use music as a vehicle for self-expression, empowering others to find their voices and share their stories.

Through songs like "Puppet," "Barbed Wire," "Superhero," "Living Proof," and "Together We Rise," I hope to ignite a spark of inspiration in those who listen, reminding them that they too have the power to effect positive change and shape their identities through self-expression.

You can do it too

In embracing our uniqueness and connecting with like-minded souls, we find the strength to rise together and make the world a better place, one song at a time.

If you're interested in how to channel your struggles and turn them into songs of resilience, power, strength, community, connection and identity: I'd love to hop on a free discovery call with you to learn more about you and your story... and see if songwriting and music are the right tools for you to rewrite your future, and make it a masterpiece.

I look forward to speaking with you soon!

~ Emma G

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