We Teach Best What We Most Need To Learn.

And ain’t that the damn truth! In fact, I think this is the invisible subheading lying beneath the word hypocrite.

Okay, so let me give you the story behind this one. Because you know there’s always a story.

I was listening to a podcast whilst cleaning. Is there anything more enjoyable than making a space clean and tidy, doing something with your hands that doesn’t require much thinking — leaving your mind free to listen to a great interview?

Okay, maybe there are quite a few other things that could be more enjoyable, but you have to admit, it’s up there.

The episode I was listening to was by lifestyle entrepreneur Lewis Howes interviewing famous stylist Stacy London.

The topic didn’t initially interest me overly. Sure I like to think I’ve got style, but definitely not in an expensive haute couture Hollywood kind of a way. So I wasn’t actually expecting much from the interview.

And don’t great things happen when we have zero expectations!

It was fascinating. I didn’t realize there was so much depth and significance behind style. Stacy was talking about colors, shapes and body types, yes, but her main topic was self-confidence.

Hell, can’t we all do with a bit more of that!

She also shared some of her personal hang-ups — phases of anorexia, chronic psoriasis, extreme narcissism (self-diagnosed) that became the flip side of the low self-esteem seesaw.

As the world of fashion goes, Stacy London could hardly be more successful. She’s been a Vogue editor, hosted on Fashion TV, styled Hollywood’s rich and famous, and published books.

Yet she said she felt like a phony, because although her core mission was to help clients/viewers/readers feel better about themselves through style, she often felt pretty crappy about herself.

Then a friend told her: “We teach what we need to learn.”

When I heard those words, I dropped the bedsheet I was busy folding into a hospital corner, and stood up with a big stupid grin of enlightenment.

Up until that point, the interview was entertaining, interesting and unexpectedly profound, but that line was like a slap on the back of my head… one of those aha moments that motivational speakers are gagging to induce seas of faces to experience.

And it’s exactly what I needed to hear.


Authenticity has been a buzzword for the past few years, as though it’s something magical that we need to be coached to achieve.

But don’t we all basically want to be authentic? I don’t imagine there are many of us that get up in the morning and say to ourselves, “I’m going to be a big fake today.”

Being truly authentic takes courage, honesty and persistence, because just like the weather, we’re always changing.

And that’s what makes things really tricky, especially when it comes to teaching. This might show up in a number of places. For instance, standing at the front of a room running a class or workshop, giving advice to a friend, or compiling strategic recommendations for a client.

For me, it shows up in my writing.

I don’t want my writing to be all about navel-gazing. I want it to be worth your while. I want you to be able to take something away from it — meaning, inspiration, consolation, commiseration. Something.

But it’s not always easy to (dare I admit it) teach through my writing, because I’m not always all the things I say I am. I don’t always follow my own advice.

And because I do want to shoot for authentic, it stops me from doing/saying/writing/creating a lot of things.

So when I heard those words, things fell into place, like a good game of Tetris (as my sister would say). Stuff made sense. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

Leaving a space for things and creating.

In his wonderful little book Illusions — The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Richard Bach wrote, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

Let that sink in, and let that also give you and me the permission to open our mouths and speak, pick up the pen and write, take the paintbrush and create… whatever wants to come out. Because that is a message for us as creators, from the creator for anyone else who may need to hear, read, see it — and those people will know who the are.

So next time you have the inspiration to create/write/paint/say something but don’t — because you feel like you’re not good enough, not worthy enough, not experienced enough, not consistent enough, not perfect enough — do it anyway.

Do it because the idea has come to you. Do it because it’s something you needed to know and you are the best person to teach it to someone else who needs to know in just the way you do. Do it because this is how we learn. Do it because perfect is not a destination.

Perfect is each misshapen, inconsistent, unpredictable step on our journey to nowhere.


LeonieOrtonLeonie Orton is a blogger who writes intimate stories about life. She is also a freelance copywriter for businesses looking for unique, emotive words. When not writing, she’s teaching Yoga, playing with flowers, growing vegetables, exploring Earth, and adoring two spirited sons. You can get in touch with her via her website and Facebook, or sign up at her weekly blog.


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