When Creativity and Science Collide: Inspirational Interview with Agnes Becker

The True Face Creed

Have you ever felt you had to hide who you really wanted to be? Felt you had the wrong body? Or you should be doing a different job? Have you ever felt like you aren’t good enough?

Siobhan Curham, author, speaker and life coach, started the True Face Revolution in response to these feelings. Through books, workshops and her amazing website, she encourages us to “be real, be fearless, be you”.

I was recently interviewed as part of Siobhan’s Talking Truth blogs. Below is a cross-post of the blog (thanks to Siobhan for letting me post it). The questions were really good and I found myself writing a great deal and including quotes I love and find inspiring. So sit down, get a cup of tea and have a read.

Welcome to True Face, Agnes! Could you start by telling us a bit about what you were like as a child? What were your favourite games and pastimes? Where were your favourite places? And what did you dream of being and doing when you were a ‘grown-up’?

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive – it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Imagination played a huge role in my favourite childhood pastimes and games. I loved dreaming up stories and acting out plays, usually set in faraway lands or back in time with treasure and secret doors and keys, with my sister, brother and friends: swimming pools would become an ocean where we were mermaids, walks in the woods became trips where we were witches looking for ingredients, and stuffed toys a menagerie of animals in our farm.

My imagination sometimes got a bit out of hand. I’d sometimes scare myself by thinking a bit too much about what I would be if I wasn’t me. Would I be a planet? But if I were a planet, how would I know I was me?

Barbie was a huge favourite, mostly because I loved dressing her up but also because she could do so many things and go to so many different places. I remember in one of my magazines, Barbie went back in time and visited the Aztecs in Mexico, and in another she went to a tropical rainforest. I thought that was amazing as I often used to pretend I lived in another time and imagine leading expeditions to the Amazonian rainforest.

I enjoyed drawing, especially treasure maps, baking, raspberry biscuits in particular, and making things, like a rocket out of an old cardboard box. Playing my violin was also fun, particularly the exercises where I got to eat a Smartie or Hula Hoop. At one time, I became quite obsessed with being a spy and writing things in code. I wrote a letter to my older self in a secret code. It must be in my old room somewhere…

I also loved quiet time – listening to Mum or Dad read us books or lying on the sofa listening to story tapes. My favourite books were ones about adventures and secret, magical places and lost worlds Winnie the Pooh, Grimms Fairytales, The Secret Garden, The Magic Faraway Tree, Tom’s Midnight Garden Harry Potter, Narnia and puzzle adventure books.

The back garden was a favourite place. It was wild but also safe. I used to make potions from a mix of toothpaste, rose petals and water and mud pies of varying qualities of dirt, which I’d “sell” to mum and dad. I made a den in the garden’s crooked barn. It used to be dark, dusty and full of old trunks covered in cobwebs. I imagined all sorts of forgotten objects and untold stories were hidden in those trunks.

I used to dream of being an explorer, an archaeologist, a palaeontologist, a ballerina, a spy, a dentist (?!), a gypsy, a pirate and the little mermaid.

What a beautiful description of your childhood. And what a tribute to the power and scope of a child’s imagination!

In TRUE FACE I talk about how certain pressures can make us hide our true selves away from the world as we grow up. Things such as difficulties in our home life, criticism from a parent or teacher, and peer and society pressure to fake it to fit in. Did you experience any of these? And if so, how did you end up hiding your true self from the world.

“Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

I definitely experienced pressures that made me hide my true face in many different aspects of my life. I have felt pressures to choose certain careers, to look attractive, to be liked by everyone, not to be a “bad” friend, to live in a certain area, to get married and to not get married, to wear certain clothes and make up, to be ashamed of my German heritage, and to see the world through particular belief systems. In all cases, conforming to these pressures ended up with me acting in a way that others wanted me to act and left me feeling (to various degrees) trapped, miserable, underconfident, a pushover, guilty, jealous, angry and discontented.

Were you able to resist the pressure to change in anyway?

In my early adult life I was able to say no to going clubbing at university. In my first and second year of university this was the done thing, and it could be a lot of fun. By the third year I was a bit bored of it. I had imagined university would be full of discussions with my friends about the knowledge we were learning and debates on ways of living or seeing the world.

I loved spending time with my friends though, so I’d go out for a few drinks and maybe a bit of a dance and then go home when I felt tired (usually much earlier than everyone else!). Initially, I’d feel guilty for not being a good enough friend or a fun enough person. But eventually I realised that my friends were my friends because they liked me for who I was, rather than how much I partied. Accepting we are all different and like different things was part of growing up and becoming stronger friends.

I love your answer. It’s so true – when we’re young we can be so scared of losing friendships and end up sacrificing our own wants and needs to keep others happy. What happened to you is a great lesson in trusting in the strength of your friendships and being true to yourself.

In TRUE FACE there’s a whole section on turning emotional wounds into wisdom so that they may fully heal. What wisdoms have you learnt as a result of any tough times you’ve been through? How are you now able to see the gift in the experience?

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by,And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost, A Road Not Taken

I am quite an indecisive person. I can see many different paths each decision could lead to and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Therefore once I’ve made a decision, I tend to compare myself to others and think “should I have taken the other path?I still struggle with this curse of ‘should’: I should have been less forthright in that meeting as now my colleagues will think I’m bossy and won’t like me, I should have chosen xyz career path as I would be earning more, I should have gone jogging as then I’d be thinner. These thoughts can get out of hand. I start over-thinking, beating myself up about my decisions, which then influences my behaviour, making me less confident. I then pass on my insecurities by projecting my fears onto others, particularly other women with whom I compare myself with, resulting in feelings of jealousy and resentment.

What works for me is to first of all realise that these thoughts are FALSE and to STOP thinking them. I may still feel sad or upset, and that’s fine. But as soon as I realise these thoughts are just a negative voice in my head and not reality, the less it undermines my self-confidence and self-belief.

The next thing I need to do is figure out what is best for me. I may think I’m being a kind person by going out with friends after work when I actually want to go home and rest (being the martyr!). Really this isn’t the kindest thing to do. I doing it because I should I end up resenting my friends. I get false thoughts when I am tired and stressed so usually what’s best for me is to go home, watch a film, have a bath and sleep!

Lastly, part of contentment in life is being brave enough to accept the decision you have made and enjoying it. This is a skill I am learning from my amazing husband. We live in a consumer society where we always need compare ourselves to others and want what they have instead of seeing how lucky we are. Not all of us make decisions in the same way so be kind to others if their opinion differs from yours – especially other women (women in our society are taught to criticise each other so harshly when we should be standing hand in hand helping and supporting each other). There may not always be a “right” decision but one has to make decisions in life to move forward so enjoy where you are and if you don’t like your situation, learn from it and change it. We are lucky to live in a country where we have the power and freedom to change our lives.

Amen to that! It’s so depressing the way women are encouraged to constantly compare and criticise. I think the world desperately needs more kindness.

So, on a more positive note, what are you most proud of achieving and why?

I’m proud of managing to find a career that brings together my love of science and exploration of other cultures with my love of making and creating things. I have no idea where it will lead me to as there isn’t a clear career path but that makes it even more exciting as I have the opportunity to forge a new path.

It can be hard not being part of a particular discipline or community but I love being on the edge of disciplines, exploring overlaps and the blurs between the boundaries.

I am proud that my job is one that tries to dispel the myth that science is for an elite of white middle-aged men in lab coats doing “very clever work”. I aim to show that science – just like art and music – is a part of our culture and helps us to see and understand the world in a different and useful way. There is still some way to go in getting the gender balance right in science, especially in the top jobs. Things are getting better thanks to initiatives such as Athena Swan. I am proud to be currently working with a team of wonderfully powerful, kind, intelligent female scientists.

In TRUE FACE I get readers to identify their ‘star qualities’ – their best traits. What would you say your star qualities are?

I am a renaissance woman! I love learning about the world through many different disciplines (art, science, walks, food, travel), seeing the connections between them and making sense of the world through creating things. I learn best through visuals and stories so try to incorporate these elements in my work.

What are your passions in life and how do you make time for them?

“Every one of us is a memorial to long-dead stars. Every one of us was quite literally made in heaven.” – Marcus Chown, author of The Magic Furnace.

I am lucky that I enjoy my work. However, I spend a lot of time talking and writing about my colleagues’ work. I wanted my own project. Three years ago I started a science themed greetings card business called We Are Stardust. It allows me to be more creative with my own ideas. I have recently gone down to 90% with my job so that every two weeks I have a day off to work on my business. I feel very lucky that I am able to do this financially as it is a wonderful luxury to spend time on something I love doing and that’s my project.

Also, I love spending time with friends and family and I have A LOT of (too many?) hobbies – dancing, playing the violin, knitting, sewing, baking, cooking, seeing friends, cycling, walking, drawing, swimming, reading, making my home lovely, travelling. Obviously, I don’t do all of them all the time. Things seem to go in cycles, sometimes I’m dancing more and playing my violin less, sometimes I see my friends more but don’t exercise as much. Accepting that I can’t do everything perfectly in balance all at the same time – and that that is OK and normal and I shouldn’t beat myself up about it- has been the key to success!

I love your passion for life – it’s so infectious! Do you have any advice for our readers about dreaming boldly, loving passionately and living authentically?

“Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.” Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

You know when things don’t feel right. It’s that gut instinct. It may take a while to realise it and you may do that thing multiple times or stay in a relationship for too long before you do something about it but trust that instinct. Don’t beat yourself up about not realising it straight away – it’s a process – and don’t beat yourself up because you feel like you should be doing what doesn’t feel right, especially if that should is based on what others are pressuring you to do. The reality is that most people worry about their own lives and how they are living, not what you should be doing. They may be pressing their own fears and insecurities onto you. When things are hard, surround yourself with kind, supportive people. Acknowledge their compliments about how wonderful you are, don’t dismiss them. Only you can figure out what makes you content (note, not happy – no one can be happy all the time).

Living authentically and being content with my decisions is giving me a sense of control of my life and an ability feel genuine love and kindness towards others and their decisions. Resentment and jealousy are being replaced by true happiness for those around me.

Oh, and don’t be afraid to wear comfortable clothes! They make your life so much better.

Yes, yes, and yes! And comfortable clothes rule! Finally, when it comes to life and love, what do you absolutely know to be true?

“Only connect.” – E. M. Forster, Howard’s End

Everything and everyone is connected. We are one, small part in this giant, amazing universe, the scope of which we can’t comprehend. It’s a mysterious, harsh, cruel, beautiful, messy world we live in. We all rely on each other and on nature to survive and be content. So let’s look after each other, be compassionate, empathetic and kind. Bring joy to other people, and let others comfort you. Experience the big, strong and loud as well as the small, delicate and quiet. Take care of the world around you, and the ones you love. We only have this life!

4 thoughts on “When Creativity and Science Collide: Inspirational Interview with Agnes Becker

  1. I loved reading this entry Agnes. It has so much truth and humility that I find so inspiring. Your love for simple and good and truthful things in life is so infectious!

  2. Hi Agnes! Was flicking through Instagram and I find myself here… I loved your interview here, it’s lovely to see the bright and bubbly tousle-haired girl from all those years ago is still alive and well! Hope you are happy and well, and that life as a grown up is treating you nicely 🙂 a blast from the past – Anneka xx

    • Thanks Anneka! It’s so nicto hear from you. I’m doing well thanks. As of this week I’m going to go down to 4 days a week with my day job to focus on my business which is both exciting and daunting! How are you? Still working in TV? Xxx

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