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Learn English with Kate Winslet. In this inspiring speech at WE Day UK 2017, Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet opens up about her struggles with bullying, body image, and the path to finding her self-worth. Winslet shares personal anecdotes and lessons learned from a lifetime of overcoming adversities. Discover how she turned her dreams into reality and how you can too. This video is a must-watch for anyone facing self-doubt or bullying.

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Kate Winslet: Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Kate Winslet


Hello! How amazing to be here! So I am Kate Winslet. Born in Reading, Berkshire I have two sisters and one brother. I have a mum and a dad. Our mum was just our mum, a great cook and storyteller. Sometimes worked in a local sandwich shop. My dad was a postman, a van driver, a tarmac shoveler, a Christmas tree seller and he did many other odd jobs along the way to make ends meet. He was also an actor. Yes he was. More out of work than in it but he always loved it. And even though he rarely made any money from it he still loved it. He was happy and it made me want to be an actor too.

At school I wasn’t very good at maths, I was okay at English, pretty rubbish at history but the thing I loved, I loved was drama. It was my passion. Yes, it was my passion. I was always auditioning for the school plays, I didn’t really get very good parts mind you but I didn’t mind, I didn’t care. I would often get cast as the crocodile or the scarecrow or the daft fairy. I was even a dancing frog once. But it didn’t matter, I still loved it, I loved acting. It didn’t matter how big or small the parts were. I wanted to be great and I was determined to keep learning. So I did my GCSEs, I did okay. Nothing in life comes for free, my dad would say. Do good work. I tried my best, I did good work. I got an A star for drama, it was the only A I got. I got my A, oh yeah. But what was I going to do now? How was I going to realise my dream of being on stage? I never even dared to think about being in films.

So first things first, I got a job at the same sandwich shop as my mum. That way I could save enough money each week to pay for the train fares to London to go on auditions. I didn’t get that many auditions back then. And it was tough, I never got the parts. I tried so hard to get them but I never got them and I was always comparing myself to others. You see I’d been bullied at school, they called me blubber. They teased me for wanting to act, locked me in the cupboard, laughed at me. I wasn’t the prettiest, I’ve always had big feet. And I was even told that I might be lucky in my acting if I was happy to settle for the fat girl parts. Ever let go, never let go. And they would say, you’re just not really what we’re looking for Kate. And so I’d hear that a lot. And so these comments about how I looked started to crop up and I’d never really dared to think about how I looked before. I was just kind of ordinary, nothing special. But this unkindness made me feel truly horrendous. I felt I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t look right. And all because I didn’t fit into someone else’s idea of perfect. I didn’t have the perfect body and I would rarely hear anything positive.

So I started to feel, I started to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. It made it hard, I wanted to give up. Maybe I should rethink this acting thing I said to myself. But it was my passion and it made me happy. And surely nobody can take my happiness away. So I had to rise above it, I had to dig deep, be strong. Because deep down I wanted to play Sandy in Grease. And I wanted to be Annie. And I wanted to be Maria in West Side Story. I wanted to be in the world of my dreams on stage. I was done with being told I looked wrong. I was done with being told I didn’t fit that perfect mould. I wanted to be an actress and nothing was going to stop me.

So what did I do? What did I do? I didn’t lock myself away and give up on my dream. I fought back. I had to ignore the negative comments. I had to believe in myself. I had to choose to rise above it all. And I had to work hard. You have to be indestructible to do what you love. And believe that you are worth it. Yes, believe that you are worth it. And sometimes that’s the hardest part. Wrong hair, big feet, wrong face, too ordinary, not right, don’t fit, next. And I was the W in the alphabet. So I came last. I was always stuck at the end of the queue. But I stayed focused until W was called out and it was my turn. Kate Winslet, are you ready? The question is… Are you ready for me? I would tell myself… I would tell myself, come on, are you ready for me, world?

And so I kept working. I kept working and I kept trying my best. And then one day… I was cast as Rose in Titanic. The most unlikely candidate, Kate from the sandwich shop in Reading, suddenly acting in one of the biggest movies ever made. You can be, you can be from anywhere and you can do anything. Believe it. It is possible to overcome your fears. What if I fail, fall over my big feet? Who cares? Be you, be you. I learned to embrace my flaws, to make no apology for who I am. I dug deep and I decided that I simply wouldn’t listen when they said that my body didn’t fit. This is who I am, the real me, Kate from Reading. And so I looked in the mirror, took a deep breath, and I said to myself, get out there, get out there and go for it.

Now, I’m not anti-teacher and I am not anti-excellence at all. Some of your teachers will be the greatest inspiration of your life, so make the most of them while you can. For me, the School of Life has been my greatest education. Your school years are years you’ll never get back, and don’t waste them, but don’t waste them feeling crushed by pressure either. Pressure to achieve the highest grades, or to conform to pressure exerted by people around you. We so easily compare ourselves to others. School can be a great time, but it can also be a very cruel time. The way not just to survive, but to thrive in these precious years of your lives is to work out who you are. Figure out what makes you truly happy, and hang on to that. Time. Take time. Hang on to it. Take that time. Time. Make time. Make the time to figure out who you really want to be.

Now, I am going to share one quick and easy idea how to do that. And you’re going to hate me for this. Put down your phone. I use my phone all the time. I do it too. I use my phone all the time, whether it’s to take photos, like most of us do, or text my mum, or look up directions. But today, social media robs us of so many of us of just basic conversation. We’re constantly distracted from being our true selves in a world that is fuelled by Insta-tweet-book-face, as I like to call it. So ask yourself, ask yourself, is your phone making you, helping you to be happy? Are you using it? Are you using it in the correct way for you? Are all those fantastic people you follow, are they having a better time than you, really? Are they making you feel unsettled or unsatisfied? Does it dent your self-esteem not to get those likes? Does it chip away at your true self? Is it even the real you? Maybe that person is a role. Perhaps you’re losing a bit of yourself. Think about that. Let’s think about that.

I get to play roles, but they aren’t real people. They really aren’t. I get red carpets, it’s fun, it’s fun to dress up, wear lipstick, but it isn’t sustainable. It’s not the real me. And being a real person is full of much more complex moments. The me that results from my life experiences, and having my eyes open, my heart broken, and from being told that I wasn’t quite right to do what I loved, is the person that has made me who I am today, talking to you with all my flaws and all my imperfections. And so perhaps for some of you, the persona that you found yourself creating online is just a version of perfect, and maybe that’s hard to step away from. So let’s take that energy and time, that precious time that you use, and let’s use that effort and make social media a good thing. Let’s make it a great thing, a thing that can be a voice for change and inspiration. Let’s stand in the way of letting it make us feel bad about ourselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong, don’t get me wrong. When it’s used in the right way, wow, it can be a powerful resource indeed. But for how many of you is it becoming a distraction from your real life? Maybe ask yourself, maybe ask yourself, do you really need to be posting that photo of your lunch? Just enjoy eating it! Life happens between the cracks, in the silences, in those moments walking out of a lesson and before you go into the next one, or just walking down the street, and it isn’t always easy, but you could be missing it. Don’t give all your time to your phone, it won’t give you the answers. Promise yourself time on a rainy day, on a sunny day, to just be, to listen, to look, to breathe. Do a sweaty sport where you can’t even hold your phone. Do an art class, dance. How about do an art class and dance with your friends, paint each other, put your phones down for a few hours, or even half a day. Just leave it behind.

And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You will only learn from them. Find time to dream your own dreams. Society is changing so fast, what we value is changing so fast, and it’s not easy being a teenager, is it? No, it’s not. It’s becoming harder than ever in a world of peer pressure and awful things such as cyberbullying and exposure to that unattainable aspiration. Now more than ever, it’s even harder to filter the nasties out and to escape things that might be upsetting you. So my idea, not as an expert, but simply as me, Kate from Reading, on WE Day, let’s rethink how we social share. Let’s rethink how we social share. Be kind, be wise. Let’s think about how else to share. Share a real chat with the person sitting next to you. Share stories. Share being in this moment by talking or with a hug. With a hug, everybody. I’m hugging you all.

The greatest happiness in my professional life comes when I am entirely engaged in the work that I am doing. It fills me up. It’s a happiness that I get by being utterly present with the people around me, and it rocks. Now, on a plane… On a plane, for those of you who’ve been on a plane, even those of you who haven’t, during the safety briefing, they say, “Should there be a change in cabin pressure, your oxygen mask will drop down in front of you. Fit it over your nose and mouth and breathe normally. Fit your own mask first before helping others.” Allowing yourself to breathe first doesn’t mean you aren’t able to help other people. It means you are better equipped to help them. You are allowed to take a moment. I’m taking it right now. You are allowed to take a moment, to take a deep breath. You need air in your lungs to speak up for yourself. You need breath to find your own voice and to use it mindfully. Be proud of it. You need breath to sing and to dance and to find joy in a complex world. Help yourself. Be yourself.

And listen, be the best version of your true self that you can be. Be the best version. And if… Listen, if that best doesn’t feel as fabulous as the girl or the boy who, through their social sharing, appears to be more fabulous than you are, or you feel that you are, just know this. You are being your best. And you own that. And nobody can take that away from you, ever. Ever, ever, ever. So breathe. Be present. Put down your phone every once in a while. Work to achieve your wildest dreams and get out there and be true to you. Get out there and go for it. Because your generation has the power to rock the world. Thank you. Thank you.