I want to talk a little bit about bravery. It seems to be a recurring theme in my life lately. A quick Google search shows the following definitions for brave:
- adjective. ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
- noun. people who are ready to face and endure danger or pain.
- verb. endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behavior) without showing fear.
Well, that’s what it really is, at its heart, isn’t it? To be brave is to stand down and face the very real possibility of Pain. No one is brave for sitting at home and watching Netflix, unless you happen to be watching a scary movie on Netflix (like The Babadook), but even then, I don’t know if the average person would call you brave for that.
But brave is not just about running onto a battlefield, saving a cat from a house fire, or jumping out of an airplane. We know that as humans, we are forced to be brave every day. As a New Yorker, one could say I’m brave for even stepping out of my apartment every morning. (Or even paying for said apartment.) But I’m not even going to talk about that watered-down cliche that all the politicians and media try to cram down our throats to make us feel good about ourselves.
I want to talk about a much more subtle kind of bravery. And these kinds of brave acts are actually part of the hardest, most complex, all-encompassing endeavor that I am personally taking on – and I’ll be continually working through my whole life: Living My Truth.
Or as I like to call it, Not Giving a F*ck.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really sensitive. Growing up, I was obsessed with the idea of being popular, of everyone liking me. I hated displeasing or disappointing anyone. In grade school, if a teacher looked at me wrong, even if I did nothing wrong and it had nothing to do with me, it would ruin my whole day. When I was a freshman in college, one of my acting teachers had us each write down a word or phrase describing our fellow classmates, and then one at a time, he’d meet with us privately and read them out-loud to us. (I know!)
My list went as such:
- Desperate to please
- Desperate to please
(Thanks Madelyn and Rachel for being sweet. And yes, I know who the rest of you are. Be scared. Just KIDDING!)
Hearing those words over and over again not only hurt, it was a huge f*cking wake-up call. That summer, I vowed to stop giving a f*ck what people thought of me and just focus on me, my friends, and what I cared about. (I pretty much make this vow about every other year whenever it’s become clear I’m slipping back into that insecure, dorky, awkward little girl place again.)
By the end of my college career, I had a lot of friends, I got along with pretty much everyone, and in my acting studio I can confidently say I don’t think I was hated or even greatly disliked at all. I even was invited to a lot of their weddings. (Gee, thanks guys. Kidding again, the ceremony was beautiful!)
But really, that doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter then. And what I’m just realizing now is that not giving a f*ck is not akin to some peppy Hollywood montage where a down-on-her-luck plucky protagonist decides to buckle down and work-out and get her job back and go shopping and clean her apartment and stand-up to that one bitch, and then suddenly life is great. Nope.
Not Giving A F*ck is a way of life, and it’s a constant, f*cking hard-ass battle.
I am constantly giving way too many f*cks. I still care so much about what people, even strangers, think of me, of how I’m perceived, whether or not me and my choices are validated and acknowledged. It’s in every little moment of my life. I’m constantly self-judging, self-criticizing, self-questioning. And it’s exhausting.
But I can’t stop that. I’ve tried my whole life to “stop” that, and now I’ve realized I’ve been going about it the wrong way.
It’s not about changing or forcing yourself to quit or stop your thought patterns or behavior. It’s about embracing YOU. It’s about really listening to yourself, asking yourself,
“Do I want to do this?”
“How do I really feel?”
“What do I really want?”
“Why did I do that? Am I really sorry?”
“Am I meaning what I’m saying?”
And here’s the key – after asking those questions, really really listening. Really taking a moment to check in and see what the response is. Letting Kate answer for once instead of just steamrolling over her.
And then the second part, accepting those answers, whether or not you act on them, for what they are.
I have a really hard time loving myself. I like myself fine, I enjoy spending time with myself and sometimes I even think I’m good company, I’m talented, I’m entertaining, and even that (gasp) I’m attractive. But I am really bad at loving myself. As in, the active verb: To Love.
Hating myself is so much more comfortable. Which is probably why I seem like such a natural at comedy, yes?
But now I actively try to Love myself. It’s not about treating myself to a manicure and martinis, it’s about forgiving myself when I make that mistake. It’s about speaking up instead of staying quiet, especially when it’s to my detriment. It’s about letting me just really be me, and not try to mold myself into who I think everyone else (including me) wants me to be. And most of all? It’s about opening myself to the possibility of Pain. (See, you thought I wouldn’t tie this back to bravery, but I did!)
Besides, what do I have to lose? As Shia says, “JUST DO IT!” (I can’t believe I nearly forgot to add that video)
It’s hard, it’s subtle, and I am continually trying to strengthen that muscle. (Kind of like wearing emotional Shape-Ups or ankle weights all day, yeah? I mean, I’m sure you think both people who do so and myself are crazy.)
Since I’m talking in a lot of abstractions, here are some examples of how to not give a f*ck:
- Not too long ago, I was contracted for a gig that I was very excited about. When going over the budget with my colleague, we were nervous to ask for any money at all. We had been working for free or little to nothing as artists for so long, how could we ask for money now? Newly reinvigorated by my IDGAF attitude and this amazing Slate article by writers Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, I stayed firm and we created a budget that was both modest and yet did not short-chain us, our services, nor our talents. I said, if we do not place value in ourselves, if we do not take ourselves seriously as professionals, how can we expect anyone else to?
So we sent them our proposal. The result? The client was very happy to finance the project within our budget and we were able to turn over a high-quality product that all of us were proud of, while creating a positive business relationship that will hopefully continue for quite some time.
- I have a friend who recently starting dating a guy. They had been on several dates and even had a sleepover. She was nervous about communicating with him though. What if he “ghosted” on her? What if she came on too strong? She was very nonchalant about the prospect of possibly never seeing him again, even though it was clear she really liked him, and he had not shown any kind of signs of not wanting to continue seeing her. (No, this “friend” was not me, although I act the EXACT SAME WAY in this situation.) We all know the many issues of this complex new phenomenon called, “Casual Dating.” There are so many personal essays and blog posts about this, I couldn’t even decide which one to link. Just Google it. But incensed by my new IDGAF attitude, I texted her this:
“As someone who has recently been “casually dating” a lot, and pretty much always just “casually dated,” and for whom acts of emotional intimacy are the worst thing ever, I’m saying this now: Don’t hold back, dude. What do you have to lose? Liking someone isn’t a bad thing, it’s awesome. How exciting and nerve-wracking and scary and special is that?! When’s the last time you LIKED someone, truly? And even though I don’t act like it, it’s true. Sex is intimate, sex is personal. You are a healthy normal human being if you become emotionally attached to someone you slept with. We act like it’s a disease to be sensitive. My new theory is that is bullshit. We’re always so worried about coming across as “crazy chicks,” which is such a misogynist concept. Be authentically you. If he’s too chickenshit or lame to like that, you don’t want to be with him anyway. But being yourself and speaking your truth should never be shameful. Why is it always on the other person’s terms? F*ck that nonsense.”
And you know what? She texted him. They’re still dating. It’s going well.
People are always talking about telling your authentic story, speaking your truth, being comfortable in your own skin. But how to do that? Listen, this whole long blog post has been me trying to find the words to tell you, but to be honest, I’m not quite sure myself. The great Mindy Kaling says, “Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.” Which is great advice. And all of this is so much easier said than done. I always say, if I could live purely of my intellect, I’d be the f*cking Dalai Lama by now, but un/fortunately, I’m an emotional stupid human being.
But let me try one last time to break down the recipe that’s been working for me lately. You need:
- Years of hard work and a lot of shitty mistakes and some pretty decent wins.
- A couple of past emotional breakdowns for context.
- A support system of just a few people who love you even if you don’t feel like you deserve it.
- A therapist (optional, but it really makes it that much more effective).
- A recent weight loss or new outfit or exercise class or haircut – something that makes you feel physically good (this is also optional but can really help).
- A fiery passion for something you want.
- Patience and the ability to forgive yourself.
- The 2nd day of your period.
- Very little sleep.
Mix it all together, put on your sunglasses, blast this song, and walk down the street. You’d be surprised how easy it is then to just not give a f*ck. God speed.