Sometimes You Don’t Realize Your Confidence Is Low Until You See Someone With a High Level of Confidence

Today I read an article by the comedian and author Sara Benincasa, who was responding to a very pointed question from a fan. The question was: Why did you gain so much weight?

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It’s a question that would’ve destroyed my confidence if I was already feeling bad about myself- as I think it would have secretly destroyed many women. And I’m not fat by any standards. I’m actually pretty small if you’re going by some kind of American average. But it doesn’t matter- I always knew from society and all the magazines I’ve ever read that I was kind of worthless unless I was losing weight or thin.

What’s crazy about the thought pattern of ‘I’m only worth something if I’m thin’ is how built into my belief system it is- and I know that I’m not the only one. I work in an industry where being thin is prized, but I also live in a society that’s weight loss crazed…and always has been.

The article today shocked me with the confidence and bravado it presented- the woman who wrote it is successful and funny and talented and also bigger than what Hollywood, or society at large (whatever that means), deems ‘acceptable,’ but she’s confident anyway. How is this possible? Are you allowed to be confident if you’re a woman who’s not ‘acceptably’ thin or striving to lose weight? I ask this question as sort of a joke, but it’s not a joke. I truly care about healthy food and about being healthy, but there’s definitely a major part of me that cares only about being thin, so that I can feel good about myself and move on. This weight pressure is not something that only hits women in their teens and twenties and goes away…it continues well into our thirties and likely until the day we die. Weight pressure is built into the fabric of how women live. Every woman is pressured to be ‘acceptably thin’ and can’t feel good about herself unless she is so. Or so I thought.

“…here’s the shocker: in addition to my family and real friends still loving me, I kept getting work! Comedy, acting, and publishing 5 books from February 2012 to July 2016! It’s almost like I still had worth and value beyond the number on the scale…!”

She did? Women can? Especially in entertainment..or fashion…or hell, just being a respected woman? How can you respect yourself if you’re not ‘acceptably thin?’ How can anyone respect you? You should use all your time and energy to get onto a weight loss plan, right? But the successful comedian and author who had ‘gained some weight’ confidently continued:

“Let me tell you about some of the things that I did between when I started gaining weight (2011) and now (2016). I published that first book, “Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom.”I adapted it as a TV pilot. Diablo Cody is the executive producer. Have you heard of her? She’s very talented… Anyway, she wanted to work with me and never brought up the fact that I wasn’t skinny. Can you imagine? It’s so strange. I talked to her yesterday and she still did not say anything about me being so fucking fat. Is she just being nice? She’s from the Midwest and those people are sweet. And Ben Stiller’s company, Red Hour, worked with me too. None of them told me I was fat. Ben Stiller didn’t tell me I was fat!”

And this breathtaking woman didn’t even feel unlovable when she was fat! It’s crazy:

“Now during this time I began to think about weight. Not mine! I saw how women were criticized on the Internet and elsewhere for gaining weight. This intrigued me. I didn’t feel fat or unlovable. Should I? Hmm. I considered this and decided instead to make fantastic art instead, because I’m amazing at it.”

Wow, how dare she make art instead of getting her weight under control?! How could she even do that? Isn’t it better to spend your entire life getting your weight under control before you do anything else? I don’t understand it!

I gained all that weight because I was so busy working and growing as a person, a writer, an actor, a comedian, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a lover, an activist (hi Emily’s List and Humanity for Hillary and Los Angeles LGBT Center!), a thinker, and a cook (ironic, right?!?) that I didn’t have time to pursue what I really, really want to do: spend my precious spare moments making anonymous comments on the blogs of successful, beautiful, hardworking women in a failed attempt to undermine them in order to give me some sense of power as I marinate in my own inadequacy, stuck in the knowledge that no one will ever pay me to write my poorly-crafted thoughts down on paper, to be translated into book or film or television form, and that beyond money (which of course doesn’t lend my thoughts any inherent value) or any degree of fame (which is pointless and wholly unnecessary to a happy and fulfilling existence) no one will ever really want to hear what I have to say at all, because I am essentially worthless and of no value to the world at large. That’s what I really want to do.

Wow. What a response. Read Sara Benincasa’s full, beautiful response here.

I’m truly moved and shaken by Sara’s amazing statement because I feel like I not only wouldn’t have the confidence to respond that way, but I wouldn’t have the confidence to FEEL that way.

Imagine if we could actually, truly feel so confident no matter what?

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A Beautiful Frustum In Your Thirties

Seth Godin, one of my favorite business bloggers, recently wrote a blog about pyramids without a top. In geometry, these types of shapes are called frustums.

We spend our career lives trying to get to the top of our pyramid- we want to be the career elite, the famous, the special, the 1%. And why not? Fantastic career success is a big and beautiful possibility.

However, with the advent of the digital age, more and more of us will find it easier than ever to get our work out there in some form, but harder and harder to gain the fame and well-known 1% type of success (because everyone else is getting their work out too). For example, it’s easier than ever for anyone to publish a book all by themselves, but now there are more books available than ever before. Instead of waiting to get a book published, you can publish your book and sell it on Amazon or multiple other internet sources completely free. You can do the same with music and web tv (webisodes)- you can quickly and easily get your music or webseries online and direct to users all by yourself and for almost no cost.

Will you be the next Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga? The next Stephen King or Tina Fey? Maybe. Maybe not. But can you be a success and make good money and have a powerful, impactful, positive life without being a headliner like the above names? Absolutely.

The hard part isn’t in being in a frustum of an industry- where there’s no real peak, just more and more opportunity for entry- the hard part is in accepting the frustum and knowing you can still make a great life. There’s lots of room in frustums for lots of people to be successes- it’s just a different kind of success.

Even when you’re not well-known or at what you think is the peak of your career pyramid, you can still be a pretty damn good school teacher or time-share seller or yoga instructor or animal shelter manager. You can write amazingly good books or make insanely gorgeous music and get it all out into the world easier than ever because the base of the frustum is wider than ever. If you can accept this shapeshifted new world change, you may just realize that you’re more successful (and happier) than you ever dreamed you could be.

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What Happens When You Start Feeling Empty?

I guess it can happen when you least expect it.

At the end of a very productive week, after sweeping through almost everything on my to do list and checking it all off, and getting a crazy amount accomplished and even feeling quite together and on top of things, I started to feel empty inside.

I wouldn’t usually write about things like this, because I don’t know if hearing about emptiness is helpful to people. Also, I’m usually an extremely positive and driven person, so it’s kind of hard to talk about feeling suddenly empty in the middle of an upswing for no determinable reason.

However, I was thinking that if I’m feeling this way now, I’m sure there are others who are feeling this way too, and maybe it’ll help to talk about it.

Emptiness is a weird feeling, and completely annoying, because when you try to shake it, it only clings on harder. It came upon me this week after meditating almost every day, and feeling pretty good about things, so it was pretty random seeming. I guess it can come from anywhere at any time. It just felt hard to feel, if that makes any sense. It was hard to feel grateful and hard to feel peaceful for sure.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night with the empty feeling slathered all over me, like an unsettling grey cloud. It led to almost immediate fear thoughts about how even when I’m on top of things and feeling quite good, I can still feel this horrible lack. Just writing about this now kind of brings the fear thoughts back. Since I don’t exactly know the answer to how to proceed with feelings like this, I will only state some theories I have:

  • Feelings of emptiness come and go. There’s probably something I should pay attention to, instead of just pushing the feelings away.
  • Although I’m afraid of the feeling of emptiness, or not being able to feel peace and gratefulness, I think I’m afraid because I feel like no matter how hard I work, my feelings might not always be peaceful, and I can’t accept that.
  • I need to accept that my feelings won’t always be peaceful, and that sometimes I will feel empty and afraid. I won’t always feel this way, but it doesn’t help to pretend that I never feel this way.
  • The empty feelings and fear feelings that pass through me don’t define who I am.
  • Those same “bad” feelings (which I’m going to take the “bad” label away from now) can be present even while I forge ahead with my life. Their presence doesn’t need to set me back, though I always feel that if I feel empty and fearful, it must mean I’ve backtracked.

This has a lot to do with what I wrote about in the post It Hurts, So What? Sometimes I’m afraid to do something because I know it will hurt. For example, in that post I talked about being afraid to speak up because I knew the outcome probably would be painful anyway…but I needed to speak up. And I did, and it was very painful..but that was okay. Because so what? Sometimes things will be painful. It’s uncomfortable but it’s alright.

So perhaps I’m relearning the lesson of ‘It hurts. So what?” again and again. It’s okay to be afraid of the empty feeling, at the same time that it’s okay to be afraid of being afraid. It’s not a about being ‘beyond’ those feelings. It’s about letting them happen..because so what? Those feelings aren’t who I am.

Here are some articles I read about the empty feeling that made me feel a bit better and a bit less alone:

The Real Cause of Inner Emptiness (And What to Do About It- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-paul-phd/inner-emptiness_b_869421.html

‘I Feel Empty’: How to Overcome Feelings of Emptiness- http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/i-feel-empty-how-to-overcome-feelings-of-emptiness-1112145

Allowing things to

arise: http://www.buddhanet.net/4noble19.htm

Hope this helps someone out there. Remember, feel free to reach out to us if you feel sad or empty. You’re not alone!

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Thought Exercise: What Does “Making it” or “Success” Mean to You?

Today my friend texted me saying she was afraid she didn’t feel like she was “making it” in LA. She elaborated to say that she didn’t even know what it would mean to “make it.” When I thought about her text, I realized I feel similarly. What would “making it” truly mean to me?

I mean, I guess I do have a general idea. I’m pursuing screenwriting and TV writing and I think for me success would mean either A) a screenplay spec sale, B) A manager or agent or C) getting staffed on a TV show. But since the industry is so fickle and it’s seemingly easy to be a “one-hit wonder,” perhaps I should broaden my perspective on “making it.”

Also, all of my metrics for success are objective – as in, other people can easily identify them as markers of success. Should I also be looking deeper in subjective metrics – such as, “I constantly improve as a writer” or “fulfillment from my writing”? It’s probably healthy to have a mix of objective and subjective metrics for your success.

So, thought exercise for you. Put 3 minutes on your iPhone timer and really visualize what “making it” would mean for you, in whatever career you’re in. It might be helpful to put a timeline in there too.

A Different Kind of Marriage in your Thirties

Ellen McCarthy, a wedding and relationships reporter at the Washington Post, spent years interviewing hundreds of couples about what makes relationships work and what doesn’t for the paper’s On Love column. Her book, The Real Thing, is an insiders scoop into what makes some marriages work and others..not work..and possibly end in divorce.

According to McCarthy, there seems to be two major keys to finding a marriage partner to be with for (hopefully) your entire life. They weren’t what I thought they’d be. At first I found them way too simple. But simplicity can be deceptive…

The two keys are:

1. Comfort
It turns out that so many of the spouses in successful marriages used the word ‘comfortable’ when talking about their significant other that McCarthy began to get worried when couples didn’t mention that word.
Comfortable in this case didn’t mean settling or boring. It meant that both spouses felt very much themselves in the relationship. The couple still had to work on the relationship of course, but the marriage just felt natural and they didn’t have to second guess themselves or tiptoe around one another. Both husband and wife were comfortably able to express themselves without fear. One person even said that the marriage sometimes felt like being alone while together …in the best way. They both still felt extremely free and independent while together in the relationship. This is the best kind of interdependence, I think.

2. Kindness
When asked what the most important quality a potential life partner could have, the answer was kindness, hands down. The marriages that lasted consisted of partners who were kind to one another…and kind people overall. One respondent said that her significant other was kind to everyone- kind to her, kind to himself, kind to friends, kind to dogs. Kindness is everything in a lasting marriage.
And why shouldn’t it be?

If you’re going to be with someone for life- and in this day and age that means another 60 possible years from your thirties(!)- why wouldn’t you choose someone who’s kind and who you can comfortably be yourself with?

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t butterflies, super hot moments, and great chemistry, and it doesn’t mean that everything is boring and tranquil. It just means that when looking for a life partner, kindness and comfort are great places to start…and continue.

Are you in an amazing marriage with a kind partner who you feel extremely comfortable with? Are these traits valuable to you? I know that I never had them high enough on my radar before, and they’ve recently moved to the top of my list. I don’t want to be with a person who seems great on paper, but isn’t kind. I want to be with a kind person who makes me feel comfortable and good about myself. The rest can be figured out thereafter.

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It’s Never Too Late to Be A Success

I’ve talked about this before, but being in graduate school and being constantly surrounded by hungry, eager 18-21 year olds has a funny way of making you feel inadequate if you’re a 30-something. Sometimes I’ll be sitting having lunch, surrounded by undergraduates, and I’ll feel so far from anything like success. This kind of thinking leads me into a tailspin where I start doubting my career choice, and wondering if it’s time to pursue something else. However, I recently realized that I spend a whole lot of time thinking about a dilemma” and not actually doing anything about it. Being a cerebral person, I often assume I can think my way to an answer. But as we learn in screenwriting 101, thinking is not an action. We would never pay money to watch a person ‘thinking’ on screen.

So I’ve been trying to implement not thinking so much about my career, and just trying to get moving. Have you heard the expression, “You can’t steer a parked car”? Well, there’s a lot of truth to that. If you feel lost, discouraged, or behind in your life or career, just take one single action in the direction you may want to go. And you’re bound to make some mistakes, but that’s part of the process.

And, never, ever believe it’s too late…There are so many people who achieved great success later in life. Here are some famous examples.

  • Rodney Dangerfield didn’t succeed in comedy until his 40s. Before that, he sold aluminum siding!
  • Ray Kroc was a milkshake salesman into his 50s until he founded McDonald’s at 52.
  • Raymond Chandler, wrote his first novel at 52!
  • Tim Zagat quit his job as a lawyer in order to create his namesake book of restaurant reviews when he was 51.
  • Toni Morrison didn’t start writing until her mid-30s and her first novel was published when she was 39.

So, don’t ever let the notion of time get you down. Just shift your car out of parked and start driving.

Best Things About Being In Your 30s- The Lists

Ah, the ubiquity of Buzzfeed lists…love ’em or hate ’em, they’re all over Facebook and Twitter, and links to them seem to pop up everywhere. But are Buzzfeed lists (or lists along those lines) just click bait, or can they actually tell us something about our lives?

Jane and I are always looking for lists of descriptive thirties traits, findings and meanings- anything thirties related really- and when we do searches for the thirties, invariably there’s a Buzzfeed list or two right on Google’s front page. So today I read through a Buzzfeed article titled “27 Underrated Things About Being In Your Thirties.”

As I read through a list of statements and memes capturing those statements, I started to feel more and more confused and anxious..mainly because everything seemed so perfectly tied with a big red bow, and my life didn’t seem to be where it should be compared to the list. My god, it’s Buzzfeed! BUZZFEED! Buzzfeed shouldn’t make you upset!  But yet, dammit, it did.

And it wasn’t just me! The comments below were achingly funny and painful..starting with someone saying, “This made me feel a whole lot worse about my life.” Which was followed up by 186 likes and a whole lot of agreement, including “You are not alone, friend. I’m really depressed now about everything every other 30-something is having/doing that I’m not” and “I’m 40, and most of this just made me want to crawl into a hole and die.”

So below are some of the statements that stuck out at me. Try not to want to crawl into a hole and die. You’re not alone, friend 🙂

3. Chances are that you’re making more money now.

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I’m making more money now, yes, but I know a lot of people who aren’t, and this statement still made me nail-bitingly nervous.

4. Which means you can afford actual furniture that’s not from Ikea.

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What? ALL my furniture is from Ikea! Ikea is AWESOME! (Ok, IKEA isn’t awesome, but it is frigging CHEAP!) And what is that Soho loft pictured above with the vintage-chic walls and exposed brick? I mean, come on now!

8. You give zero fucks, so you dance however you want!

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Umm…not yet at that ZERO fucks stage…maybe LESS fucks? And me dancing however I want wouldn’t be good for anyone..

10. At work, you’re not some assistant bitch anymore, you’re a BOSS.

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Though I know people who’ve climbed the career ladder and match this description..I also know lots of people who are assistants, or who still aren’t sure about their career yet.. I am not necessarily a BOSS, though I am self-employed, so maybe this fits me more than I believe..I can play around with it..

12. Any dating you do is less messy, because you know what you want and you demand it.

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Umm, no?

13. And you wind up in much healthier relationships.

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Hmm…this one just feels presumptuous. Also, this is such a random photo! You think it’s the author? Are these people two random celebrities I don’t recognize?

17. You’ve found a group of friends who are the most amazing people you’ve ever met.

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Also a random photo. And I think the author got this idea from a Sex and the City binge…in fact, this photo should’ve been Samantha and Charlotte and Carrie and Miranda. The thirties are where I hear the most gripes about LACK of friendship. People are all like ‘where have my friends gone??’ Umm, babies, marriage, moving, high-stress jobs, people giving ZERO fucks…these things steal friends…

24. You’re no longer afraid of change…

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Damn it, change is STILL the the boogeyman in the closet for me! The people who aren’t scared of change don’t know the horrors of when it jumps out and grabs you! It’s so big and bad and mean sometimes…

I’m only sort of kidding here… but change still = mucho scary.

But all jokes aside, when it comes to figuring out what the thirties are to you, I want to just say: Beware of Buzzfeed lists! And stereotypes! And bragging disguised as positivity! And funny memes that are actually bragging disguised as positivity hidden in sadness wrapped in stereotype! (As fun as they may sometimes be.)

Help! I’m 30 and Never Followed My Childhood Dream!

There was this episode of “How I Met Your Mother” where Ted and the gang all realize that they may never accomplish “someday” childhood career dreams they’re all still holding onto.

Someone had always wanted to be a painter, someone else a rockstar, and then there were a few really ridiculous ideas…I can’t remember all of the dreams. The gang reminisces about the career pursuits they once longed for. Some of them try to pursue the dreams once again in order to turn them into a reality. They realize they’ve all been hoping to accomplish their childhood dreams ‘one day.’ By the end of the half hour, they let the dreams go, and keep on the path they were on before. The moral seems to be: we need to put those childhood dreams to rest for something better to take hold in our lives.’

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Lily wants to be a painter. Barney wants to be…a knight? Who knows? Hahaha, he’s pretty funny no matter what.

 

I was never satisfied with that episode. I think one of the reasons it got under my skin was that my career path has taken such a different turn from what I’d originally expected. When I watched that episode, I wondered if I’d given up on my childhood career dream. Am I still holding on to the belief that I’ll one day pick up my former dream again? Is that belief false?

Right now, I’m a self-employed Corporate Spokesperson and Product Specialist (to be better explained in another post), and I work in a lot of different industries, traveling at least half the time. I really enjoy what I do. When I don’t ponder dream careers and childhood ‘what I want to be when I grow up’s”, I feel a deep satisfaction with my job….for now. But then I think along the lines of: ‘Am I pursuing my dreams?’ ‘Is my inner child satisfied?’ ‘Do I know what my career dreams are?’ The questions lead me down all sorts of analytical paths.

I wonder what it means to feel satisfied right now while not pursuing my childhood dream. 

I wonder what my career dream really is. I always thought I wanted to be an actor- but that’s not my dream at the moment. What do I make of that? Have I given up? Was it never really my dream?

I think of the famous men and women who began what became their ‘defining career start’ later in life. The long list of people includes Vera Wang (40 when she entered the fashion industry), Henry Ford (57 when he created the Model T), Suze Orman (36 when she started her financial group), Gene Hackman (37 when he got his first film role), Colonel Sanders (62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken), Stan Lee (38 when he created his first comic: The Fantastic Four), Julia Child (50 when her first cookbook came out), Laura Ingalls Wilder (65 when the “Little House on the Prairie” books came out)….and many more.

Some of these people pursued a childhood dream that was finally accomplished late in life, and others ended up on a completely new career path…or two or three. I’m sure all of them had moments of confusion about the paths they were on. I’m sure they had many more moments of feeling like they failed. But the important part was that they kept on, proving that they were trying even while possibly failing and failing again.

Right now, I’m satisfied with my career. I’m not pursuing my childhood dream, but it’s not what I want at the moment. And for now, all I can do is listen to my gut. There are times when I’m filled with doubt, and times when I feel confused, but I find clarity in trusting myself and continuing forward, trying to be brave enough to fail and fail again. I make changes as I go, add and subtract, and above all, I continue questioning.

Careers twist and turn, and it’s both okay to pursue your childhood dream with a vengeance, or to let it go to make room for other dreams…or then to pick it back up again years later. Stay honest with yourself, know it’s never too late, and let yourself question your dreams, both old and new.

 

The Day After the Best Day Ever

There was a wedding in Canada I went to last summer that basically went on for a week. It felt like every day leading up to the “big day” was a celebration. The bride and groom planned food tours around Montreal, different city walks during the day, and all sorts of expeditions on the days before the wedding.

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Neat buildings seen from a boat ride around the Montreal harbor.

The wedding day itself was amazingly fun, creative and beautiful. It was one of the most enjoyable weddings I’d ever been to. And then the week continued on.

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We tried all different flavors of delicious Canadian poutine! Woohoo!

The afternoon after the wedding a bunch of the wedding party and a few friends all met up again to have lunch and get some poutine (which is a delicious Canadian french fry dish where fries are mixed with cheese and gravy, creating pure happiness.) While we ate, I asked the bride how she was feeling. She replied in an only half-joking bittersweet tone: “It was the best day ever… I want to do it again!! I wish I could get married every day…I can’t believe it’s over!!”

As we wandered around one of Montreal’s parks with our cheesy gravy-covered fries, I thought about how her long anticipated big day had come and gone. The bride’s “best day ever” was now yesterday.

The day after the best day ever always feels like a gamble; Even if it’s pretty good, it’s worrisome that the happy feelings will subside. There’s this residue of greatness now gone that hangs in the air. It’s so hard to hold on to that best day- when it occurs, the urge arises to grab it, but it always slips away.

Sometimes a yearning for ‘yesterday’ will leave me feeling unsatisfied and melancholy; And what’s funny is that even though this ‘day after the best day’ will happen every time, I always struggle against it. I wonder when and if another ‘best’ day will come again…and I wait. And I remember.

But then, in certain moments when things are calm, I think of all the other days and what they might mean. I wonder about them- there are so many more days stretching before me than there are those special, momentous ‘best days ever.’ Will they mean anything in my life? Are they only here to be squandered?

And in my clearest seconds, sometimes during a run at dusk or mid-meditation or on a long bus ride home, I feel a spark of contentment, a flicker of gratitude, a flash of clarity.What if today- and all those ‘other days’ and ‘other moments’ – are equally as great as the best days? Sometimes the clear feeling is as subtle as a touch of wind, and is gone as fast as it came. For the moments in its wake, I’m left confused, struggling to grasp the insight and bring it back to me. But as of late, my goal has been to embrace the confusion and just let it go.

What if the best day ever wasn’t yesterday or won’t even be tomorrow, but is actually right now?

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