When we’re in the mood for aspirational lifestyle advice, we indulge in a quick Gwyneth/Goop session. But when we need self-improvement #realtalk, Mindy Kaling is our girl. In a recent excerpt in Glamour from her forthcoming book Why Not Me?, the creator and star of The Mindy Project shares her take on confidence, paying dues and the unimportance of beauty.
Confidence is earned
Forget self-help mantras. To possess true confidence, you’ve got to be really good at something—and getting really good at something takes hours, days, months and years of work. “People talk about confidence without ever bringing up hard work,” writes Kaling, who calls this a mistake. Work hard, be prepared, keep striving to be better, and voilà! You’ll find that the hard work of gaining self-worth is already done for you. After putting in the time, you will actually feel “deserving of attention and professional success.” You’ll have earned confidence; you won’t have to fake it or search for it in the self-help section.
Sometimes it’s hella appropriate to be humble
Feeling out of your depth can be a good thing: It means you’re still in the paying-your-dues phase of life, which is an integral part of the journey from amateur to professional. Kaling shares that when she was a newbie writer on The Office, she shrank from speaking up in front of her boss. Kaling doesn’t regret her humility in the presence of an established pro. “Years later, I realized that the way I felt during those first few months was correct. I didn’t deserve to be confident yet.”
Beauty and perfection ≠ confidence
Look good, feel good is not wisdom; it’s marketing dreck that’s primarily aimed at women and (even worse) young girls. How many men think that the way they look might affect their job performance or career potential? Don’t fall for the idea that confidence is connected to what you see in the mirror—you’ll be doomed to feel less than forever, which is a drain on your energy and time. “Looks are great, but they’re not compelling enough,” writes Kaling.
More Mindy: Read our Cover Story From October 2014
You don’t need to be coddled, pitied or rescued
“A general assumption about confidence is that women, particularly young women, will have very little of it,” writes Kaling, who points out that the opposite assumption holds true for males. “We just assume boys will be confident.”
That B.S. creates a culture in which young women and girls are positioned as “damsels in distress,” according to Kaling. Damsels need to be rescued, and our white knights frequently take the form of infantilizing hashtags and viral videos that distract us from the “work hard” idea, perpetuating the whole needy cycle. Kaling’s advice: Don’t fall for the noise, or at the very least, be a tad skeptical of You go, girl-type marketing campaigns, which likely have ulterior motives. “I just sometimes get the sneaking suspicion that corporations are co-opting ‘girl confidence’ language to rally girls into buying body wash. Be careful.”
Be a little brave
There will be times when you experience moments of self-doubt, when the cruel and/or thoughtless comments of friends, colleagues and online commenters manage to penetrate your usually thick skin. Kaling is no stranger to the negative effect of harsh criticism. In such times, she advises drawing upon “the tiniest bit of bravery” to keep working, keep preparing and keep sticking your neck out regardless of what other people say, think or believe about you. “They want to stop you,” writes Kaling. “You can’t let them.”