how not to care so much what other people think

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I think confidence is the way we meet our circumstances, whether they are wondrous and wonderful or really hard and difficult…It’s almost like a wholeheartedness, where we’re not holding back. We’re not fragmented. We’re not divided. We’re just going towards what’s happening. There’s an energy to it. I think that’s confidence. And it’s absolutely part of human fulfillment.” — Sharon Salzberg

Last night a close girlfriend and I went out to a little gallery on Melrose that was holding a fundraiser for Sandra Fluke in her run for state Senate.

Two young women – one of them Thora Birch of AMERICAN BEAUTY fame – gave speeches, intelligent, impassioned, thoughtful, informed speeches, and I thought again of this hunger that is out there for female role models who are not celebrated first and foremost for their hotness (or criticized for a supposed lack of).

The same friend and I had gone to hear Sandra speak at another event about a year ago. During the q + a someone asked how she felt about the vicious verbal attacks Rush Limbaugh and his ilk aimed at her when she spoke to the need for insurance companies to cover birth control.

Sandra expressed her relief that this particular spotlight had fallen on someone like her — with such a straight-arrow past that she literally had nothing to hide from the private investigators the Republicans hired to shame and discredit her — instead of someone who could truly get damaged. (“You,” one investigator told her, or something to this effect, “are one of the most boring people on the planet.” He meant it as a good thing.)

I liked this answer because it showed how Sandra recognized the impersonal nature of these very personal attacks. They weren’t going after her so much as what she stood for: the idea, or set of ideas, that she embodies.

She knows that those ideas are worth championing.

She is hooked into something bigger than herself.

I thought of Sandra when I went to hear Hillary Clinton speak at UCLA a few months ago. When her interviewer asked what Hillary’s advice would be to all the young people in the audience who want to change the world, Hillary spoke of the need for young women in particular to grow a very thick skin. When you try to change the status quo, she said, you will get criticized, sometimes even verbally attacked, by people whose primary goal is to make you sit down and shut up. (For women, these attacks still tend to circle in on appearance and sexuality.)

Male or female, though – unless we’re narcissistic or sociopathic – we generally want people to think well of us. It’s easy to say you shouldn’t care what they think, but it’s harder to actually do that when the part of the brain that registers a social slight is the same part that registers a physical blow. We are social animals, and once upon a time isolation from the herd meant probable death. To lose approval in the eyes of others can be, to our ancient brain, as much of a survival threat as something crouching in the bushes to eat us. click here

May 4, 2014 · 15 Comments / ADD YOURS

the confidence gap vs. the badass feminine

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I tweeted a link to the Atlantic article proclaiming that men are more confident than women.

A woman tweeted wryly, In other news; water is wet.

No kidding.

Think about the kind of body language that signals confidence.

Confident people take up space: with their body, their presence.

They assert their opinions. They’re not afraid to interrupt (although hopefully they are not obnoxious blowhards). If they’re sitting down, they’ll steeple their fingers or put their hands behind their head. They are not overly expressive; they are calm, even stoic. They do not engage in constant approval-seeking behavior (excessive smiling, constant nodding, head tilting, flirting).

In other words, confident body language is coded as masculine.

A few posts ago, I referred to ‘the badass feminine’ and people have asked me what I meant by that. I honestly don’t believe that feminine badass has to be an oxymoron. The fact that our culture interprets ‘feminine’ as weak and submissive creates this belief that women have to become imitation men in order to be powerful.

I suspect it’s because of a confusion of sex and gender and body language, as if submissive body language is innately feminine and strong confident body language is innately masculine. Men and women both can find themselves in positions of power or powerlessness — and their body language changes accordingly. Women who act one way in front of other women might show up completely differently in a room filled with men (and vice versa).

As many women will be quick to tell you, a lot of so-called traditional ‘femininity’ is a performance, just like a lot of ‘natural beauty’ relies on fillers, makeup, style, personal trainers, strict dieting, expensive skincare, teeth bleaching, laser hair removal, good lighting – and I haven’t even touched on plastic surgery yet. Behavior that is aimed to please, placate, manipulate and soothe can be just as learned as putting on a pair of fake eyelashes.

Maybe women are biologically wired to nurture relationships and keep the peace – or maybe women have been acting the way people act when their survival depends upon the whims, moods, decisions and general approval of those who have more physical, social and/or economic power than they do. click here

Apr 29, 2014 · 6 Comments / ADD YOURS

the creative process changes you

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I like this quote from soul-poet David Whyte:

“All good work should have an edge of life and death to it. Absent the edge, we drown in numbness.”

One of the best pieces of creative advice I ever got was in relation to the question of why you start a project at all, especially something as time-intensive and soul-consuming as a novel. “Will writing this book change your life?” the teacher asked me. “If the answer is no, then that’s not your real baby.”

Note that he was referring to the process, not the end product. He didn’t mean change-your-life in the way of accolades and Oprah and movie rights (although that wouldn’t suck). He meant what David meant: it should have an edge of life and death.

Which sounds dramatic, but here, the death is symbolic. (One hopes.)

I once had a dream in which I was beheaded – too many episodes of THE TUDORS – and as the blade went painlessly through my neck I felt myself leap into a different state of being. It’s the only dream I can remember that had me die, but the message seemed clear: I was entering a time of transformation. I would throw off one life, one identity, and be reborn into another.

The creative process changes you. Even as you’re making the thing, the thing is making – or remaking – you, and not just because click here

Apr 24, 2014 · 15 Comments / ADD YOURS

finding the edges in creativity + life

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Creativity comes from limits, not freedom. — Jon Stewart

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Just recently, in a writing workshop led by Dani Shapiro in Positano (as in Amalfi Coast, Italy — it didn’t suck — ) we had a conversation about edges.

Dani was talking about defining the edges of a creative project – in this particular case, a memoir. When you can write about anything and everything, you need to find a space in-between: the points where your project begins and ends.

In the case of Dani’s memoir SLOW MOTION, she decided to write about one particular year in her life. Everything she wanted to communicate, she pulled through that period of time narrated in her memoir. If the material didn’t fit inside those edges, it got cut. By making the conscious decision to focus on that year, she took a massive amount of potential material and found the shape and meaning inside it. Otherwise she would have been left with a sprawling amorphous mass that not only would have lacked structure, but also a point (not to mention a publisher).

When she chose her edges, she framed her project. She knew what to put in – and just as importantly, what to take out.

There are many different ways a memoirist can find her edges. She can focus on a theme (her struggle with alcoholism) – or a place (Paris, where she moved after she quit her soul-killing corporate job in New York) – or a character (her gifted and self-destructive best friend, disfigured after childhood cancer took part of her jaw).

But one way or another, she has to locate those limits.

She has to decide what the story is not. And then subtract accordingly. click here

Apr 23, 2014 · 9 Comments / ADD YOURS

kintsukuroi: stories in the scars, beauty in the broken places

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“I love those kintsukuroi pieces, as I love the scarred and mended humans. They are my people.” — Natasha Wozniak

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Maybe you’re familiar with the idea of kintsukuroi. It’s a Japanese word that refers to the act of repairing broken pottery by filling in the cracks with gold.

Instead of trying to hide the damage, kintsukuroi illuminates it.

You do this, because you understand that mending is an art.

You do this, because you understand that there is beauty in the broken places.

Behind every scar is a story.

(We are made of stories.)

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Maybe you’re familiar with the Significant Objects experiment.

Two guys named Josh and Rob wanted to see if the power of narrative could take insignificant objects and make them…more significant.

They got some writers together. They assigned each writer an object purchased from a garage sale or a thrift store. Each writer made up a story about the object. Josh and Rob put the objects for sale on Ebay, showing pictures of each item alongside its tailormade story (instead of a factual description.) click here

Apr 17, 2014 · 15 Comments / ADD YOURS

the power of the selfie ( + the female identity project)

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“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.” ― Anaïs Nin

I arrived in Positano for a writing workshop with Dani Shapiro. I was jetlagged, hungry and unprepared. I needed to sleep, eat, unpack and read through the manuscripts my group was about to critique.

So of course the first thing I did…

…was take a selfie.

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To listen to some, you would think that the selfie is a Pandora’s box that we innocently (or not so innocently) opened to unleash evil, sickness and despair into the world. If you’re been known to take a selfie from time to time – or twenty selfies immediately deleted from your camera for every portrait of yourself you don’t hate – are you a narcissist? click here

Apr 9, 2014 · 10 Comments / ADD YOURS

this is the start of your second life

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for G

“We all have two lives. The second one starts when we realize that we only have one.” ― Tom Hiddleston

I learned that someone I deeply respect might have less than a year to live.

This is not a proven fact, he was careful to say, and he doesn’t necessarily believe it. He’s been in this position before, in his twenties, when a difficult medical procedure saved his life. That could happen again — if certain circumstances fall into place. That is not impossible.

But when he thinks about the future now, he said, his voice rueful and matter-of-fact, he no longer sees himself in it. click here

Apr 8, 2014 · 11 Comments / ADD YOURS

don’t lose the snake: creativity, difference + the bold point of view

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This is the transcript for a talk I just gave at The Instigator Experience held in Los Angeles. Note: I went onstage carrying a snake.

So you might be wondering who I’m wearing. [The snake's] name is Felix…

I bought my first snake ring about ten years ago, at the jewelry department at Barney’s. Then when my divorce became final I bought myself a bling bling divorce ring, also in the shape of a snake curling up my finger. Last year I posed for a photo session with a yellow ball python, wearing black leather pants and little else. One of those photos is the cover photo in my blog.

I liked the snake rings because I thought they were cool, and maybe because they reminded me of Cleopatra, and Cleo was my girl. Except for the part where she killed off family members. I think killing off family members should be avoided generally, that kind of thing tends to ruin the holidays. When I was in college, my boyfriend at the time called me Eve, because he said I resembled her in some famous painting he could never remember the name of or the artist who painted it. click here

Apr 5, 2014 · 11 Comments / ADD YOURS

mean girls, leadership + the problem with Sandberg’s ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign

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So Sheryl Sandberg has launched the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign. The idea is that boys who assert themselves are called ‘leaders’, while girls who do the same are dismissed as ‘bossy’. Quit telling a girl, any girl, that she’s ‘bossy’ and she will no longer be afraid to speak out in class. Thus, or so the reasoning goes, she will become a great world leader.

I can’t really relate to this.

Unlike Sandberg, I was never called bossy as a kid (or as an adult). That’s not my style, even when I am the boss. But I don’t think that anybody who knows me well would say I have a problem speaking out or declaring a passionate point of view.

In the tradition of highly creative kids in small towns all over the world, I didn’t fit in at the best of times. I was sensitive and dreamy and in my head. I read obsessively. I answered questions about Spot and Jane in reading group and then sat at my desk with my Agatha Christie novel and pondered good and evil.

The bullies found me early.

In first grade, it was an oversized, older kid named Phil. In fourth and fifth grades, it was the equally oversized Ross, who introduced some confusion into the matter when he asked me to go with him. That was our version of what was once known as going steady. A boy would send you a note that said WILL YOU GO WITH ME CHECK YES OR NO. Where boys and girls were actually going when they were going with each other was maybe not so glamorous — the Mac’s convenience store on the corner was a popular hangout for the wild ones, born too soon for Starbucks, with their swagger and rebel cries and ability to throw back shots of blue Slushie — but that seemed more or less beside the point.

From sixth grade on, my bullies were girls, the kind who didn’t look or seem like bullies at all. They were bright, socially sophisticated, popular with kids and liked by grown-ups. They made my day-to-day life so miserable I eventually begged my parents to transfer me to another school. The fact that they were sweet, middle-class white girls didn’t change the fact that they were (at least to me) domineering and mean; if anything, it helped them get away with it. click here

Mar 16, 2014 · 20 Comments / ADD YOURS

“if you don’t have any shadows, you’re not in the light”

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If you don’t have any shadows, you’re not in the light. — Lady Gaga

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In a recent post on Positively Positive, Danielle LaPorte asks an excellent series of questions:

“Escaping? From what? Your Pain? Or your Power?”

She makes the point that

“Continually staring down your demons can be an act of avoidance all its own.”

Shadow work – at least as I understand it – isn’t about staring down your demons so much as giving them a name, a nod of recognition, and a place at the table that is otherwise known as your psyche. The very act of putting your attention on something – on bringing it out of your unconscious and into your conscious – transmutes it. It releases new energy.

Reclaiming some lost aspect of yourself gives you a bigger, deeper range of colors from which to create the day-to-day responses to your life.

There’s a gorgeous quote from Rilke:

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” click here

Mar 9, 2014 · 10 Comments / ADD YOURS
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