Being yourself: why Jennifer Coolidge is my heroine
Today an interesting, emotionally intelligent, vibrant woman told me she feared people would judge her hobbies as ‘boring’. And that the judgement of others would dim the joy she felt in doing these activities. She adores these hobbies. She finds flow and JOY from doing them. When she does them, she is really being herself. Like many of us, she feared that it was not ok to be yourself.
What people are really asking is:
“Is it ok to be me?”
“Will people still like me and accept me if I am being myself?”
Feel free to listen to this post as a podcast (12 minutes)
One Christmas, an elder female in my family (not my mother) scoffed when I told her what I had on my dating profile (dancing, playing the cello and animals): “You sound like a nerd. No wonder you’re still single!”
I felt the sting of her judgement that my hobbies were not cool enough. That it was not ok to be myself. Thankfully, I have a strong sense of self from years of therapy with amazing therapists, so I was able to tell her to take a running jump.
A key part of therapy is learning that it is OK to be yourself. Accepting all the parts of you – even the parts that you don’t really like. Being yourself. Being unapologetically you.
Jennifer Coolidge is my heroine
In her 2023 Golden Globes acceptance speech, Jennifer Coolidge spoke about how she started out with big dreams that ended up “fizzled by life”. Thankfully Jennifer never gave up. And more importantly, she never stopped being herself.
“I just want you all to know that I had such big dreams and expectations as a younger person but what happened was they, you know, they get sort of fizzled by life or whatever. Um, you know, I thought I was gonna be queen of Monaco even though someone else did it. But I had these giant ideas you know, and then you get older and you’re [many swear words] none of this shit’s gonna happen.” Jennifer Coolidge Golden Globes Acceptance Speech January 2023.
To me, she’s forever Stifler’s mom. And she is amazing. Can you imagine her taking an acting role that required her to be something other than slightly kooky and incredibly sexy?
People adore her just for being her. And I want to tell you that I suspect the same is going to be true for you.
The more you are being yourself, the more you will feel truly seen and loved.
(Probably not if you have a sadistic desire to hurt puppies – you need to shove that sh*t really deep and get help!)
So why do you stop being yourself?
Here are some reasons you may stop being yourself
Formative experiences in childhood and young adulthood shape our beliefs about ourselves based on the reactions of family, school friends and other important people in our lives.
Things happen and you modify your behaviour.
You carefully curate the parts of yourself that are shown to the outside world.
Did you have to behave in a certain way to get love and acceptance as a child? It’s likely that ‘little you’ made an unconscious decision to behave in a certain way in order to secure more love. Shutting down or alienating all the other parts of you that didn’t result in love/attention/acceptance.
Little you quickly learns: these parts of me are loveable and these bits are not.
It’s like you’re wearing a mask of acceptability to others and the rest of you is hidden on the inside.
Not only does it get tiring wearing that mask, but it can feel like you are living out of alignment with your real self.
And what’s more, because only the mask parts are seen, they are the only parts that receive love. Leaving other parts of you feeling unseen, unloved and unappreciated.
These are the biggies:
- Fear of rejection (being thrown out of the family/tribe because you are not accepted)
- Fear of not being loved
- Fear of getting into trouble
However, what you discover in therapy, is that these beliefs are not necessarily true anymore.
These beliefs are often formed in defence as children to prevent us being hurt, rejected, or unloved. When you are a child you have less emotional skills and resources to deal with a situation. And what you may not realise is that you are still operating from those internal beliefs now as an adult.
The pressure to conform to societal norms
As adults we are subjected to external pressures from cultural and societal norms. We internalise them. They drip into your subconscious mind, shaping how you feel your life should look, how you should act, look and be.
Pressure to achieve
A lot from women tell me about the pressure they feel to achieve and live up to the ideal of your best self (whatever that is!) To be constantly improving your self.
(Oh and maybe you should have a side-hustle too. Just in case you aren’t working hard enough already.)
It can feel like being yourself is never enough.
Pressure to find your purpose
The Japanese concept of Ikigai is about living a life of meaning and purpose. It would be awesome if you know what your purpose is on this planet. But holy hell what if you don’t know what your purpose is?
Gaaah the pressure!
Pressure to not be single
I was single for over 10 years. Every year as each big cultural celebration rolled around again, I was acutely aware of my singledom. In those times I felt defective for being single. However, the reality was that I was thriving. Maybe you are too.
There’s evidence that women are actually happier when they are single. We enjoy our freedom and women usually have strong, supportive social networks that stop us from feeling lonely.
Incidentally did you know that in past times when a woman’s fortunes were tied to the man she was married to, a Spinster (a woman who made money from spinning wool), was actually one of the few women who could choose not to be married because she made her own money. That’s right. She was the OG Independent Woman. Bow down to the Spinster!
Being a spinster is a positive thing. Being a Spinster means you are self-sufficient and can choose which man or woman you want to bring into your life. If they’re good enough, and they come bearing chocolate.
Pressure to have children
Do you want children? What does it mean if you don’t? What if it never happens for you for reasons outside of your control?
One woman told me:
“I’m single I don’t have a child. It feels like everyone around me is having babies and marrying and then you feel like if you don’t do that, you have to be excellent in your career, because otherwise, like, who are you? What’s your value?”
These words were spoken by one of my favorite people and I have her permission to present them here today. She is intelligent, has a career and academic record that many would dream of, and she’s downright hilarious. She too fears that she is not enough. That just being yourself is not enough. She has do more. And more. And more.
Yet I know for a fact that her existence in the world brightens the day of her family and partner. And mine.
I hope she can feel that.
Pressure to appear youthful
Our bodies change after childbirth, peri and menopause. Yet there is societal pressure to maintain the body of a 20 year old (FFS!)
Thankfully several influential mature women are rebelling against these pressures and beauty norms:
Helen Mirren daring to have long, silver hair at 77 instead of conforming to the regulation bob-length for anyone over 60;
Pamela Anderson going makeup-free at Paris Fashion Week (gasp!);
Supermodel Paulina Porizkova refusing to be silent, showing the world that a 58 year old woman is both attractive, sensual and has plenty to say.
I’d like to propose a different way of thinking
Lady I’d like to sit you down and tell you that you are enough, just existing on this planet.
Your mere presence makes the world a better place.
It is enough that you brighten the day of those around you, just by being yourself.
That you are lovable. That all parts of you are lovable. (Except the puppy sadist bits).
I leave you with this quote from Bridget Jones:
“To Bridget, who cannot cook, but who we love, just as she is.”