When writer Heather Havrilesky was on the Longform Postcast in March of 2016, she said something during the last 60 seconds of the recording that made me pause, rewind and take notes. I’ll never forget it.
“Okay, last question,” Max Linsky said, “You have a book coming out in July. It’s called How to Be a Person in the World. The last question is — and remember this is the speed round — how do you be a person in the world?”
“You’ve got to lean way in to what you already are,” Heather said. “Lean way the fuck in… look right at the worst — the so-called worst — things about yourself and figure out how to celebrate those things.”
You might know Heather as the brains behind New York Magazine’s advice column Ask Polly or her hilarious Twitter or any of the other genius writing she’s done. But you might not know her career is defined by the very things she always detested: being emotional, being vulnerable, being an advice-giver, being “soft,” and being all of that in public.
“[W]hen you look at yourself and you say, ‘Oh god forbid that this one part of me ever shows’… You can only see it because it keeps showing. It keeps showing! It wants to be shown. Lean into that and your path becomes — I’m not going to say free of obstacles, it’s never fucking free of obstacles but… it becomes a little clearer.”
“That’s good advice,” Max said.
“I’m really fucking good at this Max, I’m telling you!” she laughed.
Her words stuck out to me because they rang true for my own experience coming into myself, but also because of a conversation I’d recently had with a friend. He confessed that he was envious of people who had in-depth knowledge about something very specific, whereas he merely had a surface-level understanding of a bunch of different things. He’d been unfocused his whole life, he said. He felt he had so little to offer as a result. Hearing him say that almost physically pained me, because his wide breadth of random knowledge is one of my very favorite things about him. He’s so interesting to hang out with, so game to talk about anything and constantly surprising me with new bits of information he’s picked up.
Lean way the fuck into who you already are. It’s the perfect, healing mantra for a self-improvement and comparison-obsessed culture. What if you already are your best self? What if the only thing standing between you and a more comfortable existence was accepting that? What would happen if you leaned into the very thing you were always afraid you were?
— The Cut (@TheCut) August 2, 2017
Pro tip; You will never be a million times “better” than you are right now. Learning to accept and embrace that will make you a lot happier. https://t.co/eXYnucB2Hf
— Heather Havrilesky (@hhavrilesky) July 16, 2017
Today, my question for you is: What’s the thing you’re most afraid you are? What would happen if you celebrated that?