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not disappointing myself
Cecily Brown, Be Nice to the Big Blue Sea, 2013
ME: Listen. Every time you’re given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else. Your job, throughout your entire life, is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself.
Last night I woke up at 2:45 AM and reread Glennon Doyle and felt so touched by this paragraph. I’ve written a lot about how I fret about not doing the Right Thing—how I often succumb to the trap of optimization, the desire to perform for others. And there’s something about this framing that rings more true than any other way I’ve thought about it.
Some things in life feel realer than others, more alive. When I follow these things I feel the most like myself. The animal inside me always knows. But I don’t always trust it, because my logical mind wants to analyze and rationalize. It leads me in the wrong direction.
Glennon writes that when women write to her asking for advice, she asks them to tell the “truest, most beautiful story” they can tell about themselves. When I think about that in the context of my own life everything seems so clear. What’s the most beautiful life I can imagine for myself? What’s the truest? And am I making the decisions that would get me there?
Before I started writing I had a million excuses for why I shouldn’t bother. But I felt the happiest when I was writing. When I was a little girl I wanted so badly to be an author. When I abandoned that dream, I stifled a part of myself. Now that I’m pursuing it I feel more alive.
Pretty much everything in life is like this: there are some ways you can show up that just feel better. And when you show up for the truest and most beautiful version of your life that you can imagine, you feel excited and alive.
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So many high-achieving people get trapped into obsessing about the external world and neglecting their internal world. When you’ve been suppressing things for so long, you can’t just decide to stop all at once. Learning to listen to yourself takes a long time. I used to think that I always had to justify everything to myself—that I needed to be completely rational. Then I slowly started to realize that my emotional reaction to any situation was often way more accurate than any of my thoughts. And it’s kind of annoying, because often my feelings are telling me things I don’t really want to hear. So it’s easy to ignore them and freeze them out.
Historically, instead of listening to myself I prefer to control my environment. I plan, I anticipate, I analyze. I get mad at myself when fuck up. And it works pretty well most of the time, for a lot of things in my life. But when it comes to feelings it just doesn’t work. You can’t fake feelings. You can’t perform your way into the truest, most beautiful version of your life, because you need to be connected to yourself to even know what that looks like. I’ve known that for a long time, but I’m finally starting to live it.