“I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’...There are little Indian girls out there who look up to me, and I never want to belittle the honor of being an inspiration to them. But while I’m talking about why I’m so different, white male show runners get to talk about their art.” - Mindy Kaling
I read this today. It’s from an interview with Kaling for Parade and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I’m not sure that the question is insulting, but I think her answer is spot on.
If you are a woman in this world, if you don’t look like a super model (whatever that even means anymore), you are expected to have a healthy dose of self loathing that you have not achieved this one feat, regardless of what else you may accomplish. Forget about the fact that looking like a super model has nothing to do with someone’s accomplishments, it’s a matter of winning the genetic lottery.
And sadly, I don’t know any woman who doesn’t buy into it...at least a little bit. If you had told me years ago that at this age I’d still waste a single minute wishing I was prettier, thinner, had straighter hair, could tan instead of burn, had longer legs, etc, my 20-year old self would have told me how pathetic that is. And she’d be right. And now when I do it, I get to add a further layer of judgment because I know I won’t live forever and I can’t believe that I spent a precious moment of life on such crap.
There’s a series of Dove commercials running now about how 6 out of 10 girls stop doing what they love, usually some sports related, because they feel bad about how they look. One of the girls, about 10, tugs on her swimsuit and it instantly takes me back to being on the swim team when I was that age. That was my last year on the swim team. I had a killer backstroke (OK, maybe not killer, but good), but I was chubbier than the other kids and I didn’t feel like I fit in so I quit. That was around the same time that I quit being on the softball team too. All because I felt like I wasn’t pretty/thin enough to keep playing. Sad, isn’t it?
Today, I’m giving to Girls On The Run, a great organization that I can’t believe I haven’t given to before now that trains girls in third-through- eighth grade to run a 5K. The idea, of course, is much more than about running. It’s about cultivating a lifelong habit of fitness, an appreciation for the wondrous things your body can do, believing in yourself, setting goals and meeting them, community, confidence and so much more. I wish they’d been around when I was young. And I wish I’d had a friend like Mindy Kaling, who seems very wise, when I was young too.
Sept. 27: Girls On The Run