#FirstImpressionFriday: Why Not Me?

8:30:00 PM

I love Mindy Kaling. I've never seen The Office, so for years I have missed out on the hilarity that her writing and acting has brought to the table. It wasn't until a friend vaguely threatened strongly suggested I watch this show called The Mindy Project that I discovered just how funny she is.

There are these studies about how people feel this crazy connection to celebrities that, in all likelihood, have little in common with their on-screen personas, and after watching Kaling's interviews and reading her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) I understand why. I get the impression (however true/false) that she is a super grounded, super funny person with whom I could see myself eating a cheeseburger while in deep discussion of the merits of N'Sync vs. The Backstreet Boys.

I LOVED reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I was in college at the time, and I have a vivid memory of sitting in a campus cafe - in full view of other people - and laughing so hard that I cried. That said, it probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I was pumped to hear Kaling is coming out with a new book: Why Not Me? When I heard that an excerpt of that same book was going to be made available online, I made grabby hands at it and started planning my next #FirstImpressionFriday.

While Kaling's first book is a series of vignettes that take the shape of a biography/memoir, Why Not Me? is a compilation of essays. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) speaks about Mindy's childhood and her experiences breaking into the business as a young writer, but I get the impression that Why Not Me? is focused more on sharing what she's learned, now that she's there. As an average sized woman and a person of color working in Hollywood, Kaling says she is often asked where she gets her confidence. In the excerpt of Why Not Me? she shares her thoughts about a time when she was asked that question...and didn't give a very good answer.

Not only does Kaling address an important issue, but she recognizes her responsibility as a role model to answer those kinds of questions thoughtfully - and calls herself out on it when she doesn't. With her signature style and sense of humor, she talks about the problematic nature of confidence - how questions about confidence are offensive, how some feel entitled to be confident, how it's assumed that women won't be, and how confidence is manipulated by the media. She addresses the paradoxical nature of confidence - how society praises it, but is consistently surprised and made uncomfortable by women who project it - and how it's assumed that one can only be confident if they are perfect. She also revises her earlier answer about how to get confident, and gives some pretty kick ass advice:

Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled. Listen to no one except the two smartest and kindest adults you know, and that doesn't always mean your parents. If you do that, you will be fine. 

Set to be released mid-September, I'm definitely going to be picking up a copy of Why Not Me? - not just because I love Mindy Kaling, but because reading this essay gave me a new respect for her - and all public figures - and for each of us, who have at some point in our lives felt pressured to conform in a society that expects perfection but all too often fails to achieve it. I can't wait to see what the rest of Kaling's essays are about, especially if they're all as funny and insightful as this one.

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