May 29, 2015

Do you want to truly SEE yourself? Try this.

A few days ago I had dinner with a girlfriend who is also a single mum. She's recently starting dating a new man, and when she described him to me alarm bells started ringing. I could read between the lines, I could sense her tension and uncertainty, it was so clear to me the way she was compromising.

I didn't say much. It's not my place to challenge her. But it got me thinking about the numerous times close friends of mine challenged me when I was dating someone who wasn't good for me. The guy was a million shades of wrong, and was making me far more miserable than happy, but I couldn't see it.

And why not? Because it is almost impossible to see ourselves objectively. We are too caught up in our own heads.

Many of us are tremendously emotionally intelligent about other people. We can deconstruct their spin. We can analyse their motivations. We can cut through their bullshit. We can give advice! Fabulous advice! We can show them the way forward!

But when it comes to helping ourselves out of a quagmire, we are completely stuck. We can't see our own patterns, because they are the veil through which we view ourselves. It's like discerning the Matrix when you're living in it.

You can't know what you can't even perceive.

Recently I discovered a trick to help me see myself the way I can see other people. I've found it to be incredibly useful during those times when I have found it difficult to be objective about my own situation, in regard to a relationship, my career, a parenting issue or a personal decision.

I write down how I feel, what has happened, what I need to decide. I write it down in detail, in the first person, for example:

I'm sure I did the wrong thing. I'm sure this is going to ruin everything. I spoke to her, and she told me it won't, and so far nothing has happened, but no-one can come back from a mistake like this.

And then I go through what I've written, give myself a new name, and change it all into the third person.

Amy was sure she had done the wrong thing. She was sure it was going to ruin everything. She spoke to Sarah, who told her it wasn't going to affect anything. And, so far, nothing had happened. But Amy was sure no-one could come back from a mistake like this.

Then I leave it. I file it away and ignore it for a day or two. And then I come back to it, and read it as though it really was the reflections of someone else.

And I can see it for what it is. I can see that Amy is worrying over nothing. Nothing has happened, she has been assured nothing will happen, and yet she is still worrying. Clearly, her anxiety is the issue and not the mistake.

Then I realise, Amy is me. And it is me who is worrying over nothing. It gives me the perspective I could not possibly have about myself. It gives me the emotional intelligence, the insights, that I can only have about other people.

Next time you're stuck, try it. And for my friend the single mum, I hope you try it too. I can see things that you can't, just like everyone could see things about me. Now we just have to learn to see them about ourselves.

May 22, 2015

A Definition of Resilience

I started writing this post the other day. Usually I write posts in a few minutes in one go. If ever I don't finish a post it's because I know it's not working and I trash it.

But this post just sounded.... too depressing. And it's not meant to be a depressing post. It's an insight into something I've been thinking about a great deal: what it actually means to be resilient.

So I'm trying again, whilst I'm in a cheerful mood (coincidentally after a cup of tea and a slice of cheesecake).

To me, resilience is the effort it takes to keep pushing through when times are tough. It is the ability to get up and keep going instead of letting the difficulties beat me. I don't need to be resilient when things are going well. Right now I feel happy and relaxed and am not consciously calling on any coping mechanisms or willpower (other than resisting another slice of cheesecake).

I need to be resilient when I am sad or anxious or scared or exhausted, when I don't think I can cope but I don't have a choice.

And I don't have a choice. Very few of us do. There are days when I'd dearly love to just get back into bed and stay there, and days when I actually do hop into bed for an hour or two. But I always get up. I have to.

I'm sure you have to, too.

But as I said, resilience is an effort. It requires great energy. And anything that requires great energy is exhausting. Running a marathon is exhausting. Cleaning the house from top to toe is exhausting. And pushing through when times are tough is exhausting. Sometimes just getting through my regular routine on a day I feel particularly lonely or burdened takes a huge amount out of me. I collapse into bed feeling like I've competed in the Resilience Olympics, where the challenges are emotional rather than physical, and the only prizes are getting through the day.

I've been depressed in the past and, to me, being depressed is to lack the energy it takes to be resilient. When I've been depressed, I can't compete in that Olympics. I can't push through. I can't get through my tasks and win that prize.

A lot of us need to have a great deal of resilience. People all around you are pushing through their days instead of sailing through. Life is tough, and that's just the way it is. But let's all remember that being resilient takes a huge amount of effort, and to understand their exhaustion and to nurture them that little bit more.

And if they struggle, be there to help them through. Because no-one can compete in an Olympics without a support team, especially an Olympics of the soul.

May 21, 2015

Do You Know The Stuff I Don't Know?

I'm a reasonably bright girl, but my general knowledge is woeful. The stuff I don't know could fill an encyclopedia, though obviously someone else would have to compile it because I don't know very much.

I know a lot about certain things. I know pretty much every detail of my kids' lives, and that is a lot of detail. I know about my friends' marriages and my parents' friendships and why Simon Baker is currently in Australia. I know how to get burned soup from the bottom of a saucepan, what hair products are best for curly hair, and how to write a good circular conclusion to a blog post.

I know about social media and 19th Century literature and how to compose a haiku. I can recite the raps of Eminem and poems of John Donne and the entire script of Grease including musical numbers.

But I cannot name the capital cities of half the world's countries, and when I say 'half', I mean 'much less than half' because I'm so ashamed about how little I know.

I'm fascinated by people with tremendous general knowledge. I want to be them And I try, but the information keeps slipping from my brain. Interestingly, though, the names of every celebrity baby ever born are wedged there like blu tac.

But are certain types of knowledge objectively 'better' than others? Is my father the smartest man alive? And why are we wearing scarves?

These questions and so many more could fill an encyclopedia, but they are answered in the five minute video below:

May 19, 2015

I Very Nearly Lied About My Age

Here's a little anecdote for you:

Back in my mid twenties, after my brief stint as a child star actor, I decided I wanted to give acting another go. This 'decision' lasted for all of six months, but during that time I harboured ambitions of getting into NIDA. I did a pre-NIDA audition course, and was told I'd have a decent chance of getting in.

But there was a problem, my teachers (ex-NIDA students) said. Whilst older men occasionally got into the course, women of my age were considered to be too old.

"So I should give up?" I asked.

"No!" they told me. "Just lie about your age on the paperwork. People do it all the time."

Acting is a hell of a profession. Though it should be about talent - and it largely is, for men - for women it is equally about looks and age.

We know all this. I'm not going to bore you with examples of fifty year old actors playing romantic leads in movies opposite twenty-five year old actresss. I'm not going to bore you with examples of fifty year old actresses playing the mothers of forty year old actors. You've heard the stories. You know them to be true.

You also know that it is absolutely understandable that Rebel Wilson might have wanted to push her age down so as to keep scoring the 'young' parts in Hollywood for as long as possible. Apparently she is actually thirty-five, and not twenty-nine, as she has supposedly claimed. Chances are she would never have got one of the lead roles in Pitch Perfect if she acknowledged her true age. So fantastic. She told a little fib. No-one was hurt. And we all benefited from seeing her brilliant performance.

Would we shame an older women for slicing a few years off her age to get a job in the corporate world? No. We would shake our heads and lament the use-by date placed on women in our culture once they hit forty or fifty (depending on the industry).

Rebel Wilson is a Hollywood actress. Hollywood actresses have been lying about their ages/names/surgical intervention forever. Forever.

And if we're feminists, and we actually care about women, we should be trying to change society and the system instead of shaming individuals who are just trying to work within it.

And who knows - maybe, if I'd done my NIDA audition and been accepted, I'd now be thirty-nine.

May 12, 2015

I'm Fooling You All (Or Am I?)

I spend half my life playacting. I pretend to be a Real Writer. I go on TV and pretend to be a Real Commentator. I discipline my kids and pretend to be a Real Parent. And I go on dates and pretend to be a Real Woman.

But inside I feel..... Can't they see I don't really know what I'm doing? Can't they see that I am an imposter???

It's not all the time. I have moments when I feel like I've got it all together. Small snatches of time - perhaps I've just published an article I'm really happy with, or I have successfully helped one of the kids with a problem - where my brain catches up with public perceptions of me.

But they are moments. Most of the time I feel like I'm fooling everyone, and that soon I am going to be recognised for the fraud that I am.

this is SO TRUE

I think Imposter Syndrome is very common amongst women; less so amongst men who seem to second guess themselves less. Even since filming this segment with Lana, I have learned that many women I admire and respect feel exactly the same way.

It is remarkable to me that such high achieving women can have any doubt about their abilities. But then, it's possible that other people think the same about me. And that notion really blows my mind.

Watch our discussion here, and let me know if you feel the same:

May 5, 2015

If you've ever rejected anyone you'll know this to be true...

I have been on a lot of first dates, most of which do not progress to seconds. Between my single girlfriends and me, we've racked up dozens. And a pattern has emerged, showing a glaring difference between the way that men and women handle rejection.

Men who are rejected tend to argue their case. Women who are rejected slink quietly away.

I've been rejected after one or two dates. It's horrible, particularly if you really like the guy. But the idea of pleading for a second chance, or arguing with the dude that he's wrong, is completely bizarre. What on earth would be the point? Who would want to go out with someone who gave you a second chance under sufferance? Who would want to go out with someone who rejected you???

But men think differently. I have had several men debate with me when I've told them very politely that I don't wish to see them again. One man told me that I owed him a chance to 'do better', and that really he wasn't at all the way he appeared on the first date. (Presumably he was acting when we met?) Another made the fine point that my rejecting him left us both still single, implying that a) it was my fault that he was alone, and b) it would be preferable to be with someone I didn't like than to remain unpartnered.

I have had men argue with me over the reasons for my rejection, telling me that my feelings were not valid, that my impressions of them were wrong, that I had no right to judge them. (Which begs the question: What are dates for?) 

And, when I've gone the easy route and said a simple 'Sorry, I'm just not feeling it' I have been told I am too superficial. It seems that a man is allowed to reject a woman when they don't feel any chemistry, but if a woman does the same it makes us shallow. 

Not all men are like this. But I can tell you in all honesty that the vast majority of men do not take rejection well. There is an overwhelming sense of entitlement, an expectation that if they like me, then I should try harder to like them. 

And it impacts on me, this sense of entitlement. It makes me feel guilty every time I politely tell a man I'm not interested. It makes me feel anxious when I open my inbox, in case there's an angry response from the guy I had a drink with yesterday. It makes me feel pathetically grateful when a man accepts my rejection gracefully and doesn't beg or berate me.

But it doesn't work in the reverse. Not even slightly. A man can reject a woman without a second thought, without any guilt or explanation or attempts to soften the blow. Men don't feel they owe women anything, particularly not women to whom they're not attracted. 

Dating is about assessing whether you want to get to know someone further. No-one owes anyone anything other than honesty and kindness. Rejection hurts - trust me, I know - but you can't argue someone into liking you. Say 'Thank you, it was nice meeting you,' and move on. Eventually you'll find someone who doesn't need convincing. 

And if you don't, well, at least you'll still have respect.

May 4, 2015

Even Spokesmodels Wear Khakis (Sorry, What?)

It was inevitable that my #5minute video series with Lana would become an internet sensation. My years weeks of experience as a child actor combined with Lana's mesmerizing instability charisma makes for compulsive viewing - or at least, pleasant background noise whilst you're doing the ironing.

Of course, our popularity can be a little wearing. I am frequently stopped in the street by people waxing lyrical about the wit, humour and seamless wonder that is our online chats. That previous sentence is a lie, but that doesn't in the slightest detract from the veracity of the sentiment. Someone did stop me once, and though it was to ask me if my name was Rhonda, that is but a few short semantic steps from 'wit, humour and seamless wonder'.

Or big semantic steps. But still. Every big semantic journey begins with being asked if your name is Rhonda.

artist's rendition of you watching this video (unless you're a male, in which case sorry about the boobs)

It has often once been said that Lana and I make our videos look effortless, and this is part of our very special gift. Not everyone could get in front of a camera and speak non-stop for five minutes without any script or even the faintest guidelines, narrative structure or thematic crescendo.

And I know it seems discordant and wrong that we don't yet have our own cable television series, but I am quietly confident that it will happen. And a few years from now Lana and I will be stranded on an island somewhere, wearing khakis and dining on ground tusk in 'I'm An Internet Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!'

Which is why this video will come as such a surprise. When you are watching in dazed disbelief, try to remember that even the most talented of spokesmodels stuff up sometimes. And though we are not spokesmodels - and so that statement doesn't apply to us - we make a few mistakes too.


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