I recently gave a TedX talk called The Case for Radical Vanity.
You can watch the whole thing here:
Just in case you just hate videos though, or don’t have 12 minutes to spare, here’s the basic premise:
- Women today see themselves and their bodies in such a negative light that it’s become a cognitive distortion. Their thinking patterns have created hyperbolically negative self-images; they cannot see or assess themselves accurately.
- While we’re starting to see some pushback against this negative self-image in women, the truth is: insecure women are “better” for our consumerist economy. (Aka: they’re more likely to buy clothes, products, procedures, magazines, creams, gimmicks, and status symbols.) Therefore you can rest assured that the societal forces that help create our negative self-images will not be going anywhere soon.
- Modesty is supposedly a virtue, but when people truly and unabashedly love themselves, they show up in the world with more compassion, courage, kindness, passion, and authenticity. Which sounds pretty damn virtuous to me.
- We can’t wait for self-love to become the norm in order to love ourselves. We don’t have time. It must happen now, and inside each individual.
- “Radical Vanity” is a term I made up for the individual cultivation of “excessive” pride in one’s achievements and appearance. Radical vanity is a call for backlash against the idea that women should give to others than she gives to herself, and an acknowledgement that only when our needs are fully met can we show up fully to help others. It’s like the safety speech on an airplane about the oxygen masks, right? Help yourself before you can help others. I believe in helping the world by raising each other up, but that’s not effing possible when you’re exhausted, depleted, and insecure. Radical vanity is about starting a movement toward reclaiming our time and energy and attention, and spending it on ourselves first.
So, ok. The message is inspiring, right? Raise yourself up by practicing self-love. Put yourself first. Be radically proud of who you are and what you look like. But the question everyone asks me after they watch my talk is how does this all work in practice? What does radical vanity really look like? Where do I start?
Radical vanity is about shifting where you spend your precious resources of awareness, energy, attention, and time.
Each of us is born with these powerful resources. This is your inherent power. Unfortunately we’re taught to give them away to anyone who asks for it (and to many who don’t). Radical vanity means you consciously spend your resources on activities/people/things that raise you up and help you become your best version of yourself, instead.
But before I talk about where you should spend your power, let’s talk about some places not to.
These are just a few examples of the many popular places where women are encouraged to give their power away, and which ultimately makes her feel depleted; a worse version of herself.
- Numbing activities disguised as relaxing. If you’ve been “relaxing” all day with netflix and facebook, and now you feel too exhausted to do anything, you weren’t really relaxing. You were numbing; numbing drains your energy, time, and ability to focus. If you want to numb consciously, that’s totally fine. It’s a valuable tool sometimes. But don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ve been “recharging” this way, and don’t be surprised when you feel sluggish, tired, or anxious after.
- Anything that makes you doubt yourself and your desires. Marketing, advertising, and media are based around one thing: how to convince you that your desires are wrong, and to make you desire something they have. Your authentic desires are there to guide you; losing touch with them will make you feel insecure and powerless.
- Anything that makes you “hate people.” If reading stories about how people suck makes you hate people, stop reading stories like that. Seriously. Turn off the news and go buy some Chicken Soup for the Soul. Being an informed, but miserable and powerless, citizen isn’t noble. Hating people causes you to feel isolated, angry, lonely, unappreciated, apathetic, and unmotivated to share your gifts. It’s a huge drain on your power.
- Anything designed to “fix” you. Spending your time and energy “fixing” yourself sends the message that you are broken, incomplete, and not good enough. Lots of intended self-care for women is actually “fixing” in disguise. Be sure you’re not giving away your power to products, activities, or people, by using them to apologize for, or distract from, who you really are.
Step one of Radical Vanity is being relentless about ridding your life of anything and anyone that makes you feel weak, helpless, broken, incomplete, annoyed, lost, or confused. Practicing discernment, assertiveness, and boundaries all show daily respect for your time, energy, and attention.
Refuse to tolerate anything that makes you feel anything other than amazing, and you’ll be amazed at how amazing you start to feel.
Given today’s hyperbolically self-negative world however, cutting out the negative shit won’t usually be enough. You have to also consciously spend your power in positive ways on yourself. In short: pay attention to yourself like you would a child you love: what do you need? Are you comfortable; happy? What would make your day better? Give yourself the gift of unapologetic self-adoration, admiration, and care.
Note: The following self-admiration practices require that you totally let go of the idea that loving yourself is selfish, rude, or hurtful. It’s not. Loving yourself spreads compassion, courage, kindness, and freedom; by loving yourself wholly, you instantly make the world a little better.
This is where I suggest you spend your power. Self-admiration. Try each of these as an individual practice, or string a few together and see how that feels. If you experience resistance around any of these areas, that might be a good place to dig a little deeper and see what’s going on.
Admire your physical form
This is a big one. You can read about my lifelong mirror practice here, but it will look different for everyone. Find ways to change the way your eyes take in your face and body when you look in the mirror or at photos. Widen and soften your gaze, and let it skim over all of you without stopping to focus on (aka tear apart) individual body parts. You’re a whole person, not a bag of misfit limbs. Spend time admiring what you like in the mirror. Learn how to accept compliments, and stop apologizing for how you look. Take selfies when you’re having a good hair day. Stand up tall. Work out to feel powerful. Have great sex. Enjoy your body.
Personally, I take a lot of photos of my face and body. I’ve gotten very good at finding the light and the angles that allow me to view myself the way I feel- beautiful, sexy, playful, cute. I often literally scroll through my Instagram feed or photo album, just to admire how beautiful I am.
Admire your gifts
What are you amazing at? What are your gifts, your talents, your greatest attributes? What are people constantly complimenting you on, or telling you that you should do more of? How often do you indulge in these gifts, whip them out, show them off, and admire them for yourself?
Unapologetically do more of what makes you feel like a rockstar. Sing. Dance. Paint. Drive race cars. Give advice. Whatever. Personally, I’m a writer. I read and re-read my own work constantly. On a regular basis, I write what I consider to be the best thing I’ve ever written. I am, in complete honesty, my favorite author.
Admire your desires.
What lights you up? What turns you on. Deep down in your belly, what do you WANT? Appreciate the shit out of those desires, because they are here to GUIDE YOU. Without desire you would never have any damn clue about what to do. Let yourself daydream. Listen to your heart. Create a loving environment for your desires to show up in, and then honor them by going after whatever they guide you toward.
Admire your weirdness.
What makes you unique? What do your friends and family find most endearing about you? What did you used to be super insecure about but turns out is actually totally awesome? Those quirks and traits are also what happen to make you lovable and beautiful and one of a kind. Letting your true freak flag fly is one of the most liberating and joyful ways you can spend your power on yourself. Embrace the shit out of every single thing that makes you weirdly and wonderfully YOU. (And don’t tolerate anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself for this!)
Admire your potential.
Just because you haven’t done something yet is no reason not to admire your potential to do it! You can call this “daydreaming” or “visualizing,” but either way I encourage you to get excited about and picture your potential success.
For example, I take just as much pride and joy in the amazing books I’m going to write in the future as I do of the blog posts I’ve already written. This is because I know I have limitless, epic potential. I know I can do anything I set my mind to, and I know that I will manifest good shit to help support me in my dreams. Therefore I am able to get excited about the end result of stuff I haven’t done yet, and include those successful visions, daydreams, and plans into my current self-image “memory bank.” Note: this is basically just the exact opposite of “worrying.”
Admire your admirers.
Learning how to take a compliment is an incredibly important skill. Saying “thank you” instead of “this old thing?” sends a very different message to yourself about your value. It also sends a very different message about the person who gave you a compliment. The typical female trick of turning a compliment around, under the guise of modesty, reinforces the idea that anyone who would have something nice to say about you is either lying, dumb, or crazy. None of these options creates a nice reality for you to live in, so stop reinforcing it.
Quite the contrary, I suggest you give extra respect and admiration to those who admire you! Give these people some GD respect for having such obviously great taste! Let them know it, too. Show your respect by taking their compliments graciously, really believing them, then re-reading the notes they write you, saving their love letters, re-playing nice voicemails, or copying down compliments into a compliment journal.
Seriously. Honor the absolute shit out of anyone who holds a high opinion of you.
Admire your source energy.
If the words “source energy” just made you roll your eyes, just go ahead and skip this one. But I promise it’s not as woo-woo as it sounds. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, and you exist. Which means you’re made of ancient energy that has been recycled a whoolllle bunch of times. You might be made of the same particles that were once stardust, or moonrock, or an earthworm, or an oak tree. That’s fucking amazing. If you cannot find a single ounce of reverence within yourself to contemplate the utter DOPENESS of the universe which somehow unfolded in exactly the right order of events to create YOU, then I suggest you get your awe-detector checked.
Here’s the thing: you exist. You’re made of source energy and you will return to source energy and this whole universe is powerful and magical, and you’re a part of it. So by admiring and revering the universe’s insane hugeness and power, you are also admiring and revering yourself.
Admire your tribe
Surround yourself with people whom you deeply respect, and who absolutely adore you.
If you hang out with a bunch of marshmallow-headed dumdums, their adoration will be meaningless. And if hang out with super smart people who feel lukewarmly about you, you’re digging yourself a negative self-image grave. Choose your tribe wisely. There is nothing that can raise you up higher, or faster, than spending time with people you respect and adore, who obviously respect and adore you. This includes lovers, friends, family, partners, co-workers, etc. I suggest aiming for the dynamic with each of your closest tribe members to be this: a constant, mutual state of “oh my god I can’t believe this amazing person wants to hang out with me!” Let the caliber of people who adore you remind you that you are worth adoring. And adore them even more so, for their excellent taste in people.
This is radical vanity in its highest form: discernment. If you do not reaffirm my own view of my awesomeness, I do not have space for you in my life.