It is two days until The Mindy Project starts up again, and I can barely think about anything else. Mainly because I haven’t yet worked out how to watch it on Hulu from the UK, and without a Hulu subscription, so I have a lot of figuring-out to do. But also it’s because I’m just that excited to hang out with Mindy Lahiri again.
Mindy Lahiri is my spirit BFF. (I’m also a huge fan of the actual human Mindy Kaling who created her, but we haven’t spent as much time together so I’m not sure we’re quite there yet, you know?) I have been told on multiple occasions that Mindy Lahiri and I are basically one and the same person—and this is such an honour to me that I get even more excited about it than that one time I was told I looked like Anna Kendrick (“but only in Twilight, before she got super-hot”).
What Mindy and I have in common is simple: crazy high self-esteem. Like, it’s boundless. I am funny and adorable and I can make my hair look really cute and I am not afraid to tell you all that.
This all sounds pretty rosy, right? Life must have been a breeze? Funnily enough, high self-esteem and low self-esteem are a lot more similar than you would think—and they both involve a ton of crying. Growing up, I had my heart broken more often than the Gilmore girls go for coffee. I spent so much time crying over boys that I wrote an entire Taylor Swift musical to listen to while I sobbed about my sucky life. (And if that little anecdote doesn’t clue you in to how much drama and attention I felt I deserved, I don’t know what will.)
So my poor mother decided to take action for her devastated daughter, and bought me a self-help book all about dealing with low self-esteem. But as we were going through it together, she started to give me a funny look. “Emma,” she ventured, “I’m not sure you have low self-esteem at all.” And then my amazingly perceptive mother uttered the words that made my whole existence fall into place: “I think you have really high self-esteem.”
And it was true. While a lot of heartbroken teenagers were sobbing “Why aren’t I good enough?”, I was wailing “Why didn’t that jackass see how good enough I really am?!”
If reading all that made you go off me a little bit, I don’t blame you. Attention-seeking arrogance is not the most endearing quality in teenage girls. Look, I tried my best to view myself with harsher eyes, but the best I could summon up was a belief that I was “beautiful without knowing it”, which in retrospect sounds an awful lot like “knowing it”, and also is an absolutely ridiculous way to think about yourself.
Failing to hate myself seemed like a crime against womanhood, and I started to hate myself for it (yep, I developed low self-esteem about my high self-esteem). Having high self-worth in a world designed to make women hate themselves and buy more beauty products can make you feel confused, alone, and generally pretty loathsome.
That is, until Mindy Lahiri came along, and did for my confidence what Kim Kardashian did for my bottom: she made me love it. When I saw it on Mindy, self-esteem wasn’t an ugly trait at all. In fact, it was beautiful.
Mindy Lahiri helped me make my high self-esteem the positive force it deserves to be. She showed me how to make it a part of my feminism; it’s not shameful to feel entitled to respect regardless of my gender or appearance. Mindy made sense of the confidence I had never known I was allowed to feel, and allowed me, for the first time, to feel truly good about loving myself.
This doesn’t mean I think really highly of myself, and it definitely doesn’t mean I think I’m better than anyone else. In fact, I’m constantly comparing myself to my friends and I never come out on top. My sister and I agreed recently that I have a lot more self-esteem than the mirror strictly tells me I deserve. That sentiment is not to be taken too seriously (the mirror obviously has nothing to do with your self-worth, ladies), but the point is that self-esteem is not about thinking you’re flawless. I am 20 pounds overweight, stroppy as a toddler, and perfectly well aware of my personal failings, thank you very much—it’s just that I like myself an awful lot anyway.
So I am so ready for The Mindy Project to come back in two days. I am so ready to watch Mindy navigate love, loss and disappointment without the self-hatred I always thought women needed in order to be socially acceptable. And I am so ready to be reminded of what I always knew about myself deep down.
That I may not be perfect, but I am perfectly good enough.
For your bookshelf: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.
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