“Reframing vulnerability as being badass and tough and actually super courageous is a great way to rebrand talking about your feelings.” – Whitney Cummings
When I read I’m Fine and Other Lies by Whitney Cummings, it was at a time when I was living a carefree lifestyle, without much planning in mind for the future, or regard for my mental and physical health. I had fallen into some harmful habits that I didn’t think twice about. This book challenged me to look inside myself; to question the things I was doing, and why I was doing them. It put me on the path of digging for answers. Since then, Cummings has had an incredible impact on the trajectory of my life.
Before I read this book, I heard her on a podcast, which is how she landed on my radar. During the podcast, Whitney talks about her compulsion to people-please and how that caused her to bend over backwards when people – not even people she was close with – asked things of her. When Cummings shared these experiences, I found myself relating very closely to these stories. I had never heard someone express this concept, and it gave validity to something that I had struggled with, in my own life. The podcast host seemed as though he doubted her experiences. To me, when the host was dismissive of this, it was reminiscent of subtle dismissals that I had received for trying to express the same ideas throughout my own life. After listening to Cummings explain her struggle with mental health issues, and how her childhood affected her own harmful behaviors as an adult, I wanted to hear more.
Whitney Cummings describes I’m Fine and Other Lies by saying, “In addition to hoarding mortifying situations that’ll make you feel way better about your choices, I’ve also accumulated a lot of knowledge from therapists, psychotherapists, and psychopaths, which can probably help you avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made.” In that book, Cummings explains her struggle with mental health, and how she had to look deep within herself to analyze how her childhood and later experiences have affected her behavior. Whereas a lot of “self-help” books can be preachy and make one feel defensive, Cummings has a “been-there-done-that” type of vibe, and a vulnerability to her writing that makes it feel more relatable. The reader does not even know her, but can tell from her writing that she is sincere because of this level of vulnerability. Being a comedian, Cummings drives her points home by sharing embarrassing stories and making hilarious self-deprecating jokes. The humor lightens the tone of very heavy subjects, while also making her incredibly relatable. These stories that she has disclosed made me feel valid in our shared experiences. She put words to feelings and sentiments I knew I had, but didn’t know how to express aloud.
In one chapter, Cummings relates a discussion with her therapist about how she puts other people’s comfort and happiness above her own, ultimately causing unhappiness for herself. This chapter is about “codependency.” Before reading this book, I had the conventional idea of codependency in my mind: two people in a relationship who cut out all other relationships and rely on each other for every single one of their needs. Whitney explains that codependency can also exist in the form of obsessive people-pleasing. Cummings explains that codependency is when you can’t stand the thought of another person being unhappy about something you do or say; and therefore, you go out of your way and put all of your own needs aside to please that person. I related so much to this, and it was nice to finally have a word that tied my feelings and behaviors together.
Equipped with a new vocabulary including words like “codependency,” I was able to start my own personal-development journey. I went to therapy, and I read a ton of books. It has allowed me to assess my experiences as a child and young adult more deeply, and connect them to my unhealthy behavior and self-esteem of today. I used to have an approach that involved participating in unhealthy behaviors in excess, before stopping to re-analyze and correct it. Whitney, writing in a vulnerable, self-aware, and informative way, helped me to start approaching my life in the same way she does.
When I gained the opportunity to find my own writing-style in this publication, I found myself gravitating toward the same level of vulnerability that Whitney uses in her book. I am consistently taken aback at how little I see these conversations going on, even between my closest friends. The level of relief it brought me, just to hear someone else say that they have had similar experiences, made me want to try to produce the same thing in my life for those around me – whether that be in conversations, or in digital publication projects. There are tough topics out there, but I have found that bonding and releasing feelings over shared experiences provides a level of relief, and I admire Whitney Cummings for being the one to push for that.
It’s easy to go through life – and I think a lot of us do, – being oblivious to internalized ideas about ourselves. These are ideas that we have absorbed from society and our peers over time. If you’ve been reading my articles throughout the few weeks that this publication has been live, you know how much of an emphasis I put on the importance of vulnerability, being honest with ourselves, and questioning why we are the way we are. This book, I’m Fine and Other Lies, is part of why I value these things. And I’m so glad that I do, because if I didn’t, I would still be engaging in that same harmful behavior and not making any progress on bettering myself.