I recently finished reading Mindy Kaling’s new book called Why Not Me. I have always enjoyed reading Kaling’s writing because she finds a way to make each story personal and relevant for the reader, or at least for me. Without knowing me, Kaling seems to have found a way to know and answer each question I have before I ever get the chance to ask it. I can commiserate with her and she certainly commiserates with me.
In her latest book, Kaling writes about effort. More so, she writes about how effort is underappreciated. She is right: we live in a world where effortlessness is lauded. We want everything to look as easy and natural as possible. While this isn’t a bad thing, it does limit what we think of as good.
Personally, I believe this notion comes from childhood and the idea of “cool.” From my time spent in classrooms as both teacher and student, I can inform you that “cool” rules how people act, and unfortunately the essence of “coolness” is nothing more than not trying. If you are cool, you show lack of care and try. If you can do that you will be loved by most. People will try to achieve your air of aloofness. But why and when did this become a thing? Why is it cool to not be passionate?
Effort is important. I bring it up because I think it is especially important for us Ladies. Kaling talks about effort in the very beginning of Why Not Me, and she says, “I’ve never understood the compliment ‘effortless’ . . . I don’t understand that at all. What’s so wrong with effort anyway? It means you care. What about the girl who ‘walked into the party, her determination to please apparent on her eager face?’ . . . Let’s give her a shot!”
Kaling then goes on to say that she finds herself caring less and less about what people think of her, and she instead wants people to get to meet the real her. I think Kaling strikes an important balance, and I would now like to make that distinction.
See, our culture tells us that it is important to please others without looking like we are trying to please them. This is, all in all, a ridiculous concept. As it is, our culture tells us how we should behave as Ladies anyway. So, essentially, we should try to abide by our society’s standards, but make it look as if we aren’t trying at all. Basically, we’ll be punished if we try to do what is expected of us but look too much like we’re trying.
Let me tell you, this concept is silly. It may cause some of us to say that it’s not worth caring about at all, but don’t give up. While caring what people think of us certainly shouldn’t be the central focus of life, it does help us to be kinder and more considerate humans.
I believe we should care about what people think of us. Caring helps us to become better; it is a source of motivation. However, we should not care so deeply about what others think of us that we give up who we truly are.
So let’s care. Let’s put in an effort, but first let’s choose what we care about. Those things that we choose, we will embrace wholly and passionately. We will try fully. We will care deeply, and in regards to those things, we will care how they make others reflect on us. The things that we care about are what make us individuals.
And hopefully, with all of us teaming up together, it will soon be cool to put in an effort.