We’ve reached that time of year when everyone starts doing their “year in review,” and I know that because Facebook is pushing it hard every time I log into my profile. And magazines are all doing End-of-Year editions, wrapping things up, making lists, and, you know, checking them twice. Everyone gets very reflective during the last few weeks of the year as though they’re debating what to write in the yearbook of their high school classmate they didn’t really know all THAT well but want to pretend like they did for the sake of future nostalgia. There will be extra-long Facebook statuses (and not just from your really crazy conservative uncles) talking about how #blessed people were in 2015 or how shitty the year was but how much better 2016 is going to be because this is FINALLY the year they get their lives together. We’ve heard it all before…just like Leo hearing he’s the front-runner for the Oscar only to have it snatched away come February.
But I’m going to tell you something no one else will around this time of year and certainly not Santa: it’s okay to be naughty, you guys. Seriously. Sometimes, it’s better to be naughty than nice. Naughty people get shit done.
I should probably clarify. When I say “naughty,” I don’t mean murder or adultery or not tipping your waiters (IF YOU DON’T TIP, YOU’RE THE WORST…or possibly European? In which case, if you’re European, don’t worry, because your waiters are fortunate enough to get salary, so good job Europe). I don’t mean voting for Donald Trump or being racist or misogynistic or destroying the planet with pollution. I don’t mean charging a gazillion dollars for an HIV/AIDS medication like Martin Shkreli.
When I say it’s okay to be a little “naughty” I mean:
It’s okay to be a little selfish
I know, right? In the season of “sharing and caring,” I’m telling you it’s okay to to do neither of those things on occasion. And it is. I happen to be one of those people who has often been far too accommodating of other people’s feelings and needs to the detriment of my own. We all have that one friend or family member who just sucks us dry but never replenishes the well, and frankly, it’s not fair or okay. Sometimes, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others, and that is a lesson I have learned the hard way. It’s not selfish to focus on how YOU feel or to spend time on projects that are important to YOU. It is perfectly okay to put yourself first sometimes, to say no to things and people, and to focus on what is best for you. I wish I could tell you that everyone has YOUR best interests at heart, but the truth is there are a lot of assholes out there who don’t and will do anything to get ahead of you in life. Be kind to others and to those people especially (because they probably need it to make their Grinch hearts grow three sizes). Always be kind. But don’t be afraid to do things for yourself.
It’s hard to say no to people who always expect you to say yes, but a well-chosen “no” can change your life just as much as a “yes.” I started saying “no” a lot more this year, and so now when I say “yes,” it’s to things I really want to do and to people I really want to help or collaborate with. I’m a lot happier because I know what makes me happy, and now I have the emotional space to actually help others without feeling guilty about how I feel or what I’m not doing to take care of myself.
Embrace your inner-Slytherin aka be ambitious
Slytherins get a bad rap. Yes, they were the house of Voldemort and a bunch of terrible Death Eaters, but they weren’t all bad. I say this as a Gryffindor who should be predisposed to disliking them, but I also know that if I’m being honest, I embody some of the qualities of the House that Salazar Slytherin built: cunning and ambition. It’s the latter that I want to talk about, and especially as a woman. Men are allowed to be openly ambitious and no one thinks anything of it, but if a woman is openly ambitious, she is often viewed as selfish or aggressive.
It’s not a bad thing to know what you want and to go after it wholeheartedly. Ambition, for whatever reason, is viewed with negative connotations, and I honestly think it’s because people are afraid to see others working hard to achieve their goals when maybe they aren’t doing the same. Where many Slytherins went wrong is in the methods they used to achieve those lofty goals (i.e. like making Horcruxes), but they never apologized for being ambitious, and neither should you. I am not shy about what my goals are, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t care if people don’t like that I’m ambitious…because it’s my life and goals and not theirs. Which leads me to my next point…
Don’t try to make everyone like you
This is a battle you will never win…unless you are Paul Rudd, because, to my knowledge, everyone loves Paul Rudd. ANYWAY, it’s pretty much impossible to get everyone to like you. It’s stressful and takes up a lot of time you could be spending on achieving your ambitious goals instead. And definitely don’t TRY to make people like you by attempting to ingratiate yourself on others. Do or do not; there is no try.
People either will like you or they won’t, and there is nothing you can do to change that (other than not be a total asshat). I have spent way too much time trying to appease other people, which has led to me being walked over once or twice or even thrice (okay, I really just wanted to use the word “thrice”). In the end, I wound up being really hurt by those people when it was obvious to everyone else BUT me that no matter what I did, they were never going to really like me anyway. Some people just won’t like you, even if you’re awesome and nice and work hard and make people laugh. We can’t all be Paul Rudd. So just do your own thing, feel good about it, and stop worrying so much about what other people think of you. The right people will think you’re a Paul Rudd. The rest probably prefer Pauly Shore, and who wants to prefer someone whose career peaked in 1995? (Paul Rudd’s essentially STARTED in Clueless in ’95, so…)
Work hard, but let yourself live a little
Know when to quit. I fully admit to being a bit of a workaholic, but sometimes I forget to enjoy myself and the fruits of my labor. It’s okay to have a lazy day once in awhile where you watch Netflix in your pajamas all day. It’s okay to meet up with a friend for a drink after a stressful day at work. It’s fine if you want to take a day-trip away from where you live to recharge and explore. And it’s also fine to do this if you’re poor (you know, within reason). It can be really easy to let yourself fall victim to the grind of work-sleep-repeat especially when you’re poor and stressed about money (which doesn’t always end when you’re not-so-poor), but you’re entitled to give yourself a break without feeling guilty about it. I used to feel guilty about going to the movies when I was poorer, but it was the one place that consistently brought me a sliver of joy, so I treated myself; usually, I went to a morning movie where it cost me a lot less, but I still treated myself. It all goes back to taking care of yourself. You need balance, which means that as great as it is to work hard and make money, you gotta know when to play a bit and spend even a teensy bit of what you’ve earned on yourself. So if you need a day to marathon Doctor Who and eat Haagen-Dazs*, go for it. You’ve earned it.
*I’m definitely NOT** speaking from experience.
**I’m TOTALLY speaking from experience.
Stop apologizing for being happy around others who aren’t, for your opinions if someone disagrees with them, for your successes, for liking things that other people don’t, for not doing things the same way everyone else does
Women especially have a really bad habit of apologizing all the time for everything; almost to the point of apologizing for just existing. But all of us could use a reminder to stop apologizing for ourselves except in situations that actually warrant a legitimate apology. First, it is not your job to make sure everyone else is happy 100% of the time, and you do not need to feel guilty if you are happy when someone else around you isn’t. You can try to cheer them up, but never apologize if you’re a ray of sunshine, and they’d rather be a cloud. Be happy if you feel happy.
Second, you are entitled to your own opinion. Someone may challenge you on it, but you are entitled to having your own, differing opinion. We live in an age where it is easier than ever to have and share opinions, but most people do not understand that it is in disagreement where solutions often arise, because constructive conflict usually breeds new ideas and compromise. Life is about balance, and it is good for us to hear different opinions from our own, so that we can be exposed to lots of ideas and learn new things. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt more confident in standing my ground on things where other people disagree, and while I don’t always change other people’s minds, I have stopped feeling guilty about my opinions.
Third, it’s okay to be successful and happy about it; just be careful that you are grateful as opposed to grandiose in your celebrating. No matter what you do, some people will always look at your successes as their failures, but that is a problem with THEIR perspective not YOUR hard work. You don’t have to apologize for the things you have achieved on your journey through life just because someone else is a little jealous. Now, don’t be THAT person who is always #blessed, but it’s fine to give yourself a little pat on the back every now and then when you are crushing it at being an adult.
Last, you really don’t have to apologize for liking what you like or doing something different from the way everyone else does. So you like pumpkin spice lattes and Beyonce? Great! You believe in conspiracy theories and watch Long Island Medium? Cool. Maybe you tie your shoelaces with one hand or cook breakfast food only at night. Whatever you like, don’t let other people make you feel bad because you occasionally go against the grain. Embrace the bizarre parts of you, because that’s what makes you interesting. Stop apologizing for the things that make you YOU.
But be nice.
It IS important to be empathetic, compassionate, and kind to others. There is a lot of hatred in our world right now, and we all need to pull together to be a light in the darkness. Do things for others. Care about the environment. Throw someone a smile on the subway. These little acts of kindness are just as important as the big things you’re doing or hope to do for yourself and the world. But don’t be afraid of letting that “naughty” side out when you need to. We all need a little kick in the tush sometimes even if it comes from ourself.
I just realized that I’ve been singing the lyrics to “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town” wrong for years. The lyric is supposed to go:
He’s makin’ a list
Checkin’ it twice
Gonna find out who’s naughty OR nice
I’ve always assumed it was “naughty AND nice.” But maybe that’s because I’ve always been a little bit of both. We’re all a little bit of both. So tonight when you put out your cookies and milk for Old Saint Nick, don’t worry too much about naughty OR nice. Just embrace it all.
Merry Christmas you filthy animals,