In several parts of the world, Lena Dunham is a person you might find described as ‘polarising’, thanks in large part to the candour and general nakedness exhibited in her HBO hit show, Girls, as well as the stories told in her subsequent writings. She herself predicts that many a middle-aged conservative-type may not look upon her as any sort of role model but to this here writer and a generation of anxious millenials, she’s the definition of it. Why? Because she’s singlehandedly helped to reduce the stigma on all things mental health, promoted the idea that it’s okay to be imperfect and that it’s probably weird if you’re not. From the seemingly confident and popular young woman who goes home to wallow in the depths of imposter syndrome to the socially anxious teen who’d sooner fake a ‘legitimate’ illness than give a class presentation, Lena Dunham is the unexpected hero, the accidental muse. Despite her myriad everyday struggles (without wanting to belittle the suffering of anybody else), Lena is proof that you too can achieve a massive amount of success while still figuring things out along the way. ‘Still’ being the operative word; it’s an ongoing process.
Though we often commend her for never trying to be something that she’s not, fans of her book ‘Not That Kind Of Girl’ will know that like most young women, she did go through phases where she’d chronicle every almond that passed her mouth or question why she didn’t look a certain way. It’s not that she’s always accepted herself as she is, though that level of acceptance is something we should all aim for. Lena made a point of leaving the word ‘learned’ in ‘things I’ve “learned”‘ on her book title in quotation marks to remind readers that if they’ve come expecting pearls of preachy wisdom, they’d best look elsewhere. Lena’s not in the business of telling other 20-somethings how to live their lives and show the world how she’s ‘done it all’ under the age of 30. Instead, she’s got a platform on which to share her experiences, and it’s there that others may find humour, familiarity and comfort.
Whether she likes it or not, she does have some lessons and experiences worth sharing, and she takes whatever ‘role model’ capabilities she has very seriously. These days it seems evident that Lena always knew that something far better lay beyond the place where we conform to the societal ‘norms’ that so many of us fall victim to and that something was ‘authenticity’. Today, we wanted to bring your attention back to one of her lesser shared gems, in which she speaks about about her greatest lesson when it’s come to her struggles with anxiety (something that began to manifest itself from the age of five). Has she come to some enlightened place in her life? “I’ve learned some things but I still ate French fries for breakfast yesterday at 2pm so I haven’t learned enough. Part of being human is that you’re in a constantly transitional place. I think something that can be hard is the idea that people would say ‘I used to have this and now I’m cured.’ And the fact is I still go through phases of crippling anxiety. I feel like I have this great life and I have this great job, so I don’t want to say ‘I’m out of my head with anxiety'” because you’re the captain of this ship and you don’t want to scare anybody.” But someone dealing with anxiety needn’t have their entire lives crashing down around them to feel it; you don’t have to feel bad about feeling anxious when everything ‘should’ be fine. She still deals with it, as we all will from time to time and the idea of being ‘cured’ is an unhealthy end goal on which anybody should be focussed. Just because she’s the proud owner of several Emmy awards and has a best-selling book under her belt does not mean that she doesn’t still have days where she feels overwhelmed. What she knows now is that despite that, she’s still capable, that it will soon lift and that the more we address these things in the public forum and feel that it’s okay to say ‘hey, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed today’ or ‘hey, I’m scared that I’m not good enough for this job’, the less impactful and frightening such thoughts will be.
For any reader who’s been feeling doubtful, uneasy, or that they hope some day to have it all sussed, stop striving for perfection and take a leaf out of Lena’s book. Watch the video here for her inspiring comments.