As an accomplished actress, sitcom creator, and best-selling author, Mindy Kaling has plenty of reasons to be a confident career woman. But when it comes to inspiring others to be confident, Kaling admits that it's been difficult to articulate to her fans just how she does it. Why? People are hesitant to admit how long it can take to actually achieve authentic confidence.
In an excerpt from her new book, "Why Not Me?" due out September 15, Kaling reveals how she went from an insecure young writer on The Office to an outspoken creator and star of her own show whose television persona tells an ex-boyfriend, "It's so weird being my own role model." Here are three takeaways from what Kaling has learned about confidence:
Know the difference between real praise and inauthentic compliments.
The summer after fourth grade, Kaling says her parents enrolled her in basketball camp. While she thought of herself as a young Michael Jordan, Kaling says the reality was that she rarely practiced. At the end of the two weeks, her teammates awarded her a trophy for "Coolest Clothes." Ecstatic, Kaling ran home and displayed her prize front and center on top of her parent's TV. But weeks later, she was hurt to see that her mother had taken it down.
When Kaling confronted her about it, her mother didn't understand why her daughter was so attached to that trophy. "They gave you that trophy so you wouldn't feel bad, not because you deserved it," she told Kaling. "You should know the difference." At the time, Kaling felt crushed. But she said her mother's taking away her participant's trophy made her want to win a real one. Even though you may be eager to take any praise you receive from your boss and run with it, it's important to recognize when you actually deserve the praise.
You've got to work for it.
While there are all sorts of negative stigmas attached to being a "workaholic," Kaling says the truth is that the most accomplished individuals, and the ones who are the most at peace with their careers, really are the ones who work the hardest. "I have never, ever, ever met a highly confident and successful person who is not what a movie would call a 'workaholic.' We can't have it both ways, and children should know that."
Blending in isn't the best strategy.
As the first female Indian-American creator of a major network sitcom, Kaling says she has a lot of critics wondering why she was so confident when she didn't look like many of the most successful Hollywood actresses. "People's reaction to me is sometimes, 'Ugh, I just don't like her. I hate how she thinks she is so great,'" she writes. But Kaling says that even in image-obsessed Hollywood, looks aren't the only thing that will get you far.
"One of the unexpected and wonderfully fair things I have learned in my career is that if Hollywood were filled just with perfect-looking people, then soap operas would be the most-watched things in the world. But they're not. Looks are great, but they're not compelling enough."
The lesson: Don't let conventional wisdom limit what you think is possible. Kaling says that your most vocal critics are the ones who usually who are most terrified by the idea that, against all odds, you might succeed. "It makes them feel like they're losing or, worse yet, that maybe they should've tried to do something too, but now it's too late."