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Welcome to another Mindf*ck Monday, the only weekly newsletter that isn’t always as shameless as it pretends to be. Each week, I send you three potentially life-changing ideas to help you be a slightly less awful human being.
This week, we’re talking about 1) shame and its repercussions, 2) the desire many have to “go back” to the early days of their relationship, and 3) the MFM newsletter is officially a year old! Some thoughts and comments for you all.
1. Have you no shame? – One of the big bugaboos in the self-help world these days is shame. The idea is pretty simple. There are things that you and I resent and loathe about ourselves. These things tend to be irrational—like we think our ankles are too veiny or that we’re as dumb as a sack of bricks, even though we aced our SATs and our ankles are sexy as fuck.
As a result, we hide these parts of ourselves. And in this hiding, we develop all sorts of unhelpful emotional and behavioral ticks—like we become extra anxious when our ankles are exposed or malicious and callous when defending our ideas.
Basically, the idea goes that most of the ugly, awful stuff that drives people to pick up a self-help book (or newsletter) in the first place is driven by shame. And if we can just uproot that shame in ourselves, to unhide it and express it to the world, then things will be just grand.
But the problem is that there’s a word for someone who has uprooted and rid themselves of all shame. That word is “shameless.” And it’s pejorative for a reason. The last time I checked, shameless people were not at the zenith of emotional health, they were the frauds and charlatans and raging dickheads of the world.
So, what the hell is going on here? Shameful or shameless — which is the lesser evil?
Lucky for you, I wrote like a 4,000-word article getting to the bottom of this. Check it out:
Read: Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Shame (or read in the iOS App)
Go on… don’t be ashamed to read it!
2. Are you sure you want to go back? – One of the most common relationship-related questions I get is whether that passionate “fire” present in the early days together can ever be revived. It’s a common question, often found on the cover of women’s magazines and implied in the gaudiest of travel brochures—as if the delirium of romance were as simple as buying the right perfume or booking the ocean view on your next beach vacation.
I generally find this idealism about romantic love to be misguided. Indeed, long-time readers will be more than familiar with my arguments that, on its own, love is not enough, and the fantasy that it can be is a relatively recent cultural invention.
Those who have been with a partner for a long time can easily become nostalgic for the wild, topsy-turvy emotional tempest of the early-stage romance and convince themselves that for some reason, they need it back to be happy. The truth is that love evolves and changes shape. What often creates that early passion is that you’re two insecure, bumbling humans trying to figure out if it’s worth opening up to someone in the first place.
3. A year in the books – Last October, while on a much-needed vacation (remember those?), I decided, somewhat on a whim, to try out sending a weekly newsletter to my readers. There wasn’t a whole lot of strategizing behind it initially. For much of 2017-2019, writing articles for the website felt like abstract promotion as people’s attention moved more and more to social media platforms and a weekly email seemed like a way to get back in touch with readers directly.
To my surprise, this newsletter invigorated my writing in a way I did not expect. For one, it forces me to show up every week, whether I feel like it or not. And while I occasionally have weeks where I gripe and moan, for the most part it’s been a wonderful consistency in what is an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable profession.
But the real joy is the intimacy and interaction it’s brought back with you, my readers. Now, each Monday, three of my ideas go out to around half a million people. And each week, anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand of you reply with your thoughts, disagreements, and suggestions. There’s an accountability and immediacy to the relationship that I have not felt since my early days as a blogger.
A side effect of that immediacy is that this newsletter has become a living, breathing, evolving thing. In the early months, I still treated it similar to how I treated my website: I wrote up declarative, advice-driven content with a kind of finality to it and posted it, thinking that was that.
But as the weeks went on, I started to realize a few things. One, I’m wrong about a lot of things. Two, readers catch those mistakes and let me know, sometimes en masse. And three, by incorporating feedback, disagreements, and follow-up topics, the newsletter morphs into a kind of slow-moving conversation, where I can revisit topics and update prior beliefs with new information.
That baked-in feedback mechanism and willingness to evolve and improve upon itself is something that’s sorely lacking from public discourse at the moment. It’s not present in the media in any significant way. Blogging used to be like that, but blogging hardly exists anymore. And it was never possible on social media, because… since when was there any fucking nuance on social media?
As a result, this newsletter has felt like a kind of lifeline of normality in these crazy times. And while there have been a few stressful weeks where I’ve struggled to put my thoughts together or where I’ve lodged at least one of my feet firmly into my mouth, overall it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long, long time.
So, thank you for being a part of it, for continuing to read, and for participating in this continual weekly project of being slightly less awful human beings together.
Here’s to another year,