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“How do I overcome the fear of looking like an idiot? As it applies to both dating and karaoke.”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

When I was four years old, my mom took me to my dad’s office building for the first time. I don’t remember anything about the visit past one critical moment that happened in the office cafeteria. I had carefully selected a bunless hot dog out of the vast array of lunchroom options and I must have been feeling quiteproud of myself, because I also asked to be allowed to cut the hot dog up into tiny pieces all on my own. Permission to cut the dog was granted, and I took my plastic fork and knife and proudly began my dissection. Two cuts in, however, I met with resistance. My knife was having difficulty making it all the way through the hot dog. I knew what would help: I just needed to use all the force in my mighty four-year-old body to push the knife through to the other side. I wasn’t yet well versed in physics, and so didn’t foresee the knife completing its cut, leaving my hand entirely, and ricocheting across the cafeteria alongside more than half of my hot dog.

Every single person in the cafeteria stopped, and turned to look at me.

Upon collectively realizing that one of their co-workers hadn’t been suddenly inspired to start a food fight, but rather that a sweet, innocent, helpless 4-year-old had just had some difficulty with her plasticware, they all laughed. They all laughed. My parents and every other grown-ass person in the room laughed, and their laughter meant one thing, and one thing only to me: They thought I wasn’t yet capable of being as big, as grown, or as smart as they were. They thought I was too small. I was devastated. Inconsolable.

In that moment, two things were happening at the very same time. The fire in my belly was screaming BUT YOU ARE SMART AND YOU DO KNOW HOW TO DO THIS THING AND YOU ARE STRONG AND BIG AND THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, while the shrinking feeling in my chest was whimpering, what if you aren’t all of those things, what if they are right, what if you are too small, too stupid?

We’ve all had this experience, Anonymous, both as four-year-olds and as grown-ass adults, both cutting hot dogs and going on first dates… and if you are anything like me you still carry those same conflicting feelings of insistent confidence & total self-doubt. We value what others perceive sometimes (oftentimes) over our own knowledge of ourselves, and we doubt what we already know. Just like I knew I could cut that hot dog when I asked for permission to do so, you know that you are a fucking great human and that when you set out with the intention of having a blast, both karaoke and dating become much, much easier (and much more entertaining). But then! With just one sideways glance from another person, many of us suddenly lose that footing and wonder and worry that maybe we really weren’t capable, maybe we really weren’t so great, and maybe we should put down the microphone.

My advice to you is twofold: First, remember the tale of tiny Kristin and her bunless hotdog. Remember that the capabilities that I had in that moment did not change just because a room full of people thought I was small and cute. Many of them likely still even believed I was capable, but the bigger point is that even if all of them thought I was so small and silly, I was a four year old with the force of the whole universe inside of me. I could and did have the ability to cut that hotdog – not to mention the ability to learn from my missteps. Only I needed to know that to make it true, just like you are the only person who needs to know that you are the fucking best when you go on that date or belt out a RENT showtune. If the person or people you are with think otherwise, that’s on them. You are you, and you aren’t stupid. You’re a person. People are SO INTERESTING AND COMPLEX (annnnd for the record karaoke is not about singing talent, it is about having a goddamn blast.)

Second, the more we enjoy ourselves and speak our truth, the more attractive we become. I cannot tell you how much I lean on that knowledge every day of my life. I see people like Amanda Palmer or Elle King or Nicolette Mason or Janet Mock (and the list goes on!) who speak WHAT THEY FEEL and walk through this life not apologizing for their thoughts, their vision, their bodies, or any piece of themselves, and how goddamn brilliant and endlessly attractive I find them all because of that lived existence. Remember them, or the many other people who you admire because they are unapologetically themselves.

If you still find yourself wavering, feel free to tell your audience (whether that be your date, a full bar, or otherwise) the story of Kristin and her flying hot dog. It is usually a crowdpleaser.


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"Why is 'being comfortable with yourself' like the hardest thing ever?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Because the world is set up to make you feel bad so that you buy things to feel better.

You’re fat, buy a gym membership. You have wrinkles, buy this facelift. You’re trans, buy a new body or we won’t agree that’s your real gender.

“Being comfortable with yourself” isn’t actually about how you feel. It’s about how people perceive how you feel. That is very fucked up, but that is why is it so hard. There aren’t very many people putting out magazines, movies, TV shows, and music about how wonderful we are as individuals.

AND – There really isn’t a ton out there that actually allows you to see the world is painted a certain way and set up for the success of only a few, and that things are put in place to make 99% of people feel absolutely awful. You are having trouble feeling comfortable in your skin because you grew up in a world that desperately hopes you feel that way. If you feel uncomfortable you won’t stand up for your rights, you won’t go after your dreams, you won’t question authority, you won’t try. This society is hoping you won’t try. It’s unbelievable.

I think the best way to get out of this rut that we’ve put you in, is to recognize it and adopt the mantra, “fuck those people.” Who are those people YOU ASK?! Those people are all the people that make you feel judged. If you have those people in your life, get em out. If you have friends who make fun of you, who make your emotions feel invalid, fuck those people. If you have family members who only call to make you feel guilty, who blame you for their unhappiness, fuck those people. If you’re shopping in the men’s section and someone is looking at you weird, fuck those people. If you’re talking about minimalism super loud and people in your fave cafe are laughing at you, fuck those people. You don’t want people like that in your life, so don’t let ‘em in.

Spend your time and energy with people who make you feel like being yourself is the only way to be, people who support you, love you, inspire you. Work on things that make you feel great. Work with people that make you feel great. Stop wasting time on people and things that make you feel terrible. You will feel comfortable when you have dedicated yourself to being the happiest and healthiest version of you. You can have your version of the best life, a life where you’re truly comfortable. You just have to do it.


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"Sometimes I feel like I am a bad activist. The other day at school, this boy was making sexist and racist comments about one of my classmates to her face. I was standing right there. I could have stepped in and stood up for her, but I didn’t. It was the same boy who has followed me home multiple times yelling “faggot” the whole way there. I guess my question is how do I not be afraid? I hate how much a stranger has scared me into not sticking up for what I believe in. What should I do?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Kyle as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Sara Says:

Hi Anonymous,

This is a tough question, and let me tell you, you’re not the only one who has ever felt this way. I’m going to respond to your specific situation first, give you some general tactics that I use, and then we’ll talk about “bad” activism.

First of all, I can very much empathize with feeling like you know what you believe in, firmly, but then running into a hostile situation like this and not speaking up—and then feeling bad about not speaking up! But an important element of your question and the situation you’ve described is that it sounds like the boy who was bullying your classmate and you is an active, repeat offender. He didn’t just say something passively that may have been offensive, and you didn’t just miss a simple “teaching moment.” This person seems to habitually use biased language to intimidate others, and in a situation like this, my first instinct is that you do need to consider your safety before speaking up. I’m not saying you should fear words alone, or that you should never say anything, but if this specific person has followed you home while harassing you, I would be a bit wary, too.

I’ve run into some similar situations recently. In one case I was home from college, hanging out with old high school acquaintances, and started hearing things coming out of their mouths that made me want to launch myself across the table at them. But I had to consider that there was alcohol involved, there was no way for me to get home that night, and I was really outnumbered. As offended as I was, I didn’t feel safe speaking up to them in that situation. It bothered me every day for quite some time that I didn’t say something to “teach them all a lesson,” but I did what I could in the moment and tried to move forward with intention—more on that later.

If you weigh the risks of a given situation and find that you feel safe speaking directly to the offender, one of the most important things is to stay calm. The other person may raise their voice, pigeonhole your arguments, and do whatever they need to do to prove that you’re in the wrong. These reactions can be really upsetting, but even when your blood is boiling, I’d advise speaking as calmly and rationally as possible. Let me be clear—your emotions are valid. You should give yourself the time to embrace and digest them fully. However, when we fight with emotions, people in defense-mode are quick to declare us hysterical and ignore all of our words. So. Try to avoid pettiness, ask questions, and speak from your own experience if you can. For example, if I think someone would be receptive to constructive criticism from me, I might say something along the lines of, “So-and-So, what makes you think X? … I used to think X too, but I learned ABC and now I believe Y…” and move on from there.

Sometimes, you won’t feel safe speaking up. That’s okay. There are other things you can do to help the situation. If you hear someone using the terrible language you’ve described loudly, publicly, and often, they’re probably trying to draw some sort of attention. Whether they’re fully aware of the meanings of and damage caused by the words they’re using, or they’re just ignorant, they’re flexing their muscles and trying to show that they have power over you and others. This doesn’t mean you’re a “bad activist,” it means that this person is good at making other people feel bad. One of my rules of thumb: disengage to disarm. Don’t laugh at their joke, don’t antagonize, and remove yourself from the conversation if you need to and if you can. I also think one of the most important things you can do is offer your support to the other victim. Even if you can’t change the bully’s mind forever, right now, by yourself, you can still make a positive impact on another human by letting them know that you heard what he said, firmly believe that it’s wrong, and have their back. Maybe she’ll say the same to you.

Finding allies within and across communities is super important to affecting change. No one can do it alone, and unfortunately, the oppressor seldom listens to the voice of the oppressed. However, when the voices of the oppressed come together, incredible change becomes possible. Your classmate can be your first ally in this, maybe there’s a student organization you two could join to grow your support network and voice your concerns. Perhaps you can find a teacher and/or counselor to keep an eye on things and help discipline the bully at school. If your school isn’t supportive, maybe someone’s parents, a coach, or some adult person can, at the very least, try to help protect you and catalyze change. Find likeminded people, engage with them about this, and I can almost guarantee you’ll feel more empowered than you did on your own.

When I ran into similar hostility at the high-school-reunion-gone-bad, I was really frustrated with myself at first for not speaking up. In the moment, I stepped out of the room to collect myself and think about what I was feeling and what I would even say. I found someone else who was hurt by what was being said downstairs, and we approached our friend who was hosting the get-together to explain why we were uncomfortable and opened up a dialogue with her so that in the future, she can stand up to her other friends on behalf of us, or at the very least we can go into another scenario like this knowing we have her support. It didn’t cure the problem, but it helped. I still felt like a “bad activist” for days on end because I didn’t fix the problem I saw. But I’ve thought about this a lot and I’ll tell you how I’ve made peace with it.

I think that it’s easy to fall into thinking we’re not good at activism because we can’t always immediately fix the problems we see, even when it seems so simple. But there are SO MANY PROBLEMS in the world, and one person can’t solve all of them. One person can rarely solve one of them. It’s so daunting. To set yourself up for more success and less fear, I would start by throwing out the term “bad activist,” and thinking about what it means to be a “good activist.” I think that “good activism” is a lifelong pursuit.

You may not overthrow the bully or revolutionize the system overnight, and you may not be immediately or widely recognized for your work. I think, though, that there are certain elements that will help you stay on a “good activist” path for life. Be passionate about a cause, listen to the experiences of others, educate yourself constantly, take small actions in your own life and local community first, and align yourself with likeminded people. Don’t feel like you have to shoulder entire movements by yourself, but be intentional and purposeful every day. Keep humanity and justice in the front of your mind, and just keep going. If you can touch one life, that’s worth it.


Click through to read more about Sara and our other Second Opinions Panelists!


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"How can I stop being so insecure about myself when I'm in public?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Oh man, oh man, oh man. This is a thing that I have gotten over SORT OF, but I still struggle with SORT OF… you know? I used to not eat a bag of chips in public bc I would be afraid everyone thought I was such a weirdo for walking around with a bag of chips… Now I’ll be in an airport stretching my hips and wondering if people are looking at me, but also still doing hip stretches because THEY NEED TO BE STRETCHED.

I think the key is to remember that everyone around you doesn’t give a shit about you. We’re all obsessed with ourselves and the person you’re afraid of looking dumb in front of!?!? They’re only thinking about looking dumb in front of you… It’s TRUE! I PROMISE.

We’re all walking around in the world, being in public, wondering WTF everyone else is thinking about. No one is paying attention to you. If they are, it’s because they’re terrified that you’ll pay attention to them. If they are paying attention to you because they want to be dickbags, then imagine the kind of people they’re talking to about you… Those kinds of people super don’t matter. It’s like that Dr. Suess rap, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”

Hard to put into practice, sure, but the key word here is ‘practice.’ One day at a time, try to give less of a shit about the people around you. You’re the most important, you know?

Kristin Says:

Dr. Seuss is such a goddamn genius.

I agree with each and every one of Dannielle’s sentiments up there, and I think they are at the core of this matter. I also think that you might need a few stepping stones to help you get to that place Dannielle describes (and during the stepping on these stones, you will also need to access that patience-with-yourself of which she speaks), so here are a few additional thoughts. This is my new invention called Meditate, Reflect, Challenge, Repeat. Here we go:

Meditate. Okay, so, I just started to practice meditation and my entire life is changing. I cannot stress how powerful it is to pull apart the web of nonsense that clogs your brain, to sit with yourself in a quiet space, and to work on yourself — not for your own good, but for the good of, literally, everyone and everything. At first, perhaps, you will gain only a moment or two of peace… but over time, my prediction is that you will become more present in a reality that tells you that you are fucking perfect. P!nk wrote a song about that, actually.

Reflect. When you have experiences where you feel insecure, try to remember to reflect on them after the fact. Go back to the moment at the party where you first started thinking that you weren’t good enough. Did something happen? Did someone say something? Were there any positive moments in the experience that you missed after you were derailed into insecurity-land? Write down your thoughts, and use those reflections to help you debunk some of your fears.

Challenge. Our brains are little assholes. They tell us things about ourselves that are not true. You will be perfectly content and then all of a sudden the tiny asshole that is your brain will whisper, “No one cares about you. You’re so dumb.” I challenge you to challenge your asshole brain. Talk back to it. Say, “You say that no one cares about me but what about Seth and my sister and Ted and Amy and the guy at the deli who gives me free soda and my cat, Buddy, and MY GRANDPA. WHAT ABOUT THEM?!” Or, “You say I am dumb but remember how I got an A in English last week and how I had that idea about how my brother could organize his desk and how my temp job last summer told me they’d be psyched if I came back again?!” Your brain speaks lies when it speaks poorly about you — I give you permission to flip it off and move forward.

Repeat. Getting to a more confident place takes practice, and it takes commitment. It also has dips and curves, and won’t ever remain a constant. Continue to challenge negative thoughts, keep giving yourself positive reinforcements, remember to sit with yourself in quiet spaces where you can recognize that our realities are what we make of them, and always know that the people whose opinions matter most in this world are the people who give you the space to be whoever tf you want.

PS: For the time being, it’s also okay to where a shirt that says, “CURRENTLY WORKING ON SOCIAL CONFIDENCE. LET’S SHARE A CHEESE STICK AND TALK ABOUT IT,” to help break the ice.


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"So, hi. I just arrived at college. I hadn’t really been nervous at all until now realizing: I AM SO UNPREPARED IN MY GAYNESS. I haven’t kissed a girl / ever had a girlfriend, and I’m starting to freak out a little. Help?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

You and EVERYONE ELSE, you know!?!? It doesn’t matter who you have or have not held hands with, kissed, slept with, been heartbroken by, etc, college is a whole different ball game. You feel so prepared until you stand in front of someone you like, someone NEW, someone you are soooooo attracted to, someone who likes you back, BREATHE BREATHE PASS OUT RINSE REPEAT.

It doesn’t matter. You could think you’re super-over-prepared and you will learn very quickly that you are not. So, you’re actually ahead of the game by being AWARE that you are not prepared. Most of us are just acting like we know what we’re doing and then being slapped in the face by all things new. Most of us watch two episodes of the L Word and we’re like “oh, i get it, Shane looks like she doesn’t care but SHE REALLY DOES… that’s what I’ll do” so we sulk around wearing lots of necklaces and everyone thinks we’re mysterious, but really it’s just confusion and nerves all bundled up inside screaming to get out in the form of ‘OK I ADMIT IT I HAVE NEVER KISSED A GIRL.’

So, own it. Own that fear and those nerves bc nerves when meeting someone new are kind of great. PLUS, regardless of how prepared you might have thought you were, it wouldn’t matter. We’re all underprepared for new loves. Stand up straight, ask a girl to dinner, kiss her if you feel like it and be okay with the fact that you might tremble with nerves the entire time.

Kristin Says:

Listen. I legit have nothing to add to this — Dannielle has given you the truest words of wisdomy wisdom that exist: no one is more or less prepared than anyone else, and the best thing you can do is know that you are currently surrounded by swarms of people who, when confronted by the prospect of interacting with someone they really like for the first time, are like:


So, with that in mind:

Take it one moment at a time, one kiss at a time, one heart-flutter at a time. Be as open with yourself as possible. Know that exploring and discovering things for the first time is magical, even when it’s comical or terrifying or everything all at once.