Hey, everybody! I’m Amanda Lynn, and this is the inaugural post on my new blog, The Fangirl’s Guide to Happiness. This is a blog that puts a fandom spin on the subjects of self-help and self-development, and hopefully will help equip members of fandom (however you identify is totally cool on this blog) to become their best selves, or at least take a few steps in that direction.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m the happiest person alive or anything—far from it, actually!—but I’ve been in professional psych therapy for many years, and I read a shit-ton* of self-help and self-development books. I have depression (or possibly type 2 bipolar), anxiety, ADHD, and a “mixed” personality disorder, whatever that is. I’ve also struggled with self-harm, multiple eating disorders, addiction, and suicidal ideation in the past. I was just awarded Social Security Disability for all this stuff, so it definitely affects my everyday life in a big way. Unfortunately, just reading and writing about self-help does not necessarily mean I’m able to take all of my own advice. But I have learned a few things about how to make life suck less, and that’s what I want to share with you.
So, my very first Fangirl Secret to Happiness is this:
Love yourself as you love your Fave.
Everybody has a favorite character or person in their fandom. This character or person is your Fave. If you are in multiple fandoms, you might have a different Fave in each one, or you might follow one Fave from project to project. Your Fave can be a fictional character, or it can be an actor, musician, athlete, comedian, YouTuber, blogger/vlogger, writer, artist, or even a fanfic author. It is perfectly fine to have more than one Fave, but most of the time there will be one who stands above the rest.
Your Fave is the character/person who:
• you think is the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen, inside and out.
• is practically perfect in every way, and their flaws, most of which are minor, are endearing as hell and just make them that much cuter.
• you always give the benefit of the doubt.
• whose beliefs, ideals, and projects you are predisposed to support.
• when they behave “badly,” you regard their behavior with compassion and empathy.
• makes you try new things, sometimes things that are difficult and/or unpleasant, just because they like or promote that thing.
• has physical imperfections (e.g., scars, moles, crow’s feet, pudge) that you view as adorable quirks that make them unique.
• induces you to support every project they do, even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly.
• you love no matter what, even when they screw up—which, depending on the fandom, can be once a year or every five minutes.
I’m primarily a Supernatural fan, so my Fave is Jensen Ackles. Here is a short list of reasons I love Jensen (because if I listed all of them, this entry would be 10,000 words long):
1. He’s naturally shy and reserved, but he has come out of his shell so much since he started doing SPN conventions and press events. That’s admirable af in my book.
2. He takes his job seriously but he also knows when to fuck around and be goofy to lighten the mood. He has amazing comic timing and is one of the funniest non-comedians I’ve ever seen.
3. He’s a perfectionist**, and he’s been open about his struggles with it.
4. He’s stunningly gorgeous. Have you seen his eyelashes? And his green eyes? And his freckles? And his cheekbones? sigh
5. He’s a devoted family man, with three beautiful children, a gorgeous wife, and friends so close they’re practically brothers.
6. He’s incredibly kind and generous, constantly raising money for charity and supporting his friends in their own efforts. He supports both his home community of Austin, Texas and his adopted community of Vancouver.
7. He loves and respects his coworkers, from his costars down to the lowliest of crew members, and constantly praises them, making sure to share the credit for his achievements.
8. He loves and respects all women and has defended female friends from predatory men in the past.
9. He’s an incredibly talented musician, even if he doesn’t believe it. His performances speak for themselves.
10. He managed to run a fucking marathon looking like he just stepped off a runway in Milan. And just happened to raise over $200,000 for childhood hunger relief while doing so.
So, I’m thinking that the key to happiness is to learn to view ourselves the way we view our Faves.
Think about it. What if you applied the things you think and say about your Fave’s actions and statements to yourself? If you’re anything like me, thinking about or watching your Fave fills you with love and tenderness. They can always make you smile, even on the worst day. Their mere existence makes your life brighter. 99% of your thoughts and comments about them are not just positive, but overwhelmingly so.
So, what happens if you start viewing yourself and treating yourself the way you treat your Fave? Well, I’m still in the beginning stages of this, but I’m guessing you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself. You might even start to—gasp!—love yourself.
I have tested this on myself. The first time was Sunday night, when I was beating myself up for not completing as many tasks as I had intended and procrastinating on something I consider important. I had just walked into my bedroom, and I was listening to music through headphones. I stopped, right in front of the open window, and took my bra off from underneath my shirt. Now, I was wearing an I-cup sports bra (actually smaller than my usual cup size, which is K, and yes, that exists), so I never go out in public without my bra. So, I’m in front of the window, I’m on ground level, and “Another Postcard” by the Barenaked Ladies starts playing. And in my head, I called up this video of Jensen (and Jared and Misha) dancing like a total dork, and I started to dance.
Without a bra.
In front of an open window.
And you know what? It was fun.
I kept dancing through that whole song and the next one, and you know what? I felt happier than usual for 24 whole hours. And all I had to do was be willing to act like a dork and have some fun in semi-public.
I did one more thing this morning. Above my desk I have a photo frame with SPN con photos, and surrounding it are string lights with clips for photos. I have a few con tickets and nametags clipped up there, but mostly it’s pics of Jensen with his best friends and/or his wife. Yesterday, I took a really nice selfie with my Love Yourself First shirt and touched it up. Today, I printed it out and replaced one of the photos of Jensen with that selfie. So now, I see myself along with my Fave and his Faves.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you lie to yourself or try to make yourself believe things that aren’t objectively true. For instance, I’m genetically tone-deaf. I can play instruments (as long as I can electronically tune them), but I can’t sing on key to save my life. So I’m not going to tell myself that I’m as good a singer as Jensen, because it’s not true, and I know it’s not true. But am I kind and generous? Well, I raised $200 for charity over Thanksgiving while I was spending 13 hours a day knitting cancer caps for Knots of Love, so yeah, I’d say that fits. Am I funny? Well, I make my coworkers laugh multiple times a day, every day, at work, so yeah, I’d say that fits too. Do I ever give myself credit for these things? No, I hardly ever do. I’m too busy obsessing about my perceived flaws.
If you really can’t talk to yourself the way you would talk to your Fave, then flip the script. Imagine it’s your Fave talking to you, and telling you why you’re awesome and sweet and totally adorable. I’m not even saying you have to believe it—at least, not at first. Just imagine them saying it. Close your eyes, imagine they’re standing in front of you, and tell them what you like about them. Then have them tell you what they like about you. If you’re like me, there’s a lot of overlap.
And if you find yourself wanting to take a risk—say, losing weight, or starting a business, or even just going to Starbucks and attempting to start a conversation with another human being for once—and then those nasty doubts start to creep in, then imagine your Fave is the one making the attempt, and imagine what you would say/write/tweet to them in response. I bet it would be straight-up encouragement and loving support. And if you want, imagine them saying/writing/tweeting it to you.
There’s a saying in AA (and all the other As): “It works if you work it.” So I challenge you to take one piece of advice from this post and try it, at least once a day, for seven days. And then see if you feel any better at the end of the week. And if it makes a difference, even a teeny-tiny one, then by all means, keep working it! And if not, well, you probably don’t feel any worse than before, right?
*Yes, I use adult language, because I spent many years writing slash fanfiction, and when you write grown men being grown men for long enough, profanity just wedges its way into your everyday vocabulary. So, if you don’t like it, I apologize, but it’s me doing me, so it’s gonna happen from time to time.
**I do a podcast on Supernatural, and let me tell you, I now understand why most actors can’t watch themselves on screen. Having to listen to myself over and over again during editing is absolute torture when you’re a perfectionist.