The Right Words

Seeking out – or stumbling across – the right words at a certain time helps me to process experiences, thoughts and emotions. I use my journal to capture extracts from articles, books, films and interviews that make me stop and think, ‘I needed to see this now’, ‘Me too!’, ‘I want to be more like this’ or ‘I should keep this in mind’. Read on for a selection of my favourite quotations.

On Agency and Action

‘This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it.’ – The Holstee Manifesto

‘Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.’ – Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

‘Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful.’ – Zadie Smith, On Beauty

‘Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.’ – Tina Fey, Bossypants

‘It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action, and they will make it if they cannot find it.’ – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

On Slowing Down

‘And what I think we all need more than anything is this: permission to be wherever we are when we’re there.

‘You’re not a robot. You can’t just conjure up motivation when you don’t have it. Sometimes you’re going through something. Sometimes life has happened. Life! Remember life? Yeah, it teaches you things and sometimes makes you go the long way around for your biggest lessons.

‘You don’t get to control everything. You can wake up at 5 a.m. every day until you’re tired and broken, but if the words or the painting or the ideas don’t want to come to fruition, they won’t. You can show up every day to your best intentions, but if it’s not the time, it’s just not the time. You need to give yourself permission to be a human being.’ – Jamie Varon, To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind in Life

On Work

‘As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.’ – Amy Poehler, Yes Please

‘The trouble with the rat race is that, even if you win, you’re still a rat.’ – Lily Tomlin

On Creativity

‘Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.’ – Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to High School students

‘So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.’ – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

On Reading

‘That’s the magic when you read or hear something wonderful – there’s no one that has all the answers.’ – Regina Spektor

‘We lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world – in short, we become more critical and more capacious in our thinking and our acting.’ – Judith Butler’s commencement address to McGill University’s Class of 2013

On Failure

‘Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means […] Own your disappointment, acknowledge it for what it was, and move on.’ – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

You can read my advice on failure here.

On Identity

‘[Y]ou are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever. We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was your age, I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those things turns up on my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy. Whatever those five things are for you today, they won’t make the list in ten years – not that you won’t still be some of those things, but they won’t be the five most important things about you.’ – Nora Ephron’s commencement address to the Wellesley College Class of 1996

You can find my thoughts on identity here.

On Feminism and Womanhood

‘Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.’ – Bell Hooks, Feminism Is For Everybody

‘You learn that you essentially need to unlearn everything your culture told you about who you are and what your value is in order to do anything you desire to do with your life. You learn that all those years of not knowing any better, of not being self-aware enough to stop toxic beliefs from affecting your self-image are years you can never get back. Years you wasted on self-doubt, self-loathing, self-hatred — all inherited from a culture which swallowed you before you learned to stand on your own.’ – Jamie Varon, Unlearning How To Be A Woman

On Eating Disorders and Recovery

‘A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.’ – Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

‘The reason we get starving in between meals -ding ding ding ding- is because we aren’t eating enough food. Not because you’re broken or addicted to food, but because you just aren’t eating enough food. If you are hungry between meals, you haven’t eaten enough at the last meal, and you need a snack. Not a little 50 calorie fat free snack, but like… a small meal. Or a big meal.’ – Caroline Dooner, The Reason You’re So Hungry

‘Pretend you are your own baby. You would never cut that baby, or starve it, or overfeed it until it cried in pain, or tell it it was worthless. Sometimes, girls have to be mothers to themselves. Your body wants to live – that’s all and everything it was born to do. Let it do that, in the safety you provide it. Protect it. That is your biggest job. To protect your skin, and heart.’ – Caitlin Moran, A Letter to Teenage Girls

‘Pretty much the strongest, most badass and rebellious thing that you can do is to love your body in this world that screams at you that you shouldn’t.’ – Laura Bates, Girl Up

Read my post on weight and wellness here.

On Love

‘It’s so hard and scary to open your heart to someone. It’s much easier to kind of float, and not invest, and not expose yourself […] Peek around the corner of love. Step gently. Try to evaluate how you feel each step of the way – do you feel protected? Do you feel like you’re being heard?’ – Amy Poehler, Love: Ask Amy

‘You’re not with the person of your life because you are the person of your life […] Continue, with full speed ahead, to be wonderful, to be you, to live, because your one? They need you to have stories. To be in full colour, already, without them, so that they can spot you in the otherwise black and white crowd.’ – Laura Jane Williams, Becoming

‘To keep loving someone is an art. The start is the easiest part. To keep loving someone, you have to suspend the present moment in your mind and remember why you decided to love this person in those first glittery months of newness. You have to be in love when you don’t feel any particular tenderness, when bills are late or the trash hasn’t been emptied or you’re feeling underappreciated or when the ugly monsters from your past have convinced you that what happened then — whatever heartbreak exists in your memory — is here and real and will happen again.’ – Jamie Varon, How to Keep Loving Someone

‘But many of us seek community solely to escape the fear of being alone. Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.’ – bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions

On Vulnerability

‘Vulnerability is the key to happiness. Vulnerable people are powerful people.’ – Amy Poehler, Love: Ask Amy

‘The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.’ – Brené Brown, Rising Strong

‘People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.’ – Brené Brown, Rising Strong

On Courage

‘It’s interesting how we often can’t see the ways in which we are being strong – you can’t be aware of what you’re doing that’s brave and tough at the time that you’re doing it, because if you knew that it was brave, then you’d be scared.’ – Lena Dunham

‘I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make a choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage, or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.’ – Brené Brown, Rising Strong

‘Enthusiasm is a form of social courage.’ – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Do you have any other favourites? Share them with me in a comment or tweet (I’m @molly_whyte).

Thanks for reading!

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