“When you’re in a place where you don’t know what makes you happy, it’s really easy to be an asshole.” – Gabrielle Union, We’re Going to Need More Wine
Sentences like these are why I read celebrity memoirs and autobiographies. Sometimes, you just resonate with something someone else has said on a basic human level.
When I was at my lowest point emotionally, when I felt like my depression was swallowing me up from the inside, that’s also when I was the least kind version of myself. I wore a bad attitude like armor, pushed other people away (before they could hurt me, obviously), and presented a totally unappealing personality to the world.
In short, I was a bitch.
And yet even as I pushed people away, I wanted – needed – someone to be my friend. Because I was so desperately unhappy and I didn’t know why.
Union talks about her own low point in her book, We’re Going to Need More Wine. After finalizing a divorce and losing a show, Union found herself hiding literally under her bed with her dog. Eventually she got help and one of the first things asked of her was to make a list of a few things that made her happy. It took her months of therapy to make one.
At the same time, she kept up with the Hollywood scene. She describes an evening spent at a party where, as she tells it, she “held court.” She spent an hour tearing down another actress because it made people laugh, because it made her feel like, just for a moment, that she wasn’t invisible and that people liked her.
She was an asshole because she was unhappy. Because it made her feel something.
Just like it used to do for me.
“How could you expect your marriage to survive, how could you expect your husband to make you happy, when you don’t even know what makes you happy?” her therapist asked.
How could I expect people to like me when I didn’t like me?
Sure, it was easier to be an asshole, but I’m a hell of a lot happier now. Doing the right thing isn’t always my first instinct. It isn’t always easy. I still have a lot of bad habits. But it turns out people actually do like the real me. When I overcome my protective instincts and I show kindness to others, I receive kindness in return.
Happiness and kindness go hand in hand for me. It might be easier to be an asshole, but I realize now that my inner jerk is just my own insecurity taking over. It isn’t me and it isn’t fair to anyone I take it out on. The more I treat myself and others with respect, the better I feel and the happier I am overall. It took me years to figure that out, but it was the best lesson I ever learned.