Why Imperfection and Silliness Are Valuable or What I Learned from Reading Fifty Shades of Grey

I’ve noticed a trend in my reading life. There are all these books that I discount when I first hear about them, thinking that I have no interest in reading them and that I never will. Often, this rule of thumb remains true. But, every once in a while, I break this rule and decide suddenly to give into the reading trend and read the popular book(s) that I initially thought I wouldn’t like.

This happened with The Hunger Games, and anyone who has read my previous posts knows I am now a big fan of that series. So, when I saw that my local library had a new, shiny, brilliant e-media catalog, I wanted to try it out.

So, this week I read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. All 1,800 pages of it. In four days.

Why, you ask?

Because I could.

fifty-shades-of-grey

Now, let me just say before you start yelling and laughing that this post is not about how amazing the Fifty Shades of Grey books are. It’s not. Because, the books are not “amazing.”

As a discerning reader, the books have a lot of issues. If I had to read about main character Anastasia Steele’s personified subconscious and inner goddess one more time I might have screamed. I also often found myself wanting to slap some god-forsaken sense into Christian Grey’s skull. But, I have to admit — the books were entertaining, and whole hell of a lot of other things too (If you’ve read them, you’ll know what I mean).

But they weren’t literary gold.

And that’s okay. They don’t have to be

But that’s just the point that I want to make.

We live in a world that is often obsessed with merits. We are a population of critics. Movies and TV shows bomb because they aren’t “critically acclaimed.” Books and their authors are lambasted for bad writing, predictable plots, and unrealistic depictions. We constantly criticize ourselves and judge others for not fitting into a pre-determined mold.

The Fifty Shades of Grey books and their author, E L James are no stranger to this idea. Fifty Shades has been a phenomenon. Started as a Twilight-centric fan fiction homage and then reworked and self published in print, the trilogy gained immense attention. That attention and popularity grew so great that the trilogy was picked up by Vintage Books and published professionally. According to Amazon UK, the trilogy’s first book has outsold the combined sales of the Harry Potter series on their website.

So what’s my point?

The Fifty Shades of Grey series, regardless of how you feel about it, is an important of example of how perfection and value are not the same thing.

Level of success does not always correspond with level of talent.

Value is everywhere. You just have to drown out the critics to find it.

42e1cebe14c7707fda9003d11a562e22

Do What You Want

Life is short. Do what you want to do. Don’t worry about what others think or whether you think they’ll judge you. Embrace this idea in your everyday life, but also embrace it in your passions, in your dreams, and in your goals.

Want to travel the world? Make it happen. Want to be the next E L James and write steamy, NC-17 novels? Go right ahead. Want to be a book critic that points out all of the trilogy’s flaws? Do that instead.

I am a strong proponent of the idea that everything is a learning experience. Every single thing you do teaches you something, even if the lesson is to never do it again. When it comes to books, for example, no one has ever become stupider by ingesting information. The more you know, the more nuanced your perspective.

What you do has value. Whether it is silly, intellectual, crazy, world-changing, fun, or intensely creative. Value exists in all things.

33563781634f1baf30fb5e6bf2debc0d

Never Underestimate Your Ability, Never Discount That Others May Admire It

Everyone is talented. We may not see immediately recognize our own talents, but they are there. Think about it. Do you waste time drawing instead of taking notes? Do you love to cook, but could care less about proper business accounting procedures? Your talent resides in what you inherently love. It lies in how you waste your time.

Tap into that. It could be a goldmine (and I don’t just mean monetarily).

E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey series may have many flaws, but it is still entertaining. Those flaws and issues do not render its value moot. Even some of the most critically panned things are still feats of creativity in their own way. While James may have not suceeded in creating the perfect novel, she did create something that kept people (including myself) turning pages. And this did not only involve the books’ extremely naughty natures.

Don’t think that you are talentless. Don’t worry that because what you do is not the “absolute best” that it is worthless. Perfection isn’t a guarantee of anything. Think I’m kidding? Ask the Admissions offices of Harvard and Yale how many applicants with perfect SAT or ACT scores are NOT accepted every year.

Don’t think that something you create, something you enjoy has no value. Others may see immense value where you perceive none.

c7042fab08ecfa9ed6b91c55437305fa

So What If It’s A Silly Idea, Who Cares?

When I downloaded Fifty Shades of Grey earlier in the week, I said to myself, “This is so stupid. I really can’t believe I’m reading this.” But then, another part of me said, “So what? Read the damn book. If you don’t like it, quit. If you do like it, finish it.” So I did. And I did enjoy the book. I enjoyed all three of them. And yes, they are kind of silly, and a little weird, and definitely have A LOT more sex and profanity than I have ever encountered in reading material. But, so what?

Reading Fifty Shades of Grey may have been silly, but it got me thinking. It made me think about the how flaws do not negate value. It made me think enough to write this post.

The bottom line is that you never know what will make you think. The silliest, craziest, most random things can change your perspective or give new life to your thoughts. Never underestimate the value of doing something for fun.

Look at the Dames Who Dish blog. It wouldn’t be here if us four girls hadn’t decided to do something that we originally perceived as silly, and a little bit crazy, and a whole lot of fun.

So…

b1fce5673b8d9a34e75458ddd203cda4

Fighting Imposter Syndrome and “Knowing Your Value”

As Abbie and Jeannette have stated in their posts this we Dames have been on a little bit of a hiatus. For myself, life has simply been unbelievably busy. I’m happy to report that my M.A. thesis is completely written and that I’ve passed my comprehensive exams. I still have to finish thesis revisions, but graduation is getting more and more tangible by the day.

I won’t lie, I have mixed feelings about graduating. I’m extremely happy to be moving on to something new, and I’m looking forward to exploring different job opportunities and just seeing what’s out there. Unfortunately, I will not be attending a Ph.D. program next year. I’m okay with this though. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and after going through the process of researching and writing a thesis, I’ve come to realize that I need a break. There are so many things I can do, there are so many ways to find happiness — and I can’t wait to find out what that might be.

I had some trouble getting my thesis started back in February. Unfortunately, when I write I have to start at the beginning. I can’t write the body of a paper first and then go back later and write the introduction. I have to write the intro first, even if it means completely re-writing it later. Once I did get going though, I wrote, edited, and re-wrote almost non-stop — to the point that I almost made myself crazy. I constantly second-guessed myself, stressing about every little detail, worrying that my readers would think I was a fraud, that my argument made no sense, that what I was saying was a bunch of crap. I’ve decided that I suffer from “Imposter Syndrome.”

Everyone has insecurities about a variety of things, but school has always been a major part of my life. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve been in school non-stop since age 3. That was 21 years ago. (God, I feel old — haha!) So, I forget sometimes that I’m not just a young student who has no authority. I have a Bachelor’s degree, I’m an adult, I have experience. I need to start remembering that and acting accordingly. Just because I’m still a student doesn’t mean that I don’t know things with relative certainty.

It’s the same idea with jobs. I’ve been looking around at different possibilities in between working on revisions. There are a lot of different jobs that I have the education, skills, and experience to do. But, I just need to remind myself that Ican do them. Yeah, they’re not “history” jobs — but that’s perfectly okay. They don’t need to be. I am not an imposter, in history or in terms of my other abilities. They’re not going to look at me immediately and say,  “You? Hahaha. We don’t think so.” I am not an imposter.

In addition to reminding myself that I am not an imposter, the process of writing my thesis also provided me with some insight on knowing my value. Even though I wrote almost non-stop for a month and a half, I didn’t write 24/7. In my downtime, I read a book called “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth” by Mika Brzezinski (co-host of Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC).

In her book, Mika Brzezinski discusses how she was re-hired at MSNBC in 2007 after losing her job at CBS. Grateful to have any job, Mika took what she could get — even if that meant only working a few hours a day for paltry pay and working the worst hours. A twist of fate resulted in Joe Scarborough singling her out as his desired co-host for a new morning show, but even with her new gig, she was still working on a host of other assignments for the network for far less pay than her Morning Joe co-workers. Upset with her unfair treatment and unequal (or, really in the same ballpark) pay, Mika when to her boss to ask for a raise. Her request was rejected.

This book, and my discussion of it, is not entirely about politics or the gender wage gap. Believe me, that gap is a real issue — but women’s consideration of their own value is equally as important in the equation. Mika, with the help of other famous friends, describes how many women (and some men too) lack the confidence of their own value in the workplace.

Instead of  asking for a raise in a confident manner,  Mika identifies that she went into the meeting with an apologetic tone — that she was sorry she had to ask, that she didn’t want to cause waves, that she understood money was tight and times were tough. She focused on the idea that she was so “lucky” to be on this program and to have a position at MSNBC — that she was grateful.

There’s nothing wrong with humility. But, at the same time, gratefulness isn’t confidence. Mika learned that she had to remember she deserved a raise. She deserved to be there. She was more than qualified for her job. She was valuable.

Here are some great quotes from the book:

“The problem is, a woman is socialized to accept that which she is given. So if somebody tells you that you can’t, you believe it. If somebody says you’re not worth it, you believe it.” – Suze Orman

“The key is to do your research. The most important thing that people don’t realize, especially women, is you can’t go in [to ask for a raise] expecting people to take care of you and that they’re going to be fair. They’re going to try to get the best deal they can.” – Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of More

“Assuming power is everything. You have to assume it … [don’t] wait to be asked.”  – Tina Brown, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and editor-in-chief of Newsweek

“A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand. . . . If we as women don’t raise our hands in the workplace, we’re not going to get the same opportunities men do. Because men keep their hands up.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Imposter Syndrome and not knowing your value go hand in hand. I myself am gulity of feeling lucky or grateful for simply being given the consideration for something. For downplaying my own achievements or my own intelligence to not stand out too much. Even to my own eyes and ears now, these statements sound a little arrogant. But they’re not. Everyone has strengths. Everyone has weaknesses. But we are all valuable in different ways.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not valuable. You are.