How to Be a Bawse

BAWSE/ ‘baus’/ n: a person who exudes confidence, hustles relentlessly, reaches goals and smiles genuinely because he or she has fought through it all and made it out the other side.

Lilly Singh isn’t just a superstar. She’s a Superwoman – which is also the name of her wildly popular Youtube channel. Funny, smart and insightful, the actress and comedian covers topics ranging from relationships to career choices to everyday annoyances. But Lilly didn’t get to the top by being lucky – she had to work for it. Hard.

How to Be a Bawse is the definitive guide to conquering life. Be warned: this book does not include hopeful thoughts, lucky charms or cute quotes. Success and happiness require real effort, dedication and determination. In Lilly’s world, there are no escalators, only stairs. Get ready to climb.

Consider Lilly a personal trainer for your life – with fifty practical rules to get you in the game. Told in Lilly’s hilarious, bold voice and packed with photos and previously untold stories from her journey to the top, this book will show you how to love life and yourself.

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In a culture in which overnight success is considered the only kind, Lilly Singh’s take the stairs, and life rewards hard work attitude is a breath of fresh air. In How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, she tracks her career from point A: recent psychology graduate, directionless and struggling with depression; to point B: womankind’s answer to Dwayne Johnson with a literal empire of Youtube followers (over 12 million) to boot – and advises you on how to do the same (or, whatever your equivalent may be.).

This no nonsense, practical guide serves as a metaphorical foot in the ass of individuals like myself who have vague dreams but are intimidated by the stress involved in making them a reality.

But why would I write the authentic personal essays I want to write when I could just binge watch sitcoms and avoid my feelings? Are the sort of questions Singh spends this book giving the serious side eye. In every beautiful photograph scattered throughout, Lilly stared at me with a look that said: get your shit together, Tewkesbury.

I’m trying.

In her succinct, funny and pure style, Singh takes us through the qualities she’s cultivated that have helped her succeed. The word I would use to describe Lilly’s self-help style is: strident. She makes clear that she’s only there to give directions. It’s up to you, the reader, to get in the car and drive it. And if you don’t… well, that’s nobody’s fault but your own.

That said, she is not an author without empathy. She just believes in the power of saving oneself. I guess it’s kind of like in the movie except Ares is your own ability to procrastinate?

Okay, I just realised that’s actually Wonder Woman. But whatever. My point stands.

Nobody is going to kill Ares for you. You’ve got to get that shit done yourself. Even if it means leaving your beautiful, women only island where misogyny is a weird myth you laugh about over cocktails (I assume).

How to Be a Bawse is far from pithy, Instagram quote-worthy. It’s, at times, a tough read in which Singh asks you to get real and put aside the bullshit you tell yourself in order to get to your actual emotions. And she doesn’t just tell you to do it, she does it herself, giving examples from her own life where she’s had to send the GPS deep, even when doing so was uncomfortable and difficult.

Like, maybe the real reason I don’t write those authentic personal essays is because I am afraid of rejection because I have been rejected a lot (#daddyissues) and so I’ve come to see it as inevitable?

It turns out a lot of the work most worth doing falls under the labels of uncomfortable and difficult. God damn adulthood.

How to Be a Bawse is inspiration, encouragement and some much needed admonishment packaged in a beautiful (and ridiculously heavy. This was not a fun one to lug around public transport, let me tell you.) hardback. You can’t help but finish the book with a sense that anything is possible, if only you’re willing to work hard enough.

And hard work is something we’re capable of, if we let ourselves be.

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Mood Reads

When the idea of hanging out with your friends makes you want to puke from anxiety…

Fan Girl – Rainbow Rowell

When is feels like EVERYBODY has somebody but you and you’re going to die alone…

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli

When you want to set fire to things…

Play it as it Lays – Joan Didion

When you want to start a political movement…

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

When you want to celebrate adult life, in all its weirdnesses…

Yes Please – Amy Poehler

When you want some serious sexy times…

The Hating Game – Sally Thorne

When you’ve had one of those nights with friends where you feel like you’ve found your place in the universe….

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

When you need to feel like you exist…

Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed

When you need to disappear…

The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson

When you want to have learned EVERYTHING…

My Life on the Road – Gloria Steinem

When you need to hear that it’s okay to be insecure…

The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

When you need reminding that the world can be beautiful….

No Matter the Wreckage – Sarah Kay

Tiny Beautiful Things

TW: sexual abuse discussed in the book and in this blog post.

MEET AN AGONY AUNT LIKE NO OTHER

Over the years, tens of thousands of the anxious, confused and hopeful have turned to Cheryl Strayed, internet agony aunt ‘Dear Sugar’ for her wisdom and warmth. Sugar’s advice is spun from genuine compassion informed by a wealth of personal experience – experience that is sometimes tragic and sometimes tender, often hilarious and often heart breaking.

If you are ever feeling a little lost in life, this gem-like collection will give you an invaluable gentle shove in the right direction.

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About a year ago, I started having bad dreams. They weren’t of the being chased, there’s a monster under my bed looking to eat my flesh and harvest my organs kind. No, these bad dreams had more to do with feelings. I’d be in an unfamiliar room, anger making my hands shake, my heart pound into my throat, my very self feel too big for my body in a way it really only can when you’re purely and blindly PISSED. I would open my mouth to start screaming, to voice this unbearable rage… but no sound would come out. I would fight and fight but no matter how hard I tried, how gigantic my anger felt, I couldn’t make a single sound.

A few months after I started having this dream it occurred to me that I might have some issues to figure out.

Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things is basically the queen of figuring shit out. She has experienced a great deal of pain, grief and abuse in her life that she describes bluntly and fearlessly with a sort of openness and compassion that I have never seen before.

It’s hard to talk about your bad feelings because of the hugeness of them. The words are too big to fit in your mouth, the wrong shape for your hands to write them. Sometimes it’s like there isn’t even a language for the thing that you’re feeling.

At least that’s how I’ve felt lately. As a lifelong proponent of avoiding my feelings – both because that’s my coping mechanism and because for a whole bunch of years I was told they were invalid – the subconscious rebellion I have been dealing with over the last few months has been hard to put into words. At least until I read Tiny Beautiful Things. There is a language, and Cheryl Strayed – Sugar – speaks it.

I don’t think it’s possible to read this book without becoming a more compassionate person – both towards others and yourself.

Sugar’s style of advice isn’t simply to make orders, sit back and let the dice roll as they may. It isn’t a self-indulgent rush of superiority, like I thought it was back when I was a teenager advising my friend’s on their love lives like I had a clue. No, Sugar hears your story, whether it’s about how you can’t write, how you’ve been unable to commit since your divorce, how you heard your friends talking about how they think your girlfriend is kind of a bitch – and responds with her own. She picks the core feeling out of the problem presented to her: anger, love, disappointment, regret, fear and mirrors it back. And then she’ll tell you what to do about it. It’s as if she’s reaching through the pages to hold your hand, or give you a shove in the right direction. There is something both comforting and clarifying in her words. As you read you think: yeah, this lady knows her shit.

There are so many stand out letters in this collection. Those that spoke to me were mostly concerned with writing, or with leaving. Quotes like this blew my mind in small ways:

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours spent writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.

Some of the letters are brutal. Two, in particular stick in my mind. In one, Strayed describes the sexual abuse her grandfather subjected her to as a child, how it made her ‘feel miserable and anxious in a way so sickeningly particular that I can feel that same particular sickness rising this very minute in my throat.’ She talked about this in response to the simple question of WTF? asked emphatically and repeatedly by a reader. Her conclusion? ‘Ask better questions, sweet pea… the fuck is your life. Answer it.

The other, called The Obliterated Place, came from a man who lost his son to a drunk driver. He wrote his letter in list form, each number detailing a way in which his life was now unbearable to him. He referred to himself as a ‘living dead dad’. Sugar responded to him with her own list. What follows in a conversation about grief and going on that is searing – it almost physically hurts to read it – but beautiful

14. The word “obliterate” comes from the Latin obliterare. Ob means “against”; literare means “letter” or “script.” A literal translation is “being against the letters.” It was impossible for you to write me a letter, so you made me a list instead. It is impossible for you to on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.

Other gifts from Sugar:

‘The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It is not fragility. It’s strength. It’s nerve. And “if your Nerve deny you -,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “go above your Nerve.” Writing is hard for every last one of us – straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.’

‘Do not reach the age of child rearing and jobs with a guitar case full of crushing regret for all the things you wished you’d done in your youth. I know too many people who didn’t do those things. They all end up mingy, addled, shrink wrapped versions of the people they intended to be.’

‘Be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it. This is good advice for anyone at any age, but particularly for those in their twenties.’

Tiny Beautiful Things is one for required reading lists everywhere. It is a book that I can already tell will stay with me for a long time.