In 2021, I will have the audacity

I don’t exactly believe in New Year’s resolutions. Why do we pick one of the most depressing times of the year to make a promise that we will become better, less lazy, more put-together, upgraded versions of ourselves the second the clock strikes midnight? As if that new calendar we bought came with a free, new personality (ironically, a new calendar is usually the first resolution I give up on. Am I the only one who gets excited about buying a new calendar or diary every year, spends an entire day personalising it, decides to start writing down every little memory or appointment, then puts it somewhere and completely forgets about it not even two weeks later?)

Yet for some reason, I still make New Year’s resolutions every time. It feels nice to start with a clean slate. It’s exciting to have a whole new year of chances and possibilities in front of you. It’s fun to message your friends that ‘This is gonna be our year!’ even when you both know that by next week, you’ll all have gone back to whining about how miserable your lives are.

Until a couple of years ago, my New Year’s resolutions either had something to do with losing weight, or with gaining a boyfriend. Hard to say which was the biggest fail. Fortunately, those bad vibes got left somewhere in 2018 and my 2021 resolutions are all about things that will actually contribute to my personal development. This year, I want to practice my German, learn more Spanish, run this blog, create a podcast, read 50 books, make at least three new friends in London, and go for a big walk at least once a week. And most importantly: In 2021 I will have…the audacity.

I will have the audacity to be vulnerable

I’m scared of trying things that mean a lot to me. Well, actually, I’m scared of trying something, failing, and looking like a fool. Every time someone I know does something exciting, wonderful and brave, like starting a YouTube account, designing products to sell, or self-publishing a book, my first reaction is: ‘Ohhhh no, that’s risky! What if they fail? Wouldn’t that be awkward?’

I’ve realised that my reacting this way is nothing more than a result of my own insecurities. Frankly, I often get jealous when I see people do these things. They’re sharing their talents with the world and I would like to do something similar, but in order to do those things you have to admit that they mean something to you, and I’m scared of looking vulnerable.

I’ve wanted to start a blog in English for years, but I was absolutely terrified. I was afraid that I would make language mistakes and that I would look like an idiot. Obviously, I will make mistakes. I make mistakes or typos in my native language as well – who doesn’t – but even though I hate it when that happens, at least I don’t feel like I need to prove that I know Dutch. I know people whose English is, to put it mildly, absolutely disastrous, yet they’re posting videos or blogs like they don’t have a care in the world. And they should! But sometimes I wish I was that confident.

When a friend started an Instagram account for her gaming project, it gave me the push I needed to create a ‘professional’ account as well. Still, my biggest fear was that people would make fun of me for ‘trying to be a big Instagrammer’.

I need to let go of that attitude, because here’s the thing: If you let this fear hold you back every time, you won’t get anywhere. If you don’t share your content with the world because you’re scared nobody will like it, you’re not even giving people the chance to like it. And the only way to get better at something is by doing it.

I will have the audacity to be unapologetic.

Some might argue that they’ve always known me as a confident, devil-may-care person, but the truth is I’m just an excellent actress. No, I’ve always had an okay amount of confidence, but a lot of the time I’m still scared to speak my mind.

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I were at a Greek restaurant. When we ordered two portions of flatbread, the waiter looked at us like we were stupid and went: ‘Let’s go with one portion. It’s a lot of bread.’ It wasn’t a suggestion, it was a decision. My friend and I shared a puzzled look and then explained to him that we’re both big eaters. But we shouldn’t have explained ourselves at all. Weeks later, I’m still pissed at myself for letting a random man (a MAN!) tell me what to do in such a condescending way. He didn’t have to say it like that and had we been two massive dudes, I highly doubt he would have. Why did I not say anything?! (Obviously, we ordered the two portions and I made sure there wasn’t a crumb left on that table.)

Not even two minutes later, I thought of what would have been the perfect response. RuPaul once said there are a couple of phrases that can be used in any situation. One of those phrases: ‘I’ll be the judge of that’. That would have been perfection. But no, I just sat there like a stammering schoolchild. I failed myself, and even worse: I failed Mama Ru.

You know those people in movies and TV shows who always have the perfect answer to everything and it takes them less than 0.2 seconds to come up with a cutting retort that makes the person on the receiving end want to crawl into a hole and die? Some people are like that in real life. My friend EziNne, for example. I don’t know how she does it, but she always knows exactly what to say like she spent her entire life preparing for that specific moment. I don’t know if I’ll ever be that person, but what I do know is that this was the last time I let someone tell me how much bread is too much bread. I’LL be the judge of that.

I will have the audacity to not let fear of failure get in my way.

I often joke that, if I would spend half the time I spend whining and worrying about how I’m not finishing my projects actually working on those projects, I would be the most productive person on the planet. Yet for some reason there’s always this voice in my head that goes: ‘Or you could just put it off a little while longer and not take any risks.’ 

A couple of my friends are having similar issues, and it’s almost always about creating something and sharing it with the world. For me, I think the biggest reason I procrastinate or cancel projects is the fact that, as long as these plans only exist in my mind, I can tell myself that the moment I finish and share them, they will be incredibly successful. The minute you actually try something, there’s a chance that you will get disappointed. But like I said earlier, if you never try anything, you’ll be disappointed anyway. That’s why I’m trying to take more risks. I will make mistakes. I will try things that don’t work out. I need to accept that that’s part of it.

Also, even the most experienced and talented people make bad calls. Look at the Cats film! They tried something, it was horrendous, people made fun of it for a while but then everyone moved on. Nobody is still making fun of Judy Dench or Ian Mckellen for being in that film. Idris Elba didn’t stop showing his face in public (now that would be a disaster). 

I will have the audacity to be the man in every room.

My dad recently saw this advertisement from a telecommunications company that promised a free television to new customers. He has been a customer of this particular company for fifteen years, but he was not about to let a minor detail like that stop him from getting that new telly. He called the company to tell them that he, as a long time customer, deserved this reward more than anyone. At first, the customer service people told him that it didn’t exactly work like that, but he stood his ground. The new television got delivered the next Monday.

Of course, I’m not saying every man would do this. But recently, whenever I’ve been feeling the need to apologise or explain myself for my behaviour, I’ve been asking myself: ‘Would the men in my life be this apologetic about this? Would they feel the need to explain themselves like this?’ Nine out of ten, the answer is no. Honestly, I would love to see my dad’s or grandpa’s face if the waiter told them to ‘go with one portion of bread’.

As women, we tend to feel like we need to explain ourselves a lot more, make our case, have a list of arguments, be apologetic and still be nice and friendly. Even when we’re asking for something that we 100% deserve.

Whether it’s about asking for a raise, calling in sick, ending a relationship or simply asking for the same treatment your male colleagues are getting, women often feel like they’re doing something that they shouldn’t be doing. I’ve noticed how often my girlfriends and I tend to apologise because we don’t want to be ‘difficult’ or an inconvenience. That’s how we’re being made to feel. Because of this, most men just simply have a lot more audacity because they’ve been taught that they’re allowed to have it. Well, I want it too.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to see the obvious sexism in little things, or in everyday situations. Your male team members who are allowed more than you, the men at the garage who keep calling you ‘love’ every other sentence, the waiter who, even though you’re the one who asked for the bill, gives it to your male friend… Once you see it, you see it absolutely everywhere. And I can tell you that I’m done with it. I’m done being scared to address these things because I don’t want to be ‘difficult’. I’m done not making a scene because I don’t want to be ‘one of those angry feminists’. Done done done.

I will have the audacity to be ambitious.

When I was eight, I wrote a letter to a TV channel in Belgium. I had worked very hard on it and I was proud of the result. I wanted my mum to be proud of me, too. When I showed her that letter, she asked me who had written it for me. Because, she said, there was no way I could’ve written a letter that good. She refused to believe it was me. When I told her I wanted to be a singer, she told me I couldn’t sing well enough. When I started my first blog and became passionate about writing, my dad immediately told me that silly stories weren’t going to pay my bills.

A lot of us grew up in families that, either by literally telling us or by making us feel like we shouldn’t be dreaming too big, taught us that we should stay small. We have to be ambitious, yes, but only in a safe way that’s within the norm. We have to want a nice house, but only 20 minutes away from home. We need to get a nice, successful job, but only one that’s considered stable. The second our ambitions become ‘too big’, we get told that we’re being naive and unrealistic. But people are doing these big things, so doesn’t that make them real and therefore possible? Last week, I had a conversation with two incredible women who told me that they never use the phrase ‘We can’t do that.’ They say: ‘Oh, this looks difficult. So how do we do this?’  YAAS.

I think it’s natural to want to play down your ambitions or achievements because you don’t want to look too self-important. Fuck that. This is my life, so what’s more important than what I want? That’s right, nothing. You’re the only one who will take your goals seriously. Nobody else will.

I have a lot of goals: I want to be an activist. I want to be that person with a loudspeaker that’s hyping up the crowd at a protest. I want to be a published author. I want to make a living doing what I love. I want to be on the Graham Norton Show. I want Harry Styles to swoon over my pictures… Okay, I got a bit carried away there. The point is, I recently decided to stop calling those things dreams and start calling them what they are: goals that need to be achieved. Manifestation and all that.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Let me know!

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