Are you afraid to open up?
This is a broad question, but I’m sure it resonated with a lot of you. A lot of us struggle with a fear of vulnerability. We’re afraid to be vulnerable with people because it might mean rejection. It might even mean getting laughed at.
If you’ve been rejected in the past, in any way, shape, or form, you may have felt the impulse to never open up again. I know that when I was in middle school, I was absolutely terrified to talk to girls for fear of being rejected. My insecurity was almost paralyzing.
If you fear rejection, it’s probably because you struggle with accepting yourself. Maybe you hate your body type or the way your teeth look. Or perhaps you think you’re dumb and constantly compare yourself to people smarter than you. I know these are things I struggled with, and I’m guessing that you have some insecurities, too — We all do.
Here’s the thing about fears — if we don’t talk about them, they grow. They fester. My guest today has made it her mission to talk about the uncomfortable things, and she does it through the medium of comedy.
Nikki Glaser is one of the funniest people I know, but what’s more, she’s a deeply empathic person who wants her content to not only be funny but relatable to those who struggle with insecurity. It was a joy having her on The School of Greatness — I know you’re going to enjoy this episode!
Nikki Glaser is one of the funniest female voices in comedy today. For over a decade at clubs across the country, Nikki has been honing her shockingly-honest style of comedy. Nikki has had three specials on Netflix, she’s the host of the Comedy Central podcast You Up, and she’s embarking on a mini-tour of all-outside stand-up shows at the end of the month!
In addition to her shows, Nikki has multiple stand-up specials and late-night TV appearances in which she jokes about her most humiliating moments as a woman in the modern world. Nikki’s past and current struggles with anorexia, depression, and anxiety are fair game in both her stand-up and in in-depth interviews like WTF with Marc Maron and JRE with Joe Rogan. Nikki has become a complete open book on mic — and not just for the laughs; she’s also adamant on being the voice for women that she yearned for as a young, confused, adolescent herself.
This was a truly unique School of Greatness conversation. Nikki was hilarious, but also vulnerable, real, and full of relatable stories. We actually sat down back in early spring, before the quarantine, but we thought this was a perfect time to drop the episode. We all could use a little more humor in our lives, so get ready to laugh, cry, and everything in between!
One of the things I love about Nikki is that she gets real in her comedy, talking about vulnerability and insecurities that so many people struggle with. She shared this post not too long ago of a little girl saying, “I’m ugly, I’m ugly,” and this older woman telling her, “No, you’re beautiful.” Feeling beautiful is something that Nikki has struggled with her whole life:
“The little girl just looks at herself, and she goes, “I’m ugly. And it was just like … I feel that way so much all the time. … I do feel very ugly sometimes. Add I have face dysmorphia [and] body dysmorphia, [and] as I age, it just gets worse and worse, and I know that so many women have it too.” – Nikki Glaser
Face and body dysmorphia is a mental condition that causes someone to be obsessive about certain facial features or “flaws” in their body, which are not noticeable to anyone else. The first time Nikki became insecure about her looks was when she was in fifth grade. She asked to borrow a pencil from the boy next to her, and this was his response was this:
“[He goes], “Dammit, you bucktooth beaver. Why don’t you just go in the woods and gnaw on a tree and make your own pencil?’ [He said it] in front of everyone. That was the first time I was like, my looks are a problem.’ Men will punish me in front of people. And that’s when I went on like lockdown with ever talking to boys … and then that was the year in sixth grade that my sister came to my middle school, and she was gorgeous.” – Nikki Glaser
As the years continued, Nikki felt worse and worse about her body, and to compensate, she decided to be the funniest person in the room so that she could be seen. I totally relate with this. Not too long ago, I posted a picture of myself back when I was seven years old on Instagram, and at the top I wrote: “Too stupid. Too ugly. Too skinny. Too slow. Too goofy. Too young.” These are the things people said about me, and I repeated them to myself. Girls didn’t want to talk to me, guys made fun of me, and so I compensated by dedicating myself to sports.
When I was about 16, I decided I wouldn’t let my insecurities cripple me anymore. I made it a goal to say hi to girls I thought were pretty and nice and try to have real conversations with them. Of course I fumbled, I was awkward, and I got rejected many times, but I built up the courage, and by the end of the summer, I was confident enough to talk to anyone.
Face and body dysmorphia is still a very real struggle that Nikki experiences today. She still feels the impulse to be the most beautiful woman in the room and compares herself to the women around her. But by being so open about her own struggles, Nikki opens the door for other people to feel understood and heard regarding their own insecurities while working on self-healing as well.
Another insecurity that Nikki faces is intimacy, whether on a sexual level or even a friendship level. While intimacy can be a really beautiful thing, you have to be vulnerable in order to make it work, and being vulnerable can be one of the scariest things in the world:
“You truly get to know someone and really let them in. [And the fear is that] they won’t love you for who you are, and they will reject you … and then you’re abandoned. … My biggest fear of intimacy truly is … sex with men, more than anything. … I’m very scared to be like sexually intimate because I feel like they’ll reject me.” – Nikki Glaser
The fear of rejection is crippling. For Nikki, this rejection has happened after choosing the wrong men to be in her life:
“I have allowed myself to be hurt by many of these men … the red flags were there. All of [my] friends knew that this was bad news. I had a choice to not do those things with him and build that intimacy when I knew it was going to fall apart. But I did choose it. … Then when that guy meets someone else decides, he doesn’t like you anymore [and] is also too scared of intimacy himself and rejects you. It is devastating. … I’m so scared of that pain.” – Nikki Glaser
Something I really admire about Nikki is her complete honesty, even about things that are personal and raw. Sharing your fears with someone is one of the first steps towards healing, and another crucial step is accepting yourself for who you are. I asked Nikki if she’s done this, and this was her answer:
“No, [but] I am doing everything to accept who I am. It’s like the whole concept about yourself. I don’t accept being average.” – Nikki Glaser
Her whole life, Nikki has struggled with truly loving herself, and this is what makes intimacy so difficult — because if you don’t love yourself, how can you open yourself up to someone else? How can you share that vulnerability that you can’t accept yourself?
If you struggle with intimacy, take a moment today to ask yourself this same question: “Do you accept yourself?” If your answer is the same as Nikki’s, know that you’re not alone. The path to self-acceptance is long and hard, and it takes dedication, but it isn’t impossible. Self-acceptance and intimacy are possible for you, so don’t give up.
In this interview, we talked about some serious stuff, but it wasn’t without its comedy. I asked Nikki what the funniest joke she’s ever told was, and you’ll have to listen to the interview to find out, but I also wanted to know about the dangers of comedy. What is not okay to bring up? Do you have any regrets? Can your career be ruined with one bad joke? Here’s what she had to say:
“It’s scary, and I gotta be honest. I flirt with that line a lot because there’s a part of me that wants to get it once. Like, I’m really tired. And I would like to like one of my jobs to get canceled … [but] I struggled so much of my life thinking I’m a bad person. And I really have made peace with the fact that no, you’re not Nikki. You were in pain, and maybe you lash out sometimes, but deeply you want everyone in the world to be happy.” – Nikki Glaser
Nikki Glaser has gotten her fair share of negative feedback, and in comedy, you’re going to always offend people no matter what you say. She says there have been some things she said in the past that she regrets, and she takes full responsibility for those things. She never wants to hurt anyone through her comedy:
“I’m deeply empathetic. I don’t want to ever hurt anyone. So I just have to hold onto that. Because if I do get canceled, the thing that would devastate me the most is having people think I’m a bad person. And as long as I focus and know that I’m not within myself, which is truly all that matters, then I don’t need to be so scared all the time.” – Nikki Glaser
Nikki brings up another great point — when you’re in the spotlight, you’re going to get criticized. Some of that criticism may be warranted, but it’s important to remember that we’re human: We make mistakes. We say things we don’t mean. We hurt others unintentionally. But deep down, our intentions are good. We have to learn to forgive ourselves so that we can grow into even better people.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge Nikki for showing up and constantly allowing herself to be vulnerable. The fact that she talked so openly about all of these issues is really inspiring.
Nikki isn’t one of those people who’s going to tell you she’s got it all figured out. She’s brutally honest about the fact that she doesn’t, and this honesty is something we all could take notes from. I know that there will be so many people who relate with Nikki’s message and find power in the fact that they know they’re not alone.
“It feels bad when you see someone that does have it all together and you’re like, ‘I’ll never be like them.’ I like hearing about the struggle, so thank you for letting me share it.” – Nikki Glaser
Her definition of greatness is also inspiring:
“Greatness is achieving happiness and being kind while doing it.” – Nikki Glaser
I love that emphasis on being kind. It’s not just about you — it’s about how you treat others during your journey to healing, success, and happiness. If you want to hear more from Nikki, and I’m sure you do, definitely check out her Netflix specials, her hit podcast You Up, and her Bang It Out(side) tour!
Remember — perfection is not the goal. Self-acceptance is.