‘My shit is just all kind of fucked up right now but I’m figuring it out – that’s so relatable and that’s okay’
When you lose the love of your life, your professional life falls apart, you’re broke, and you can’t afford a place to stay so you’re forced to sleep on an ex’s couch – you’ve hit rock bottom. This month, Issa Rae’s acclaimed comedy series Insecure is back for season three on HBO, and her on-screen persona – also named Issa – is all the way down there. But IRL, Rae is flying high. Having been nominated for an Emmy as lead actress for her work on Insecure, 33-year-old Rae also recently announced that she’ll be starring alongside Amandla Stenberg in the upcoming 2018 adaptation of young adult novel The Hate U Give, which she tells me she’s “really proud of”. Even so, the writer and actor assures Dazed, she’s still figuring things out.
The latest season of Insecure is all about just that: figuring out some of life’s most important lessons, while standing on your own two feet. The season got off to a controversial start when almost 12,000 fans signed a petition after Rae announced that Jay Ellis, who played her on-screen boyfriend Lawrence, would not be returning. However, she has no regrets, as she wants the protagonist to find her own feet. “Issa needs to get to know herself independently of these men,” she says, revealing that this season, the girls are going to try to “know better and do better”.
“She’s kind of at rock bottom,” says Rae, who created, co-writes and stars in the show. “It gets to the point where she’s like, ‘I’m tired of just trying to float, I want to swim, I want to be able to flourish and I need to figure out what I actually want and who I am.’” It’s something we can all relate to, so we asked Issa how to bounce back when you’re at your lowest. Here’s her best tips on how to recover from an existential crisis.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF
Issa Rae: For me, I have to stop thinking about all the ways I can’t do something, and (start thinking about) all the ways that I can. You’re always going to find excuses here and there, but if you want something, go get it. Just find a way. When you hit that low point you can’t just blame others. You have to look at yourself and the decisions you made. I think everyone comes to a point in their life when they’re like: ‘Okay, maybe it was me. I said my life didn’t work and attributed it to things, but I’m responsible for where I am. So now, I can learn from my mistakes and stop making excuses and focus on doing better’. I definitely had that moment in my life, early on, and you kind of have to take the reins.
DELETE THAT EX FROM YOUR LIFE – IT’S OVER
Issa Rae: Wipe them off your mind and remove updates. Block on all social media platforms – that is essential – or you can make sure your friends hold you accountable. If you really wanted to get over it, you have so stop talking about it. I'm very much about the three-month rule. If you’re my friend, I’mma let you vent for like three months, and after that point, you’ve got to move on. You can’t let this person continue to dominate your thoughts.
I've never, thank God, had my heart broken before, even though I am sensitive. I've only had my heart broken through friendship, which to me is worse because I value my friendships so much.
KEEP YOUR MENTAL HEALTH RIGHT BY LETTING IT ALL OUT
Issa Rae: I get things off of my chest a lot. I know in the past I used to hold onto things to preserve other people's feelings, or to not cause drama. I found that I need to get things off my chest in order control things, in a way, to not be bogged down by my own thoughts. With friends or team members I just try to make sure that we're all on the same page and everyone feels valued. I know what I need the most, for sure, is to stop procrastinating and talk to a professional, to see a therapist. Not everyone around me will understand where I’m at.
REALISE THAT REST ISN’T WEAKNESS
Issa Rae: I’m learning everyday that you have to say “no”. I have to take time off, because so much of this life is “go, go, go”. There’s always something. You can feel like, “I’m not going to have this opportunity again” or “this will never come around,” but I realised for myself that I just need to recharge. Whenever I don't feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I just shut down and I'm not fully me. But if you don’t take breaks, everything stops being fun.
VIEW CAREER CHALLENGES AS OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN
Issa Rae: Obstacles kind of reinvigorate me. Nobody looks forward to stumbling blocks, but there are things that I just know help to reinsert my drive in a way. If I get complacent and I feel comfortable, I feel useless. If there’s something that prevents me from doing what I wanna do, and I find a solution, I love it because I feel accomplished. If anything comes easy, it's not worth it.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO MOTIVATE YOU
Issa Rae: (Issa’s on-screen best friend) Molly’s confidence is definitely based on my real life best friend. We met in college and she's such a force. She's equally a mess – not as bad as Molly – but she has her moments. She's just so smart and I love that. At the time, when we were both trying to come up, she always knew what she wanted to do from jump and has always pursued that and given it 100 per cent. I've never known her to not find a way to be successful and she works fucking hard. I've admired that. I know that even seeing that in her has subconsciously inspired me to be more focused.
GROWING UP MEANS ADMITTING YOU DON’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING
Issa Rae: Just say, “Oh, I don't have the answer, I don't know”. It’s freeing, and people get that. I don't know where that pressure comes from to always have the answer. No one wants to feel like other people know that they don't know what they are doing. We're all like that. My shit is just all kind of fucked up right now but I'm figuring it out, but, like, that's so relatable and that's okay.
LEARN HOW TO BE ALONE
Issa Rae: I love my own company so much. I've started to try to enjoy my own company, free from phones and technology. I've been practising trying to just sit and watch and observe and be alone with myself because I still love to write. I looked at my journal, and I found that I haven't added much content. I need to make that time. I love solitary time.
SOMETIMES NOT EVERYTHING IS OK, AND THAT’S OK
Issa Rae: With me, there's so much shit that's fucked up, and I always go back to this: it's so easy to watch people's lives on screen. We amplify experiences and exaggerate some of our personal (lives) online. Even when you're watching a show like Insecure, it cracks me up that so many people are like, “Ugh, why did you make these stupid ass decisions”, or “Oh my God, these stupid bitches”. But like if someone was watching your stories play out day-to-day, what would the commentary be? What would they say? In my real life, professionally, yeah I have some accomplishments here and there, but there's still decisions that if somebody was watching my life they'd be like, "Why the fuck did she do that?” I'm just so interested in those choices and what they lead to, because we all have them.
The third season of Insecure is airing now on Sunday nights on HBO