Selfishness can be a good thing, Chrissy Metz has discovered lately. “I am always putting other people first, to my own detriment,” she says. With the mantra “What’s in it for Chrissy?” cemented in her mind, the 39-year-old is ready to channel her newfound confidence into producing her first movie and creating an upcoming album.
“I don’t want to compromise a sound or a note or a word. I want it to be on my terms, which is new for me,” she says. Standing strong about the direction she wants to go is a “big, big goal." She’ll be leaning on what she’s learned so far about how to prioritize yourself to make 2020 another breakthrough year.
Read below as our January/February 2020 cover star tells us how a few changes in her own life helped transform her goals into reality — and how you can do the same.
You can change your life in an hour or less
Every morning, before reaching for her phone to check her email, Chrissy reads over her gratitude list and meditates for at least 25 minutes. “This causes me to have to go to bed at a good hour to get up in time. There’s such a different feeling around waking up knowing there’s an intention I’m setting for the day,” she explains.
From there, she’ll try to make the rest of her a.m. as zen as possible. “I will make sure I’m eating what’s going to be good for me and not, like, eating in the car and rushing. I didn’t realize how much an extra 35, 45 minutes would change my life, but it sets the tone for the whole day. It’s like, whatever happens, I’m going to figure out how to react to it in a sane way and not from a place of harried chaos.”
Don't leave the past behind you
Chrissy’s poverty-stricken childhood was filled with hardship. Her father left her mother, Chrissy and her two siblings when she was a child. A few years later, her mom married her stepfather, whose nickname was Trigger, as she recounts in her 2018 memoir, This Is Me.
Trigger physically and emotionally abused Chrissy growing up, often because of her weight, though they now have a relationship. Therapy, she says, has been key to her emotional growth and health.
“We have to talk about our feelings, and I physically have been stuffing them all my life, so to have someone listen to me, without judgment ... It was like, 'Oh, OK, this is different.'”
Over time, the actress has come to view her difficult past as a vehicle for positivity in the present. “My upbringing was very different and often tumultuous, but all those things shaped me to be who I am,” she says. “I realized those things served me in what I wanted to do, in being vulnerable and having the ability to be very emotional ... [I] think [to myself], 'There’s a reason I went through all these things: to become the person I am and to accept myself through it all.'”
Seriously, no-bo-dy is perfect
Tough love doesn’t work for Chrissy, especially when it comes to her body. “I’ve battled weight issues, but I realize that I don’t have to beat myself up if I have XYZ food,” she says while reflecting on what she’s learned about her eating habits. “Instead, I change my perspective and think, 'What is it that I’m angry about?' since we tend to want crunchy foods when we’re angry or ice cream when we soothe ourselves. All these things I’m just trying to be cognizant of.”
The key, she has learned, is not to lose your spirit when you stumble. “If a waiter takes a tray of food and a glass falls and the drink spills, they don’t just throw the entire tray on the ground. You get another cup of whatever you spilled and you keep going,” Chrissy explains. “So often if something isn’t perfect, we go ‘I quit!’ That’s not conducive to forward progress, and it’s really about progress, not perfection. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t have anything to attain or achieve.”
Not every opinion matters
Chrissy finds inspiration all over, be it from self-help books, podcasts or speeches. When it comes to coping with negative feedback online in particular, one message from Brené Brown, a University of Houston research professor, is the actress’s constant saving grace. Paraphrasing Brown’s sentiments, Chrissy believes “those people [the haters] are in the cheap seats; they’re not in the ring with the blood, sweat and tears, and they have no idea what my daily life is like. Let me know when you’ve walked in my shoes, but oh, you’re in the cheap seats. That, to me, is how I sort of reconcile whatever you want to say. It’s absolutely your opinion and your perspective, but it’s not the truth.”
As for whose words can be considered the truth, it’s close family and friends and, most important, Chrissy herself.
Scroll of out negativity
“Evolution” is the word Chrissy uses to describe her relationship with Instagram. Over time, she has created her own mental checklist that helps her determine whether she should unfollow someone: What is this person or page making me feel? Why is it making me feel this way? Is it about me?
“If it’s really not helping me, it’s hurting me,” she says. Asking herself these questions has relieved a lot of unwanted pressure and led her to follow only folks who genuinely make her feel good, like cookie decorators, yogis, musicians and actors. She uses a similar approach when deciding what to share on her own account.
“Every single time I post something [I think]: 'What is my intention? Am I seeking validation? Do I want somebody to think I look pretty because I’m feeling bad about myself today?'” she says. “I always start with that. Sometimes people come to my page to look for positive encouragement ... but the only thing I can do is be myself, and hopefully that inspires people.”
Be the boss you'd love to have
At moments when Chrissy is second-guessing herself or feeling anxious, she turns to her best friend, Donnie Berry. From eating ramen noodles and accepting pay-nothing acting gigs here and there to attending the Emmys together, she and Donnie, whom she calls “one of the most talented people I’ve ever met,” have been through it all. Now Donnie works as Chrissy’s assistant, a dynamic that has come about just as Chrissy is learning how to balance being nice with asserting herself.
“I don’t like to make other people feel uncomfortable, because I know what it’s like to be incredibly uncomfortable or picked on or bullied, and I don’t ever want to hurt anyone,” Chrissy explains.
Knowing that they genuinely want the best for each other has made it easier for her to ask Donnie for things as his boss: “I can draw my boundaries, he can draw his boundaries, and that’s been really cool.”
Inner peace is hard work
Mental contentment isn’t just about treating yourself to a bubble bath or an expensive yoga class. It’s also holding yourself accountable for the ways you cause your own unhappiness and making changes, explains Chrissy.
“It’s peace of mind knowing that I can’t blame other people or make excuses if I’m not happy. Knowing that I feel good because I am being diligent about taking care of myself mentally, physically and emotionally creates self-esteem. Staying consistent and rigorously honest is hard; it’s a daily practice. But no one is going to do for me what I need to do for myself.”
She and her character have a personal tie.
“Season 2 was the hardest for me, because of [Kate’s] miscarriage story line. But what was really amazing was, someone dear to me went through one, and while I wasn’t able to talk to her about it while we were doing it on the show ... it was nice to understand, maybe in a different way, what she went through — obviously not completely, but to sort of have that conversation and ability to understand more.”
You’re not the only one crying.
“Sometimes I just want to be alone, or I’ll cry on the way home because I didn’t quite get everything out [on set]. I’ll take a bath, I’ll listen to music, whatever is going to bring me joy and get me back to that balanced place. But there are times when it’s very cathartic for me, when I’m dealing with something I’ve never dealt with personally ... I have to sort of dig deeper, and sometimes that means being emotional on the way home or for the next couple of days.”
What’s coming in 2020?
“There are some episodes where I’m not in them and we have hiatus breaks and fortunately are able to pursue other projects ... With season 4, there is some stuff coming up that we’re going to discover that a lot of people are going to relate to and hopefully be changed by ... It’s going to be very emotional, but I think it’s going to bring some empathy and understanding.”
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Good Housekeeping. Subscribe here.
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