Whitney Cummings – Protect Your Peace. Overcome Your Past.
Drugs and alcohol are not the only sources of ADDICTION. Many of us go our entire lives addicted to approval from others, or to chaos, stress, material things –– we can even become addicted to our own habits that don’t serve us. No matter what it is you’re addicted to, the effect can be just as disastrous as SUBSTANCE ABUSE.
My guest this week is one of the most interesting, complex, and brilliant people I’ve ever had on the show. In this episode, things got REAL with Whitney Cummings. She shares all about her struggle with her addiction to chaos and reveals how you can use self-observation to identify and OVERCOME your own toxic patterns. I enjoyed this conversation so much — I KNOW it’s going to make a difference in your life!
Whitney is one of the funniest comedians on the planet. She’s been featured on Comedy Central, HBO, and Netflix, and has her own podcast. After months of chasing her down, I am THRILLED to have her as a guest on my show!
How does someone so human go on to achieve such a high level of success? This interview will help you identify and overcome destructive patterns that may be stopping you from achieving fulfillment.
The older we become, the more we operate based on our past memories and experiences instead of operating from our imagination… of what is POSSIBLE in the future version of ourselves. Whitney reveals her strategy on how to LOVE and LIVE more authentically and create lasting relationships and friendships and free herself from toxic patterns.
Who Is Whitney Cummings?
Whitney Cummings is an absolute powerhouse in the entertainment industry and a very, very funny woman. She is a comedian, actress, producer, writer, director, and podcaster. Whitney has four stand-up specials on Comedy Central, HBO, and Netflix as well as numerous credits on TV series. She’s also the host of the Good for You podcast in which she interviews her friends, fellow comics, celebs, and “weirdos” every week.
Whitney’s not shy about talking about her tough upbringing. She grew up in an alcoholic home, and it played a massive role in shaping her into the woman she is today.
What’s interesting about Whitney is how she perceived the addiction happening in her home. Addiction doesn’t need a substance to be present, or even visible. People can have all kinds of damaging addictions and toxic behaviors concerning immaterial things.
“We can be drunk on rage. We can be drunk on control. We can be drunk on perfectionism. We can be drunk on anxiety and all sorts of things. … We can be addicted to a lot of things besides just actual alcohol. It took me a while to understand that because I didn’t see a lot of alcohol growing up and I didn’t realize I grew up in an alcoholic home until much later. I just thought my parents fought a lot. I just thought they were like that. I thought my mom went to bed at 6:30 PM. As a kid, you don’t understand what’s happening.” – Whitney Cummings
She may not have understood exactly what was going on, but Whitney developed all these different behaviors and coping mechanisms in response to her parents. She calls these behaviors her “superpowers.”
“When you grow up in an alcoholic home or a dysfunctional home, you end up having to work a little bit harder to get attention. You end up having to be funny. You ended up having to pretend you’re sick or pretending you’re hurt or taking risks or being loud — all these maladaptive behaviors. Sometimes they’re called character defects. I like to call them superpowers. As I get older, I’m like, ‘I have all these frickin tools and weapons and superpowers that a lot of people don’t have.’” – Whitney Cummings
I love that she uses the word “SUPERPOWER.” The first thing I thought of when I reflected on what superpowers I’ve developed over 50 years is anxiety. There’s this notion that we should avoid all anxiety — try not to feel stress. I think there’s some element of truth that we should avoid some stress and anxiety. But, these things are also growth signals and catalysts for change. They show us where there’s room for improvement. And that’s a GIFT.
What It’s Like to Live Unconsciously
One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to have Whitney on the show is because of something I’ve heard her say in other videos. She’s said in the past that she was “unconscious” in her twenties. It’s something that’s stuck with me because I felt a similar way.
For a good part of my life, I wasn’t fully PRESENT. I was constantly on the go, trying to achieve the next big thing. It turns out, though, that you get more dopamine in the pursuit of something than when you actually achieve it. I got caught up in this cycle of constantly chasing success, happiness, and the next big thing. Whitney had a similar experience in her twenties.
“[In my 20s,] I was a complete puppet of fear and workaholism. …I was a little bit of a zombie. I equated productivity with my self-worth. I derived my self-esteem from productivity. I still do, just the motives are a little cleaner than when I was in my twenties. I didn’t know how to measure twice, cut once; I was working 10x as hard, not working smart. I just wanted to keep busy because I was in pain and I was so desperate to make it. I was so desperate for approval.” – Whitney Cummings
A big part of those instincts comes from growing up in a toxic environment. While some of Whitney’s coping mechanisms — like her fabulous sense of humor — have led her down the path to success, others have left her burned out, stressed, manic — and addicted.
“I was so scared of not having money, but also at the same time spending irresponsibly. … I know people are gonna make fun of me in the comments, but I do identify as an addict. …This is just how people that grew up in alcoholic homes are like. I very much identify as an addict. I was very addicted to drama. I was in bad relationships. I was cheating. I was recreating my childhood circumstances, subconsciously I was recreating that familiar pain.” – Whitney Cummings
It took some time — and therapy — for Whitney to realize that to be a good artist doesn’t mean she has to live in chaos. And in itself, chaos can be a form of addiction too.
I’m writing a lot about addiction at the moment. What I’ve learned is you can operate in one of two patterns in your life. You begin your life operating out of a pattern of imagination. You’re exploring new things, using your imagination, and dreaming about what your life could be like.
The more you begin to collect memories as you get older, the more you begin to operate in a pattern that’s kind of like reading. You’re not actually reading words, but your mind is remembering reading a situation that it’s been in before. You’ve imprinted a pattern in your brain.
Grown-ups end up reliving these old patterns. And if you’re not aware of it, like most people, you’ll live most of your life out of memory instead of imagination. They repeat the same patterns, the same cycles –– and, if you’re like Whitney, these cycles can be toxic and just as addictive as something like heroin.
How Self-Awareness Leads to Power
SELF-AWARENESS is such a huge thing in life. A lot of the negative things about ourselves lose their power over us when we become aware of them. We can start leveraging those “negative” things to our BENEFIT.
For Whitney, it was recognizing this pattern of looking for approval in the wrong places that led her closer to fulfillment. She challenges the typical pursuit of happiness, preferring instead to find fulfillment and recognizing her drive to always be productive.
“I have a hard time with the happiness thing because I don’t know what [happiness] is supposed to look like, and I never think I’m doing a good enough job. I have a hard time at parties, because I think, ‘Am I supposed to be the life of the party?’ I need to know my role. I like to say [I’m] fulfilled, instead of happy; fulfilled and proud. That’s where I derive my happiness from –– from acts of service and acts of completion and from productivity.” – Whitney Cummings
She’s also been able to embrace some of those so-called negative traits –– like anxiety. It’s one of her superpowers.
“I’m obsessed with how we pathologize all these incredible traits that we evolved to have to be excellent at survival –– [like] anxiety. Anxiety is why we [have] survived. … There was no one in tribal times, when there was a lion 40 feet away, saying, ‘We need to fix this anxiety problem.’ [Our ancestors] were like, ‘Let’s [get] outta here.’ Anxiety is super useful.” – Whitney Cummings
Taking ownership of your so-called negative traits is a step toward owning your POWER. The more you understand about yourself, the more you can begin to change things. The trauma in your life doesn’t have to define you –– it’s what you LEARN from it and how you move FORWARD that makes you the person you are today.
How to Live More Intentionally
One of the big lessons Whitney had to learn in her twenties was the difference between love and pity.
“When I was in my twenties, I was in love with a lot of people that I didn’t respect. I think I conflated love and pity. I derived my self-worth from how useful I was and how much someone else needed me. I conflated co-dependence and interdependence.” – Whitney Cummings
Whitney wasn’t really showing up authentically in her friendships and got caught in relationships that were insincere. It’s something I’ve experienced too. Five years ago, I’d find myself at lunch with someone that I just didn’t want to be with. It wasn’t that the people I was associating with were bad people. They just weren’t the people who should be in my energy field at that time of my life.
It took the passing of Whitney’s father to shake her out of this zombie mindset.
“I [lost] my dad a couple years ago, and [at the time] I was experiencing the kind of clarity you can only get when someone close to you dies. People would be like, ‘You want to go on a hike?’ and I’d be like, ‘No, thanks.’ People would ask, ‘Do you wanna get a coffee?’ I’d be like, ‘Nope.’ I didn’t realize how much I did out of obligation. Something that helped me was this idea that the answer is usually ‘no’. …Anything that’s not paying your bills, assume the answer is ‘no.’ Then if you want to say ‘yes’ later, you can always change your mind.” – Whitney Cummings
Guys, that is one of the most AWESOME things anyone has ever said on this show. We constantly say ‘yes’ to things, assuming we can always cancel. Instead, it’s the opposite that helps you get your energy back and live with more intention.
My dad got sick about four years ago. Ever since then, I’ve had this epiphany — when you’re dying of cancer, you don’t have any time to be having lunches or conversations with people anymore out of obligation. Don’t wait for a crisis to come to that realization. Live more intentionally, and be around people who FEED your SPIRIT.
How to Change Your Fear of Rejection
Whitney Cummings became a household name seemingly overnight. But, in reality, there was a lot of hustle and hard work that Whitney put into achieving so much in her career. And, Whitney said she has absolutely no fear when it comes to rejection.
“I am a sadistic person and I do think that’s part of it. I grew up being rejected a lot by my dad. Rejection to me is — I get off on rejection a little bit. If you can wire your brain to view rejection as one step closer [to your goal]. I get excited when I get rejected, because I think…‘Now I’m so much closer.’ It’s like passing an exit when you’re driving on the freeway. I’m almost at my exit; I just passed a bunch.” – Whitney Cummings
I’m a big believer that the best lessons in life are caught –– not taught. You catch things. You can start to learn by observing the world and your reaction to things that you can change your perception. Seeing rejection as a gift? Viewing your coping mechanisms as a superpower? Those are things that can’t be taught.
#MAXOUT with Whitney Cummings
Guys, we covered so much in this interview, and I highly recommend you watch the entire episode. Whitney is hilarious and has learned so many lessons along her journey that I think can really challenge your limiting beliefs and help you find fulfillment.
I want to leave you with Whitney’s advice to anyone just starting out in their career:
“If people think you’re normal, then you’re not working hard enough. …You should be uncomfortable all the time. You should feel like you’re jumping off a cliff all the time or else you’re not taking enough risks. You should be in a constant state of [thinking], ‘Holy shit. Am I going to embarrass myself? Holy shit, am I ever going to pull this off?’ You should always have that pit in your stomach, that anxiety.” – Whitney Cummings
That’s it — get COMFORTABLE feeling UNCOMFORTABLE. Your vulnerability is your strength –– you can use your anxiety and your fear to help you achieve great things.
Guys, I’m so happy that you joined me to hear today’s message. If you can’t get enough of Whitney, check out her most recent special on Netflix, Can I Touch It? and tune into her weekly podcast, Good for You. Whitney is also the author of I’m Fine…And Other Lies, which is a great read in which you can learn a little more about her journey to self-acceptance. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and be sure to check out her website to find out when her tour dates are back on the calendar.
If you got anything out of this interview, please rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcasts — it goes a long way to helping new people find us and me being able to invite more epic guests! Share this episode on Instagram by posting a screenshot and tagging me, @edmylett, and Whitney, @whitneycummings.
Don’t forget, every day on Instagram, I run the two-minute drill. That means everyone who comments within the first two minutes of my post, Monday through Friday, is entered into a drawing. We pick a winner EVERY DAY. Winners can receive anything from coaching calls with me, MAXOUT gear, to a flight on my jet. So make sure your notifications are turned on, and you’re staying engaged in the MAXOUT community!
Now, go lead with intention this week and #MAXOUT your life!