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An instructional guide to being non-basic

New year, new you. It’s time. And yes, it’s possible. As a reader of No Basic Girls Allowed, you may find yourself wondering from time to time, hopping on holographic bubbles of thought: What does it mean to be basic? Urban Dictionary defines it as a girl who shops at Brandy Melville and drinks pumpkin spice, but I don’t think that quite covers it. What does it look like?  What does it involve? Is it inherent, innate? As in, are you born non-basic? Do I get it from my mama? Can you learn it? Can you buy it? Do they sell it online? Does it come in leopard print? Silk? Size M?

Lucky for you, I’m here to give you the rundown. Being non-basic is not about living up to any superficial or regurgitated idea of coolness that you saw advertised on Instagram’s explore page. It’s in knowing that coolness can’t be defined. It’s liquid. Jello. You shape it. Being non-basic has nothing to do with trendiness. It’s setting your own trends, living from your own heart. Being about your shit. Setting your own tone.

It’s an energy. A presence. A down-to-earth-ness.

Beware. Basic is an energy and it doesn’t discriminate.

Anyone can fall victim to it, but have no fear.

I have a couple of tips.

maria

First, realize that you have control. And claim that shit.

When you’re non-basic, you focus on solutions.

You focus on blessings, on the beauty of the unique and never-again quality of the day. The mundane tasks of daily life become grounds for living romantically with yourself. Infusing the day with joy and gratefulness is possible when we take control of our perspective. This requires training, like martial arts. The garden of our thoughts is ours to tend to, care for, and protect. I don’t think it’s by chance that when I started saying “thank-you” every morning, and more importantly, tuning into my thankfulness, actively searching for thinks to express gratitude for—the bounce returned to my metaphorical step bit by bit. Warm, radiant love-shine. My dreams were once again backed with action plans. Taking control, in my opinion, requires personal accountability. When you look at your life, what do you choose to see? How do you feel about it? How long have you felt that way?

I was once so upset about the loss of what I thought would be a life-changing opportunity that I ended up in a rut for months: ridiculously, I invested a lot of my energy into activities as extreme as regretting my entire personality. Now, here, as I’m writing this, I cannot believe the melodrama of that way of thinking. At the time, it felt not only natural but reasonable.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to get caught up in the negative. I don’t know why, but you can slip into a negative thinking pattern like it’s a warm bath. Like it’s capable of delivering the same kaleidoscopic sensation as fuzzy socks, caramel pancakes, or apple pie à la mode. It’s the comfort of a habit.  It’s so irresistible. Even if it’s non-helpful in helping you with pretty much all that you want and are aiming for, the calming reliability of a bad habit is no joke. You look around at your life and can’t focus on anything besides the fact that it’s raining, or that you missed the train, or that you’re not where you want to be yet. But the rain smells fantastic, the air is so fresh, the day is so new.  You’re late, but the walk is wonderful. Flowers bloom on the side of the street, electric and pink. Sometimes negative thinking can act as a safeguard that keeps us from the hard work that optimism requires. Optimism opens new doors, it takes you on the backstreets, introduces you to new places, but there will still be work to do on those pathways. And the work is hard. The work is hard and worth it. C’est! La! Vie! In times of spiritual exhaustion, it can feel really difficult to not be overwhelmed, pessimistic, and stressed. Sometimes you wake up and your dreams feel a little distant, the way forward looks foggy and unclear. You wonder if maybe your best days are behind you—later, in moments of clarity, you realize you were being a little shortsighted, and of course your break-up didn’t actually dissolve your life of beauty and meaning.

You don’t have to be on top of it at every moment.

This experience is non-linear.

Ups and downs = the natural rhythm of life.

We sometimes fall prey to the idea that we will always be who we have been. We leave ourselves with very little room to test out different realities and truths. Life is like memory foam; when you expand yourself, things push back against you a little bit. It feels hard, not worth it. Keep going. And the shape of the foam will change; those little changes become easier, natural.

Being non-basic requires this dedication to creating…

Creating your experience, playing within your limitations.

Two? Go with the flow sometimes.

Basically, gracefulness.

Be the serpent, as it goes. But more importantly be the flower.

Gracefulness is all about knowing when to step back and let things fall where they may. Being non-basic means refusing to fight with thunderstorms, choosing instead to dance in the rain. That was a little back-of-the-cereal-box knowledge for you. Seriously though, it’s not all up to you. Knowing how and when to take control is the first step. The second step is knowing that you can and should give it up sometimes. You can tell when to give it up by making reference to your personal mission statement (which we’ll go over in the next step—it’s so heart-expanding). You can breathe, you can rest, you can take it easy.

The stoic philosopher/emperor Marcus Aurelius once wrote:

“You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up about things you can’t control. Those things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”

Listen. This applies to everything. What people think about you. Break-ups. Rejections. Someone else’s behaviour, somebody else’s failure to be what you want. A betrayal. Anything that destroys the dream you’d momentarily dedicated yourself to. The disappearance of what you thought you’d have forever. Anything that makes you angry, jealous, hurtful. Petty. Anything getting under your skin. Everything you want to talk shit about. Whatever you’re constantly ruminating over and rolling around in. Whatever your ex just posted on Instagram.The subtweet that just popped onto your timeline and pissed you off. Anything that has you locked inside your head dreaming up better comebacks for the next 48 hours in order to make up for a conversation that your ego experienced as a loss. Anything that takes your energy and doesn’t give you energy back. Anything that doesn’t nourish you, make you better. Anything that obsesses you in the bad way. Anything that removes you from peace. Step back from it. Leave it alone.

It is so seductive sometimes, the thought of traveling down the tunnels of every impulse, all the way to their dirty end, the utmost extreme of whatever emotion. Our emotions are here to communicate with us, they’re not necessarily proof of our biggest individual fears. What we feel signifies something and sometimes it takes time to figure out what is being said. A need that is not being met. When you’re non-basic, you focus on what you can control. You can control your own warmth, your consistency, your presence, your dependability, you can move through the world being the person of your wildest dreams, being the friend you wish you could meet, being the person you wish would love you. You will attract more and more experiences that reflect that same frequency.

Basic = Rigid. Controlling. Living from ego.

Melt more. Be sunshine. Say hello to the surprises of the day.

Create a personal mission statement.

Big part of being non-basic is possessing self-knowledge.

Do you know what you want? Who you are?

It feels like an impossible task at times, it really does. Technically, we’ve all been many people throughout our lifetimes. We have imagined selves that we have not yet actualized; we also have past selves that we’ve outgrown and dismissed (hopefully). Even more than that, though, it’s difficult to know what we want, know who we are, and then live by that. There are so many distractions. Flashing lights. Urgencies. It’s not simply due to laziness or lack of willpower, as much as we might want to berate ourselves over that. It’s this frantic pace of living; everything is happening so fast. We have personal and professional obligations and deadlines. We overextend ourselves in certain arenas, victims of our own poor boundaries.

So. What do you want? Who are you?

It’s this close to being a trick question.

Hold up though—it’s not.

There is a way to narrow this down a little. My trick is: when in doubt, focus on action.

If you want love, be love.

If you want to be a nice person, do nice things, don’t just talk nicely.

It seems redundant, but think about it.

We don’t have to stress about who we are. We just have to focus on what we do. How we choose to spend our time, how we communicate with the people around us, the depth of the thoughtfulness within our actions. Our impact on our little corner of the world.

Being non-basic means letting the work speak for itself.

Being non-basic means walking it like you talk it. Migos said it.

But how do you do it? How do you keep track of it?

There’s a concept I read about in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Creating a personal mission statement.

A personal mission statement is a guideline.

A list.

Sticky-notes, diary page, whatever. Use markers. Stickers.

Paint. Have fun.

It helps us clarify our values and desires and therefore, our lives. A clear and tangible value system works as a reference point for our behaviour. It can be uncomfortable at first, becoming who we want to be. Who you know you can be. Self-expansion is an alien process. It can also feel a little lonely to do better; a lot of the time it means distancing ourselves from old, emotional crutches. When I sat down to write my mission statement, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know why. I felt the weight of the task. It was too heavy. Day after day, my journal remained blank. My gel pen, untouched. I just didn’t know what I wanted. Well, I did. But I was afraid to say it out loud. I was afraid to wish for anything—because what if I didn’t get it? I was afraid to set goals —because what if I failed? My negative, cloudy outlook was affecting all of my decisions and I didn’t even see it. Outside, the sky darkened again and again. Shadows fell in through the lace of my kitchen window. It should have been romantic, but it just felt sad. The thought of sitting down with myself, with my glittery gel pen, and all of my feelings, was exhausting. How would I be able to parse through everything that I felt, all that I had been feeling for months without ever really pausing to think about why I was feeling it, or what it was telling me, or where it was coming from.

Creating a mission statement immediately allowed me to see that my frustrations were just exposing to me what I really wanted. And what I want is attainable, and if I can dream it it’s already mine, it’s simply on the other side of action.

Here’s a little list for Q’s to think about when writing your own mission statement.

What is important to me?
Who/what you love.

Where do I want to go?
Physically. Career-wise. Spiritually. Lay it all out.

How do I want people to describe me?
Thoughtful. Dependable. Punctual. Caring. Affectionate. Honest.

What do I hope is my legacy?
I left you better than I found you. At the very least, I did you no harm. I helped when I could.

What does the “best” look like for me?
Your dream. In full explicitness. Hold nothing back.

Revisit it. Always. Make changes. Cross words out, edit. Scribble. Underline. It’s not a contract, just a guide. I wrote mine down in my journal, between receipts and train tickets I saved from my trip Paris, my grocery list. Drunk poems. A dried out flower.

Lindsay C. Gibson

Step number five: Learn to be comfortable with going first.

This step is short, but necessary. Why?

Because when you’re non-basic you don’t need anybody’s permission to be dope.

What does it mean?

Setting your own tone. Showing up as yourself. Not bending over backwards for a clap on the back from anyone who’s not conductive to you, your goals, and your growth. We can lose a lot of time and integrity when we over-invest in reading energies and matching energies. There is a usefulness to that; it’s not bad to be aware of the perspective of the person in front of you. Actually, it’s good. It signifies thoughtfulness, self-awareness. But there is a limit, as there is with many of the things that involve our minds and other people. We have to allow the knowledge of alternate perspectives to excite, intrigue, and inspire us, rather than intimidate or restrict us. Always looking over your shoulder and thinking: Is this right? Is am I supposed to do it like this, or like that? Am I supposed to wear it this way, or that way? There is so much unnecessary panic involved in this way of living. It’s a super power to be able to tune out from those magnetic and external forces. To focus on going first. To ask ourselves what feels right and to reconnect with that intuitive decision-maker deep inside of us and give ourselves permission to lead the way.

I let my heart direct me. I respect my intuition.

Approval from the entire globe would be lovely, but I don’t need it.

Finally, have fun with your presentation.

Style can’t be judged as right or wrong. Technically.

But it’s always the best when it’s coming from you. There is magic involved in watching the external reflect the internal. To be able to know what lures you and thrills you and excites you and embody that, communicate that, through your look, through the places you invest your time/energy, through the way you show-up. .

Presentation communicates something so secret and subliminal about ourselves to the outside world. It signifies the depth of the connection we have with ourselves, with the child in us who wants to play and express. Even though it’s communicative, it doesn’t mean it’s never lost in translation.

Style isn’t restricted to the domain of clothes, either.

Chuck Palahniuk said it first in Diary:

“Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. It’s all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand. Everything is a self portrait. Everything is a diary.”

Have you ever met someone who is just so themselves? Everything they do just radiates this gorgeous sense of presence: their grocery list, their way of saying hello, the warmth they put into their goodbyes. The way they decorate their phonecase, or organize the books beside their bed. The playfulness that is awakened inside of us when we fool around with the elements of our surroundingss. Everything is free-flowing, genuine, impulsive, but also thought about and cared for. There is a curation element that’s so fun and individual. Having a personal aesthetic, an unmistakable aura. It’s something you possess, not something that possesses you. Your favourite scent. Your secret night-time rituals. I love seriousness but I also love play. I love childishness. I love melting rules down. Warm candy. I love statements. Anything loud. Dramatic details. Leopard print. Green jewels. Red lipstick. Marshmallows in black coffee. Not kidding. Clear/glittery nail polish. I like contrasts, confusion. This informs my personal style a lot. Not just what I wear, but what I do, how I think. I like to explore possibilities.

Being non-basic means tapping into what style means for you. 

References are great. Lookbooks, mood boards, research.

There are thousands of YouTube videos out there promising to help you locate your personal style—thousands. Why? Because it’s actually not always easy. Sometimes it’s intimidating, it feels exclusive, rigid, or black and white. The truth is, though, you have it. It’s yours already.

…Did she lie?