Moving Beyond Fine: Whitney Cummings Shares Her Secrets For A Successful Life

What does a comedian, who seemingly has her life together, have to offer to the rest of us who struggle with the day-to-day battle of just showing up in the morning, let alone seizing the day?

A lot.

Whitney Cummings is no stranger to success — she’s created and starred in the NBC sitcom Whitney, she’s cocreated and cowrote the Emmy-nominated CBS series 2 Broke Girls, not to mention appearing in numerous other television shows, movies and stand-up specials. When she isn’t on screen or writing witty zingers, she spends her time producing a reboot of Roseanne, making her directorial debut with a film adaptation of the book The Female Brain and working with charities to rescue dogs. And to top it all off, she’s now written a book,  I’m Fine …And Other Lies, which is full of what she calls “stories and mistakes” too embarrassing to share onstage in front of a live audience.

Cummings has battled a variety of the life situations that can crop up for anyone: Teasing in school because of her surname, divorced parents, an eating disorder, codependence and nearly being arrested. In her book, Cummings addresses these and other issues with grace and humor.

Having faced some of these situations myself, I was immediately taken with how incredibly vulnerable Cummings makes herself in the book. She lays out some of her most painful and uncomfortable moments. Not only does she put down all the intricate details but she also invites us to laugh along with her.

Believing In Yourself

Cummings, like many of us, wants to be liked. But not all of us are dealing with codependency. Because of this condition, she has often found herself with too many unwanted obligations. “A major element of my codependence is that it’s incredibly hard to say no to things or cancel if I find myself overcommitted,” Cummings writes. You don’t have to be codependent to know the feeling of having too many obligations; it’s incredibly important to prioritize. “It never occurred to me that I was allowed to say, ‘Thanks for asking, but I don’t want to,’” she says in the book.

Knowing that you’re enough is easier said than done. It’s much simpler to brush aside your abilities. “Being negative about yourself actually makes people uncomfortable and really weirds out the vibe,” Cummings writes. While self-deprecation is often used to lower others’ defenses and make yourself seem less of a threat, according to clinical psychologist Ros Taylor, it can also easily lead to discrediting your accomplishments. “We can use jokes to get closer to people or to push them away,” Cummings writes. “Turns out jokes are like knives.”

The takeaway? The next time someone praises your hard work at the office, instead of cutting yourself down, try simply saying, ‘Thank you.” You more than likely deserve the kudos.

Whitney Cummings at ‘Stand Up For Pits’ Los Angeles charity awareness and fundraising comedy night at Largo on November 3, 2013. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Finding What You’re Passionate About

Very few people are lucky enough to land a job or even a hobby that really inspires them. For Cummings, this passion has manifested in taking her codependent need to rescue humans and channeling it instead into rescuing pit bulls. (Back in the 19th century, pit bulls, a much-maligned breed, were bred specifically for fighting other dogs.) “There’s no doubt that pit bulls cast a larger cultural shadow in America than any other breed,” Cummings notes in her book. She assists the often misrepresented dogs by promoting charities that aid them on social media and  by working directly with rescue agencies.

Even noble passions can carry dangers, as Cummings knows all too well: One of her rescue dogs nearly bit her ear off. While the ear is now fine, she learned a valuable lesson. “It’ll remind me to meet others the way they are, not how I want them to be.”

Cummings has made monumental strides in discovering who she is and wants to share what she’s learned. “You’re about to get like a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of psychological therapy for the measly price of this book,” she writes.