Over the weekend, Dartmouth alumna Mindy Kaling delivered the 2018 commencement speech at her alma mater, dispensing wisdom to the graduating class from behind a tree-stump lectern "like some sort of female Lorax with an advanced degree."
The Lorax nod was relevant; Dr. Seuss (civilian name Theodor Geisel), is one of the school's most famous alumni. And as the Ocean's 8 star reflected on during her address, years after graduating in 2001, she herself is now a former student the school "deemed worthy enough" to celebrate. Kaling reflected on the fact that what got her there, and what she hopes others will embrace, is the opposite of imposter syndrome.
"You have to have insane confidence in yourself, even if it's not real," Kaling said. "You need to be your own cheerleader now, because there isn't a room full of people waiting with pom‑poms to tell you, 'You did it! We've been waiting all this time for you to succeed!'"
"Delusion" is the "superpower" that has kept her going through the years, Kaling said, joking that President Trump is also "a testament to how far you can get just by believing you're the smartest, most successful person in the world." For other people, success can come from planning out and crossing off items on a checklist of goals. Kaling said she had a list as an undergrad and accomplished everything on it. But her post-20s checklist (which included getting married by 27, having kids at 30, winning an Oscar, and being the star of her own TV show) didn't pan out the same way.
"I've only done one of those things" — see: The Mindy Project — "and I'm not sure I will ever do the others," she admitted. "And that is a really scary feeling. Knowing how far that I've strayed from the person that I was hoping to be when I was 21."
The actress and writer says what spurs her on is knowing she's not alone, even if as a single mom to daughter Katherine Kaling, her path bears little resemblance to images of successful women in film and on television. But by cultivating an unflagging belief in herself and in the power of women to "accomplish anything" when they work together, things that seem impossible become a little more attainable.
"Don't let the world make you feel like there's only one spot at the table, or that you can't root for other women if you want it for yourself," she said. "I'm giving you permission to root for yourself. And while you're at it, root for those around you, too. It took me a long time to realize that success isn’t a zero-sum game."