As a college student, to say my life is hectic would be a gross underestimation. Between classes, homework, an internship, clubs, my social life, and all of those pesky responsibilities (groceries, laundry, cleaning…ugh), I’m always pressed for time, and facing pressures to do even more. I feel like if I don’t at least get straight As, get to the gym 4 times a week, or save enough money for that essential handbag, then I have failed in some way—but don’t we all?
Enter Liz Funk, who knows the ins and outs of being a “Supergirl,” as she calls it: a girl who believes she must achieve perfection in every area of her life. Simultaneously a student, author, blogger and freelance writer, Liz is both living the dream and fulfilling her prophecy that young women today face enormous pressures to be successful. At just nineteen years old, she published her first book while balancing life at Pace University’s Honors College.
In the book, Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls (now available in stores and on Amazon.com) Liz investigates how societal forces impose dangerous pressures on young women to succeed—pressures which can often lead to depression, eating disorders, or other devastating emotional traumas. It is a godsend to any young woman who ever cried upon receiving that “little” envelope from Harvard or clocked hours on the elliptical just to maintain her size 6 frame.
I got the chance to speak with Liz about her book, her passions, and life as a Supergirl. I not only admire her success, but respect her for articulating a problem that affects too many young women. We are proud to feature her in our College Candy series, “The 5 Questions We Ask Everyone,” and wish her luck as she continues her nationwide book tour.
The 5 Questions We Ask Everyone:
1. What is your favorite college memory/the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
I went to college in New York City, and my first year there, my friends and I got a flier for this rooftop party in a really dangerous neighborhood of Brooklyn that was a fundraiser for urban farming. We went because there would be cheap alcohol and because it sounded fun, and when we got there, it was literally in a terrifying neighborhood, on this sketchy warehouse rooftop; people were doing drugs out in the open and there was a band with the lead singer wearing a snorkel mask and a red Speedo. It was something out of a movie! But we had a ton of fun! The view was incredible. I’m all about nice views in New York City.
2. What are the five things you can’t live without?
My BlackBerry, Red Bull, champagne, Aveda leave-in conditioner, and my Coco Mademoiselle perfume. Plus, my family and friends.
3. What’s your motto/advice you live by?
“I am open to exploring the wonder of my life.” A life coach who I interviewed for the book, named Cathy Wasserman, told me that and I say that to myself everyday.
4. Your favorite song to belt out in the car/for karaoke?
This is embarrassing: “Burning Up,” by the Jonas Brothers.
5. Ten years from now you will be….
Hopefully still writing books, and maybe having something to do with Hollywood? I really like screenwriting and I’ve been thinking about L.A. a little bit lately. Plus, I need to be somewhere with warm weather. As much as I’ve loved living in New York, when I’m in the warm weather, I am so happy almost all the time.
And now five questions specifically for Liz:
6. You have published your first book before finishing college! Would you say “Supergirls Speak Out” is more of a cathartic memoir or an attempt to discourage young women from trying to accomplish so much, so fast? In other words, how do you reconcile the message of your book with the fact that you are “Supergirl” yourself?
I think that because I’m a Supergirl, I gave an extra bit of insight to the book. I think that if a writer who was covering this topic wasn’t a Supergirl, she might have trouble trying to wrap her head around the fact that a young woman on a Saturday night who doesn’t have plans is more likely to stay home and finish a paper due eventually or do a pilates DVD, instead of going to the movies and eating a box of chocolates by herself, because being a Supergirl is about always trying to improve yourself. Because I was on the same page as most of the girls who I interviewed, it makes it easier for the idiosyncrasies of the Supergirl psyche to not get lost in translation.
7. A lot of young women who want to become writers seem to follow a similar formula for success: find a college with a good writing program, become editor of a campus publication, land an internship/job. How did you deviate from this “traditional” path, and did you ever have doubts along the way to success?
To be perfectly honest, I did what I did largely because I was a Supergirl and because I wanted my career to make me matter. But I also wanted to write about issues in Generation Y because I don’t think that when adult reporters and commentators take on quintessentially Gen-Y things, like sexting and gossiping and posting racy photos on Facebook, that they get the story right, because they’re not really in the trenches and Gen Y is complicated! There are some sociologists and media commentators lately who have been writing about how Generation Y is narcissistic and over-entitled and it’s so not true, and we need young writers and commentators in the media, speaking out and serving as a check on the media’s power. Also, I had a feeling when I was younger that I wanted to be a freelance writer, not an editor, and when you freelance, you have to write full-time for awhile before you start to earn a living wage, so I knew that if I wanted to be able to support myself after college, I had to get acclimated with publications early. We’ll see what happens!
8. What advice do you have for college-aged women who have a lot on their plate and can’t seem to manage it all?
Two things: first and foremost, I would recommend that girls take a look at their schedules and see if that they are making tasks bigger than they actually are. I met a lot of Supergirls whose only commitments were 15 credits at school and participation in one student group, but they were mind-blowingly busy 50 hours a week, because they made every little task into a giant production because they wanted everything they did to be perfect and because they felt like they were valuable if they were busy all the time. So I would encourage girls to consider whether they’re making themselves busy, and why being busy is such a big part of their identities and their sense of self-worth. Then, I would encourage girls to block out some time in their schedules, whether it’s Tuesday evenings or Saturday mornings, to be specifically for doing some completely fun and savoring their success–make yourself your favorite cocktail and watch a DVD marathon of your favorite show, or get a pedicure with your student discount, just for fun! Girls need to cut stress out of their lives and reward themselves for their successes!
9. If you had one book to bring with you to a remote desert island, what would it be and why?
This is such a great question–and a hard one! I’m debating between bringing a book that’s super long or one that’s super-complicated. It’s a tie between the 7th Harry Potter book or The Great Gatsby. The 7th Harry Potter book is huge and has a lot of layers, so you could spend a lot of time reading it and thinking about it. With the Great Gatsby, you could read that book five or six times and still pick up on some new detail or plot layer in the story every time you read it.
10. Name one person, living or dead, with whom you’d like to have lunch. What will you talk about?
I would love to have lunch with Katie Couric. I have a feeling that she would have such fascinating insight as to women’s roles in society and the corporate elite, as well as world issues. Plus, Katie Couric has mastered that tricky balance of having the best of feminine qualities (being relatable, funny, and charming) and also being a professional powerhouse. I think there’s a lot we can learn from her.