3 Ways Love Makes You Bolder To Be Your Authentic Self From The Film 'The Half Of It'

Photo: The half of it/IMDB
girls from the half of it film being their authentic self

Do you feel scared to show the real you? Your authentic self? That can change. You can become bold(er).

Alice Wu’s film The Half of It shows three ways that friendship can help you stop pretending and come out of hiding. You just have to be open to it. That’s the hard part.

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It isn’t easy to let someone see your authentic self if you already believe they won’t like you.

Maybe you’ve been hurt or have suffered a loss. Perhaps you are under someone else’s control, or live with a secret you can’t share.

Or maybe, you have been bullied, misunderstood, or don’t even know who you are.

In The Half of It, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) and Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), are two unlikely friends who can’t be themselves for different reasons. Throw into the mix beautiful Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), and what do you have? Three insecure kids and a complicated love triangle.

These high-school seniors in The Half of It are scared to show who they really are.

Their stories tell a lot about what can make you hide.

Ellie Chu wears the mask of acting tough and as if she doesn’t care. She’s very smart and interesting, but keeps to herself.

The other kids ignore her. Worse, they mock her, as she’s riding her bike all alone to school: “Ellie Chu! Chugga-chugga-choo-choo.”

Her mom’s dead, her dad’s depressed. Ellie keeps her own sadness shut away. She doesn’t think she can go to college; her dad needs her. She takes care of them, because he can’t.

She makes extra money ghostwriting other students' essays. And she’s gay. Closeted, of course, because she's sure she’d be rejected even more. For Ellie, it’s not safe to open up.

Paul Munsky hides behind Ellie and her writing. He’s a handsome, tongue-tied boy, lost in his large, rowdy family. Plus, his overbearing sausage-making business mom shoots down his taco sausage idea. Change her mother’s recipe? No way.

He wears the pretense of a would-be football jock. He’s looking for love and is sure he’s found her. But there’s a catch: Paul doesn’t know how to talk or write well.

So, he flags Ellie down, not asking for her usual essay. He doesn’t want to cheat. Just a smart, romantic letter, that’s all. You know, to get the girl.

Ellie starts to say, “No.” But she needs the money for an overdue bill.

Problem is, how’s she going to sound authentic, pretending to be him? Plus, there’s one other big complication: Ellie has a crush on the same girl.

Aster Flores is a beautiful, popular girl. You’d think she has it all. But she doesn’t — that’s just a veil she wears.

Her boyfriend, Trig, is the heartthrob of all the girls. Everyone wants to be her friend. Paul “loves” her.

But Aster’s confused. She doesn’t really know who she is and has no space to find out. She lives tightly under the control of her minister dad, trying to be who he expects. He has his rules. Marriage, not a career.

Aster’s unhappy, but also can’t think to say, “No.”

She’s as smart as Ellie, well-read, a painter, and a thinker. Art is her passion, but could she dare go to art school and choose her path, or love in her own way? Not yet.

These three kids are as different as you can get, but they help each other learn to be bold.

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Here are 3 ways The Half of It can teach you to be bolder and show your authentic self in love and life.

1. You don't feel "good enough."

Paul is a child among many. You can get lost in a big family. You might think the others are better or compare yourself all the time. It’s easy to think you don’t measure up.

So, he needs Ellie’s encouragement — a lot of it. She tries to give it for her own reasons, at first.

But she starts to see him. He tries hard. Putting in the effort, according to Paul, is what love is. He’s right — it’s just that you have to be yourself. And Paul begins to, with Ellie.

Plus, he’s just as encouraging of her: “Who’s going to rock their senior recital?” Ellie’s as negative about herself as Paul is, certain she’ll be jeered at. She doesn’t feel good enough, either. She hides behind her intelligence, afraid to show her softer side.

You will never feel "good enough" hiding your true self from other people.

2. You're certain no one likes you.

Yes, it’s hard for Ellie. And here it is, just what she expects: “Ellie Chu. Chugga-chugga-choo-choo.”

She goes on after the standing ovation for a boy’s rock band, but for Ellie it's dead silence. Snickering. A broken string on the piano. A cruel boy shouting, “Next.”

But when the string breaks, Paul’s in the wings, sliding Ellie a guitar.

She begins to sing, “Safe and sound, as the night tore and spun around. We had to get lost to be found.” Cheers. The lead guitar says, “When did Ellie Chu get kind of hot?”

Being your authentic self regardless of your pre-conceived notions of what other people think is important. Embrace "you!"

3. You feel like you have to meet other people's expectations of you.

Ellie has to take care of things a child shouldn’t. Paul can’t voice his ideas. Aster’s dad expects her to live in his image and be the daughter he wants. Aster feels she has no choice.

Just say, "yes." That’s Aster’s life. Yes, to her dad, to the girls at school who want her to be just like them, wearing their pink cowl collars. Even if she’s not. Yes to her boyfriend, Trig.

But who is Aster? She says in one letter, “If you never do the bold stroke — you’ll never know if you could’ve had a great painting.” None of these kids can be bold. Not yet.

If you spend your life working to meet other people's expectations of you, you'll never be able to show your authentic self. You'll just be living someone else's version of your life.

So, what does it take to be bolder and embrace your true self?

  • Knowing someone has your back
  • Feeling understood
  • Being seen and liked for the "real" you

That isn’t the half of it, though. In doing these three things, friends help you learn what love is and what it’s not. And loving yourself or someone else isn't about pretending.

Real friends help you break the rules in your mind that say, "don’t be open. Don’t love in your own way."

Real friends make the effort to understand. They support the real you.

So, Ellie’s off to college. Aster to art school, admitting she likes Ellie, too. Paul pursues his taco-sausage creation. That’s what friends can do.

The lesson in The Half of It? There’s much more to lose in hiding than in showing who you are.

Be bold. Find friends who have your back and love you for who you are. Take the risk.

They’re out there. They just might not look like who you expect them to be.

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Dr. Sandra Cohen is a Los Angeles-based psychologist and psychoanalyst, who specializes in treating childhood trauma, persistent depressive states, and all types of anxiety. Contact her if you have any questions.