Mindy Kaling's advice to teens: 'You are worthy of being heard' — but listen too

/ Source: TODAY

Mindy Kaling is a successful actress, comedian and author, but back in high school, she had no success when it came to expressing herself.

That's because Kaling, like many of us, found those teen years to be awkward ones. In an essay she's written for Seventeen magazine, the "Mindy Project" star hopes the story of her own school days can help teens now.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 09: Writer/producer/actress Mindy Kaling speaks onstage during 'The Mindy Project' panel discussion at the Hulu portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 7, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)Getty Images file

"I was pretty nerdy in high school," she writes. "I never had a boyfriend or anything, but I had plenty of crushes."

But that lack of teen love left her open to discover a much bigger passion — one for comedy.

"At school, I decided to work on being a performer," Kaling recalls. "I tried out for every play but never got cast in any big part."

And when it came to comic performances, she found herself taking a backseat to boys.

"Funny was for boys," she explains. "Everyone acted like it was inappropriate for a girl to be funny, as if I was there to be an audience for the guys, not to be providing comedy myself. It was so unfair!"

But when she finally moved on to university life at Dartmouth, as a theater major, everything was different.

"I started to realize that high school had made me an expert on how people engage with each other — and those observations would be my recipe for comedy-writing success," she writes.

So her message to teens today is a simple one: "Being expressive is important and I want you to feel like you are worthy of being heard, but there's value in listening, too. ... So when you finally take your place in the spotlight — whether it's doing your own TV show or whatever it turns out to be — you can put all those stored-up goodies to work."

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