“The secret to style is self-confidence.”
Ok, fine. It sounds like an Instagram quote. But that’s what Emmanuelle Alt said to me one day when I was interviewing her and, at the time, like I always do when faced with a deep thought, I think I was like: “Oh yeah, sure, of course.*”
Emmanuelle is the perfect example of self-confidence. She has a clear, personal style that doesn’t change very much with trends. She’s got this way of holding herself, an allure, she’s the kind of person who is just herself.
But, deep down, what is self-confidence really?
I can always identify it in other people, but in myself I only notice when it fluctuates, at best.
You all know how easy it is for me to make fun of myself and you also know my insecurities – I’ve never tried to hide them, for the pure and simple reason that I think we all (even Gisèle) have moments when we just feel kind of meh about ourselves.
Ok. Not hiding your insecurities, being able to make fun of them – that’s already proof of pretty solid self-confidence. In general, what I tell myself is:
• We never see ourselves as we really are, so you shouldn’t hesitate to listen to other people (the ones who love us) and take their word for it.
• We all have insecurities. Sharing them and taking them with a sense of humor makes life much sweeter, and much easier.
That’s how I built my self-confidence – and, even so, I still have moments when I dream of having someone else’s body (or apartment, or hair, or intelligence, or #perfectlife).
There also are times that just lend themselves to ruining your self confidence, and I’m trying to learn to anticipate them, whether it’s the first few days at the beach, fashion weeks, or waitresses in restaurants in New York**.
Those are the times when you leave the house full of confidence in yourself and in life, but then your SC (self-confidence, yep, that’s the way it is in the US – everyone abbreviates everything, so let’s go with it!!!) crumbles right when you need it most. That’s when my SC and my insecurities go into a battle worse than GOT (Game of Thrones, kids) and I come close to having an NBD (Nervous Break Down, of course).
Here’s an example (I’m going to put my SC in bold and my insecurities in italics).
“Shit, I’m not dressed well enough.Yes you are, come on. Everything is fine. It’s not your style to be over dressed. No, but here’s the real problem. I’m just not skinny enough. The same thing happens every time. I arrive, I feel pretty good about myself and two days later (or two minutes later, if I’m trying a bathing suit on in a badly lit dressing room) I feel huge. I need to take control of my life. Yeah, but not really. You know Fashion Week isn’t real life. Plus, you don’t have a skinny model body. You’re more athletic, but it’s okay, it’s pretty! Yeah… “athletic” but that’s not the body you’re “supposed” to have. Well, then maybe it’s time to change things! Yeah, but… Shit, that person has more Instagram followers than me. Ok, but it’s fine, I mean – she’s been in the same room as you for the past hour, and she’s done nothing other than pose for Instagram. But you talked to people, you were actually living life, real life, IRL. Ok, sorry, but does real life actually have any value? Seriously! Yeah, it’s cynical. But it’s true! Come on, that’s ridiculous. Do you hear what you’re saying? Just be yourself and stop looking at what other people are doing. It’s ugly. I know! That’s exactly what I was saying. I’m ugly. I knew it! I’m horrible!”
We’re so dumb sometimes.
I mean… If you’ve never had these kinds of thoughts, or if you’ve never compared yourself to other people and never flipped out about being “too much” or “not enough”, please give me your therapist’s address. I’ll sign up right away.
The truth is, doubt and insecurity is just part of who we are***.
(Well, according to the people who know me, and I include you all in that group, my dear readers – I fell into doubt and insecurity when I was a little kid, actually.)
But the good thing is, I learned to stop the flow of negative thoughts. It doesn’t always work. But I’ll either sit down for five minutes and force myself to say positive things: “Remember who you are. Remember what you love. That’s great. Good job!” (Yes, I know. It sounds like Doctor Oz, but it works, I’m not kidding!!!)
Or I’ll manage to stop the flow by just stopping it. I literally put a “No Entry” sign on the road to self loathing. It’s crazy, I know, but it usually works. I just short circuit my own breakdown. I say NO, and I force myself to think about something else.
I was talking to my friend Lauren (we always have long, passionate conversations about love and we even thought about making our own podcast…) about that yesterday.
I was telling her about that weird moment when, with a man you love, you lose your self confidence and you start wanting him to reassure you of his love, or of how beautiful you are, or about your shoes, your cooking, or anything and everything.
I was just coming out of one of those moments, and I thought I’d actually handled it pretty well.
The spiral of doubt had lasted two weeks. At the end of the first week, I had a mini-breakdown. (“Do you love me? Tell me you love me.”) And, after that, feeling a little embarrassed, I decided to concentrate on my work, my friends, and my own life. I focused on those things as much as I could.
And it worked.
I realized how childish it is to imagine that the person you’re with can make you love yourself. Besides being childish, it’s an illusion.
First of all, that’s asking a lot of someone.
And besides, no other person can love yourself for you. So you have to learn to love yourself, and the rest falls into place naturally.
That’s what my friend Lauren was saying after a discussion with her guy friends, who were all wondering why they fell in love with funny, cool girls who seemed really confident, and then a few months later, they found themselves having to reassure them about everything and deal with crazy bouts of jealousy. I don’t know if it’s really a “girl thing” or if it’s just something everyone has to go through in a relationship. But I’m not a stranger to the idea.
Self-confidence, love for yourself – it’s something you have to find within yourself. Create safe zones for yourself according to your own needs. When loves gets complicated, you have to find yourself again in your work, or with your friends, and vice versa.
Go after those things with all your heart. Be totally invested in the present moment, recognize the energy that different aspects of your life bring to you. Have different sources of joy and cultivate them with intensity, whether it’s your job, a love interest, a passion you have, or a child…
There’s a study (I don’t know if you’ve seen this TED talk, but this woman is great) and she says that the times when our partners feel the most love for us is when they see us busy doing something else, when we give our total attention to other people, or something we are passionate about, whether saving lives, cooking, singing in the shower, or just doing something with an open heart.
But not in those very egocentric moments when we’re full of self doubt or feeling negative and introspective.
When I try to guide my thoughts that way, and not let myself be too self-deprecating, it helps me to come back to my life with new intensity. After a day of working really hard, I miss my guy, and I think about seeing him and how he’s doing, and not just because I want him to make me feel better about myself.
It’s the same when it comes to style and insecurity about your appearance.
The idea is to be totally yourself, to cultivate your own life and your own passions, to accept and try to understand your insecurities, but not let them take up too much space. Decide what to wear in the morning without worrying too much. Have a few outfits for the “meh” days, and laugh about the days when you mess up.
Work on accepting yourself as you are, take care of yourself because your body will totally make it up to you, and also make sure to choose your words carefully – don’t tell yourself things you would never say to someone else. (Would you tell your best friend she was fat? Stupid? That no one loves her?)
Every single day, find love within yourself.
Because as we all know, that’s what makes other people love us too :)
* I love quotes, but I think we’re starting to get sick of them, don’t you think?
** I’ll tell you about that next week.
*** I mean, especially when you live in a world of perfection topped with the New York Fashion Industry.
Translation by Andrea Perdue