Be Who You Are: Confidence, Self Image and Social Media
- Written By:Bobbi Brown
- Photography:Ben Ritter
We are all a work in progress. While some people are born confident, for most of us it takes some work.
As a kid, I spent too much time wanting to look like other people, whether they were the cheerleaders, gymnasts, or just the cool girls who all happened to be tall, skinny, blonde, and blue-eyed—which I definitely was not.
When I saw the movie Love Story, it was the first time I saw a beautiful actress who looked like me. With her dark hair, strong brows, and naturally pretty face, Ali MacGraw became my role model.
Years later, I moved to New York City and began working in the fashion industry. I was surrounded by tons of uber-tall, skinny models from all over the globe. On top of that, the stylists and fashion editors were cool and chic, hailing from Paris or London. Here I was—a kid from the Midwest and way out of my element. But I wanted in, so I became a sponge. I observed how they dressed, how they acted, and what they knew.
It took a while—until my mid-30s—to really get that I just needed to be me. I had learned to love myself exactly as I was: Five feet tall, not a model, but a makeup artist who was also a suburban mom. I had a life, family, and priorities to focus on instead of fixating on what I was not.
I actually remember having a big "aha" moment at the Met Ball, among all the celebrities, supermodels, and bold-faced names and fabulous faces. I realized I had a choice. I could feel insecure and uncomfortable or I could have a great time. I chose to dance, have fun, and just be me.
I still spend a lot of time with gorgeous women, models, actresses, and influencers from all over. I get photographed with them all, and even in my five-inch YSL Tribute heels, I’m still smaller than most. (If I’m not being photographed, I am most likely in my sneakers. I choose comfort over height nearly every time.) I take pride in my collection of photos with super-tall people—and secretly cherish my photo with Dr. Ruth, who is one of the few people I tower over.
There is a difference in people who are confident. Not only does confidence make you more attractive, it makes you feel unstoppable. There are many ways to find confidence. One of the keys is surrounding yourself with people who build you up and are there when you need them.
In retrospect, many people I met in my early career became role models for how to be myself—people who thrived on being unique, such as Bruce Weber, Yogi Berra, Susan Sarandon, and Ricky Lauren. Observing them, I began to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Being healthy, vibrant, and strong is another way to feel great. Above all, my secret to confidence— which is also the motto of the brand I founded—is to be who you are.
Be who you are
I’ve met so many women from all over the world, and the truth is we are all basically the same. We want to feel good, look good, and be respected, safe, and loved. Women often share with me not just their beauty issues, but also their insecurities and frustrations.
While we all have these, it feels cathartic to talk about them. The secret is to move on. When you stop fighting yourself, you can then let go. The most confident—and attractive—women I know are the ones who are comfortable in their own skin. They make no apologies for who they are. They own it.
Focus on what's right, not what's wrong
As a makeup artist, one of the things I see all the time is that people point out their flaws before I do their face. They have a wrinkle here, an imperfection there. Usually I don’t see anything. I’m focused on what makes them beautiful.
It’s human nature to focus on what’s not working, but usually you see imperfections about yourself that no one else sees. Truly, no one notices! Who cares if your tummy is big or you have a little pimple? No one. Everyone is too busy with their own life (and probably focused on their own flaws).
We all have something we don’t like about our physical appearance. The key is to switch your focus to what is working. Play that up. It takes practice. When I look in the mirror and I notice something I’m not wild about, I try to counter it by focusing on something I do like.
Besides, you have much more important things to focus on than the negative.
Confidence and social media
As a visual person, I love Instagram for checking out cool destinations, beauty, food, and artists and for expressing my creative side. However, there’s another dimension to social media that’s not so positive: The filters and retouching that set up unattainable ideas of beauty, the obsession with selfies, and the way the whole thing encourages the comparison game and affects people’s self-esteem.
Know that a lot of what you see on social media isn’t real. Many social media stars have both professional photographers and retouchers on their staffs. That cute bikini photo that looks so spontaneous and perfect was probably taken at the most flattering angle possible, with some digital altering too.
If you find yourself feeling bad while looking at someone’s account, just stop following them. Or at least remind yourself that what you’re looking at is more art than reality. Trying to get the same body, look, or life as someone else, especially when it’s not real to begin with, won’t ever work.
There are a lot of inspirational women out there, including Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Ashley Graham, and Amy Schumer, who are rebelling against posting “perfect” pictures.
They’re speaking out about the damaging effects of looking at manufactured images and how it’s much better to just rock individuality and see your “imperfections” as assets. Working with so many women over the years I have seen that the most beautiful people are the ones who have that magical mix of happiness, confidence, warmth, and a sense of humor.
Celebrating those qualities, rather than trying to match some unattainable ideal, is a much better route.
This is an excerpt from my book, Beauty from the Inside Out: Makeup, Wellness, Confidence.