By others’ standards, it seems there’s very little a woman can ever get “right.”
As women, we’re supposed to be a perfect combination of features. Though this arbitrary list of characteristics varies greatly depending on whom you ask, one thing is certain: We are not, under any circumstances, supposed to feel good about our body or our appearance.
Even the new(ish) groundswell of memes encouraging women to love themselves implies that you shouldn’t love yourself too much. “I’m a work in progress,” is about the nicest thing we, as women, are allowed to say about ourselves. If we love ourselves even a little too much, and dare to say, “I’m really happy with all of who I am,” the vanity police step in to keep us in line.
“How dare she!” they quip. “She really thinks she’s something, huh?”
So here’s my question: What if a woman does think she’s all that?
What if—stay with me here—a woman decided that she was enough? What if, somehow, a woman decided she liked all of who she was? What if she looked in the mirror and thought she was just ravishing? What on Earth is wrong with that?
It’s as though we believe there’s a finite amount of confidence out there, and if one person collects some, it lessens our potential to find some for ourselves. Loving oneself in no way attacks another. Truly loving oneself does not come with comparison or a hierarchy of greatness. Only insecurity does that.
I even catch myself keeping my own self-love in check, like some kind of awkward secret, so as to avoid the eye rolls or character attacks that are bound to pop up if I make any positive remark about myself. It’s as if I don’t want to stand out in the sea of women reciting “I’m a work in progress.”
These days “being vain” seems to be just one more way to condemn a woman for how she chooses to show up in the world.
It’s insecurity, not confidence, that is so detrimental to ourselves and our relationships.
Let’s stop asking women to be “the perfect amount of confident” and give one another the space to find our own confidence. A woman who is self-assured and grounded in her body and her beliefs has the power to live authentically. She has the strength to trust her instincts and intellect as she moves through the world. She celebrates her successes and good fortune, and in the face of setbacks or failure, she never forgets her worth.
Here are four things you can do to start changing the dialogue, owning your confidence, and creating an environment that allows other women to do the same:
- Encourage people in your life to speak openly about their accomplishments. Celebrate together. Become a safe space for confidence by encouraging that kind of positive self-talk.
- Accept compliments without caveat. You don’t have to minimize or shut down a compliment for anyone. Try this: Just say “thank you.” It’s OK to just receive a compliment.
- Applaud other women when you see their confidence, rather than criticizing it. “Good for her” can become a regular part of your vocabulary instead of “Who does she think she is?” Give everyone permission to be themselves and proud of it.
- Refuse to take part in confidence-knocking conversations. Instead, you might ask those chatting, “Why does her confidence bother you?” Or again, “good for her” works like a charm. Being mindful of not knocking others’ confidence will have a positive effect on those around you too.
By shifting the way you talk about yourself and others, you can change the dialogue around confidence. Being mindful of not knocking others’ confidence will not only have a positive effect on your own self-concept, it will also have a positive effect on those around you.
We realize that reaching a place where you feel confident in and about your body, where you are at peace with your body—where you actually love your body—may sound like an unattainable goal to some women. But we are here to tell you: You can.
From the time we were little girls, we were taught that our looks determine our worth and constantly reminded that no matter how hard we try (at anything), we’re never quite good enough.
It’s no wonder we struggle to feel confident in so many areas of our lives—our bodies, our relationships, our intelligence, our contributions to the world. It’s frustrating and stifling to feel like your voice doesn’t matter, like you don’t measure up to arbitrary and ever-changing standards, or like everyone else’s preferences and needs come before yours.
What if you could feel confident in every way? What if, instead of wondering how it would feel to be good, worthy, and deserving enough, you already knew? What if you truly believed that losing a few more pounds or squeezing into a smaller size dress had nothing to do with how amazing, powerful, and valuable you are?
This article originally appeared on Girls Gone Strong. It has been reposted with the author’s permission. Girls Gone Strong wants to help you show up fully and authentically in your life. That’s why they’ve created Showing All the Way Up: A Guide to Confidence With Erin Brown—and we’re so excited to share with you!