It’s hard to tell when I started to really notice how hard women were on themselves. It definitely began when I was young, but didn’t become magnified until I was a teenager. I would sit in the cafeteria listening to my friends talk about how fat their thighs were, or how weird their nose looked. My family would tell me I was beautiful, but would still continually bash their own selves. It was such a frequent conversation that I started to think about what I didn’t like about myself. I would start to think, “Well, my eyebrows are really bushy and I should probably be thinner. I wish I was better at ballet and I’m terrible in math.” This is how it starts. It’s contagious. I would always look at the girls in school who were considered popular and pretty and try to decipher what made them beautiful. I was never able to do it. Until one day, I saw a gorgeous girl walking down the hall. She was laughing and self assured. She wasn’t worried about her body or her clothes. “THIS is what I consider beautiful.” I thought.
She was confident. She felt good about herself and it wasn’t about what other people thought. That doesn’t mean people didn’t flock to her. They absolutely did. Everyone wanted to be around her because she exuded such poise and knew her self worth. I started to realize that negativity could seep into your brain and destroy (and distort) your reality. When you love yourself, other people see that, and want to be around it. That it’s not cocky to think you are pretty. It’s actually necessary to have acceptance and self-love. This is not something that is taught in schools. As much as young women need to hear it, it is so often engrained in us that we need to look, act and FEEL a certain way. Look “perfect” but don’t “feel” it. I’m so fortunate that I realized this early on. Over the next several years I watched people close to me berate their bodies, go on diet after diet, have diseases, work out to the point of obsession. I saw how an innocent comment about someone’s appearance could turn into something much deeper.
Once I was in college I began to notice a new kind of insecurity. I was a costume designer and spent my day in fittings, sketching and sewing away. After years of working with actresses it became obvious how acutely aware actresses are that they are being judged and put on a display for all to see. Most of my conversations started with “So I need you to cover my belly.” Or “What do you think is the most flattering shape for my height?” My goal was to not only make these women feel good about themselves on stage, but to help them have the confidence boost they needed to feel secure and give an even better performance. It became pretty apparent that when they felt good about what they were wearing, they gave a better performance. It was the perfect example of inner beauty transforming outer beauty.
My life’s path has made lots of turns and even led me to a career in bridal. I absolutely adored working with women at such a happy time in their life. Here they were, about to get married, most of them young and healthy, trying on gorgeous gowns. And I was continually shocked at the negative way they spoke about themselves. Berating is so accepted in our culture that most people don’t even flinch when someone says “This dress would look so much better if I lost 15 pounds. My ass looks huge!”. Could you imagine if someone else said that to you? It would NOT be ok. It shouldn’t be ok for anyone (including ourselves) to talk like that. But appointment after appointment I noticed the common trend. I’m too skinny. My arms are big. My boobs are saggy. My hair looks awful today. I’m so tall. All I was seeing were gorgeous women one after another not able to see their beauty.
That’s when I started my company Head Over Heels with Melanie. I wanted to help women become confident in their own skin. What started as a way to help women shed their insecurities has turned into my deepest passion and lifelong mission.
I should tell you, this is not something that always comes easily to me either. Especially since I’ve become a mother. Everything is heightened for me now. I see this gorgeous, innocent baby and I do not want her to ever doubt her beauty. I don’t want her to grow up thinking it’s ok to not treat yourself with respect. I know I can’t change society over night. But I like to think Head Over Heels is a step in the right direction. We mamas can start by working on loving ourselves. I will of course be telling Zoe that she is beautiful all day, every day. But if I am talking down to myself, that example speaks even louder. So here I am, working on accepting myself, and teaching other women to do the same. Not only for us, but for our sweet little babies as well.
To me confidence comes from knowledge and acceptance. If you are self-confident in your ability to put an outfit together you exude it in your being. If you walk out of the house feeling great about your appearance, it can change your whole day. Personal style can help us learn what we love about ourselves instead of feeling like we must dress like everyone else. I want women to love themselves enough to show the world who they are without apologies. To learn to accept their bodies, and the things they wouldn’t change even if they could. That inner confidence is a gorgeous, gorgeous thing to share with the world. It also just happens to be an extremely joyful way to live life.