There is a box at the very top of my closet full of photographs. Remember those? Archaic artifacts from a time when we needed our memories to be tangible and red-eyed. The box is deceiving. While the photos weigh mere ounces, the collection itself contains hundreds of pounds gained and lost and gained again. Glossy versions of myself, some bigger or smaller than the others, but all painfully exact in one thing… complete and utter lack of confidence.
I could line them up as befores and afters of moments of my life, but aside from smaller jeans or layers of shapewear, there would be no marked change in my life. No evolution to applaud or congratulate. I was equally self-conscious and miserable, no matter what the weight or success in life. So many birthdays, weddings, and births; moments of happiness spoiled by insecurity and fear.
I wish I could go back in time, first obviously to play the lottery and invent the iPhone, and then to find myself at the second of each of the photos to slap myself in the face, shake myself by the shoulders, and scream obscenities in the air that it gets better, that I would regret these missed opportunities for joy and that nothing about how I look in that moment has anything to do with being happy.
As I scroll through the folders of digital files on my desktop, I noticed something incredible… confidence. Slow at first, but a bit stronger in each shot. I’m not smiling in a photo because I’m playing a part, I’m smiling because I feel happy and sexy and full. I’m not worried about what you think of me anymore, because if you don’t like my body, that’s okay, I like it enough for the the both of us.
I wanted to go back into every picture in that overstuffed box of history and scream, WAIT! IT GETS SO MUCH BETTER! YOU ARE SEEN! I KNOW IT FEELS LIKE YOU AREN’T BUT YOU ARE!
I want to tell little me, in big glasses and plus size old women’s clothing that one day, it will have been worth it. That one day confidence will be a lacy bra, bedroom hair and knowing that wherever I am in that moment is exactly where I am supposed to be. I’m not sexy and beautiful because of my body, but because I’m a woman, at whatever size. That’s confidence, and I ooze it from my pores.
I turned to my community of women, thousands strong, and asked them the same question… what is confidence to you? What do you know now that you didn’t know then? What do you want to tell yourself yesterday?
Maybe it was from childhood. Maybe it was at their wedding. Maybe it was last week. These women are standing here holding a photo taken at a time when they were insecure and full of self-doubt… and today they radiate. It gets better. It gets so much better.
Sarah. Confidence is practically effortless mermaid hair, knowing I don’t have to hide myself behind stage makeup and 3 bottles of hair product to have worth, and knowing that my daughter is already learning to accept herself and others for who and what they are because of my example.
Theresa. Confidence is knowing that I hold the power to my sexuality, not my abusers.
Shavon. Confidence is my skinny jeans, not hiding from the camera, and buying a bikini for the first time this year.
Miranda. Confidence is truly loving yourself, no matter how many people tell you that you shouldn’t! I have spent my entire life being told by my Father that I wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t pretty enough, that I was too fat… for anyone to ever love me. The media told [me] that if I didn’t look a certain way, I wasn’t worth a damn. I dated men who didn’t care about me and I let them convince me that I wasn’t good enough. The days of allowing my self worth to be decided by outside influences are over!
Samantha. Confidence is learning to love myself one day at a time, but red lipstick doesn’t hurt!
Amanda. Confidence is knowing that beauty doesn’t come with exceptions: I’m not beautiful in spite of my flaws or because of them, but independent of them.
Abby. Confidence is a new stick of eyeliner, mascara, and a cute sleeveless dress. But more than that, confidence is learning each day I am beautiful and good enough. It is dusting the dirt off my hands and knees and putting today behind me, knowing that tomorrow will be better.
Jia. Confidence is stepping out into the world unapologetically colorful, big, and bright! It’s putting on the self that makes you happy, and not for anyone else!
Da’Neil. Even though I now weigh about 50 lbs more than I did in the picture, and some parts are no longer as perky as they once were, my confidence comes from knowing that this body right here carried and gave birth to two amazing little girls, this body is loved by a wonderful man, and it allows me to get up every day to take care of my family and appreciate all that I have. That girl in the picture was self conscious all the time, looked for approval and love from the wrong people, and always doubted her self worth.
Molly. Confidence is knowing I became the woman 18-year-old me hoped I would be because I never apologized for my dreams and goals.
Rebecca. My smile had always been a challenge for me. I was teased for my overbite. On top of that, I had an accident when I was 11 that left me with a broken front tooth and crooked gums. Even after the braces came off, my front teeth didn’t match. I hated my huge, irregular smile so I practiced smaller smiles – fake smiles. Now I unleash my real smile it in all its glory. Confidence is discovering that if I unleash this full, mega-smile on the world, they don’t see imperfections; they see joy.
Allison. Confidence is finally allowing my true self to show without fear of not being loved because loving myself is finally enough.
Gwen. Confidence is loving myself for who I am, knowing how hard I worked to get here.
Holly. Confidence for me is not taking pictures from a horrid angle. No, you cannot take my picture while sitting on the floor!
Alissa. Confidence is making connections with other women and feeling the beautiful strength that unites us.
Kathy. Confidence is an unflattering pose, minimal makeup, unbrushed hair, holding a picture of you 12 years younger and 55 pounds lighter, and not giving a shit what anyone else thinks.
Kaitlin. Confidence is realizing how awesome you are.
Renee. This is a picture of me during my awkward teenage years. I was quiet and never really spoke up for myself. My parents were pretty critical and I was never good enough. I had some very close friends but was never the popular girl. My self confidence is still a work in progress, but thanks to Brittany and my curvy sisters, I am learning to love the woman I am. Confidence is feeling like I’m enough, as I am, my wicked sense of humor, and my daughters saying they want to be like me when they grow up.
Adriane. The picture I’m holding is a picture of me at my 30th Birthday Party. It was attended and partially planned by a bunch of women who had been a part of my life for a few years and who I thought were all my friends. But that 30th birthday party was nothing I wanted and I felt totally alone and out of place for so many reasons. I had plenty to be happy about – I had bought my first place, was back together with my boyfriend, had a good job that paid great and I had lost 30 lbs which made me the thinnest I had ever been in my adult life. But I felt so alone and misunderstood at that point in time. Now I look back and wonder if all those chicks were just jealous. I didn’t see it that way at the time, but perhaps I was naive. Confidence is experience and knowledge that you alone are enough. Enough for others but more importantly enough for yourself. You don’t need to fill your life with fake. You are fabulous all by yourself.
Jennifer. Me today with a picture of yesterday. To me, confidence isn’t a goal that you reach, it’s something that grows with you everyday. Confidence comes from taking a few minutes for myself in the morning to get ready for the day and wearing something that doesn’t completely hide my body.
Barbara. Confidence is fully believing in myself, knowing that I have the intellect, competence, strength, and resilience needed that if I fail, I can brush myself off and try again tomorrow.
Danielle. Confidence is knowing it’s ok that I’m not the skinny 21 year old anymore and feeling ok about that because this body created three amazing little boys. It’s knowing that alcohol is NOT required to have a good time and that being just me is all I need to have a good time
Pam. Confidence is knowing the deep beauty of an authentic vulnerable truth.
Shay. The photo I’m holding is when I was heavy into morphine. It numbed all my emotions, feelings and the stuff I could feel from others. I’m an empath so it was hard to deal with everyone else’s emotions and mine as well. I used drugs to cope from the mental, emotional, physical, sexual abuse that happened from age 10-14 from my stepfather. But now I’m 6 years sober and thriving. Confidence is being sober and letting myself free. Not hiding behind emotion numbing drugs, heavy make up and a bad attitude. Confidence is accepting that I am perfectly flawed.
Melinda. Confidence is wearing bright colors and dressing in shapes that flatter my voluptuous curves instead of hiding my body in big baggy black clothes in an effort to blend into the background. I want my daughters to grow up knowing to their very bones that they are powerful and beautiful and that beauty comes from letting your light shine instead of trying to extinguish it.
Erica. My confidence comes from knowing that all I have to do is be the best me, and knowing there is always something I can do to help someone else.
Nicole. The first picture with my youngest son, one day old and under an oxygen dome, he stopped breathing. We have learned so many things in his 11 years.Confidence to me now and always is knowing that we keep doing what we think is best for him medically/academically with a life full of love. This includes our love for our oldest son, too.
Rebecca. Confidence is stilettos, ever changing the color of my hair, and a plunging neck line. Its owning who I am and being my own kind of beautiful. Its dancing when a song moves me and not be apologetic of who I am.
Olivia. Confidence is putting on a pretty dress even though I wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing dresses 50 lbs ago. But every one of those 50 lbs is a meal with a friend, a drink with my husband or ice cream with my son. Every one of those 50 lbs is a memory that I don’t want to give back!
Debbie. Confidence is different at 16 than 36. But not so much. Confidence, no matter your age, is being able to be YOU. The good, the bad, the silly, the serious. Knowing who you are and what you believe in. And being able to stand up for those things. Not being afraid to stand up to someone. Not being afraid to use your voice. Doing what’s right, even when it’s not easy. Learning from your mistakes. Confidence is knowing, and accepting who you are, and all that entails.
Trish. Confidence is realizing I don’t have to please everyone else.
Lauren. Confidence is loving myself, all natural, at least for today.
Brittany. Confidence is learning to love who you are as a person but still knowing that change needs to happen when your not Happy with yourself. In this picture of me I weighed my heaviest I have ever weighed of 255. I now weigh 222 and still working to be healthy. I was so miserable at the time of that picture. Walking down the street getting yelled mean comments about how big I was. In a relationship I was unhappy in but not willing to accept it because I thought I wouldn’t be able to find someone else to look past how I looked. I stand here in this photo today a more confident woman and happier with the way my life is headed!
Lee. Confidence can be a struggle, moment to moment; 2 steps forward, one step back, but as long as you come out ahead, it’s a good day.
Kerri. Confidence to me is not physical. I’m still not physically confident. I am however more confident everyday that taking my kids and leaving a bad marriage was the best decision ever.
Turns out confidence has absolutely nothing to do with being skinny or perfect or rich or envied. Glossy magazines and beauty advertisements, I’m embarrassed for you right now; you don’t understand real women at all.