By NIKKI H. HUANG
Hello, readers! I hope everyone’s summer is going well.
This week, I thought I’d finally take the time to broach a subject I’m often asked about: Confidence.
I could preface my discussion with a disclaimer on why I am not the best person to be asking tips on confidence, beauty, and self-carriage from. But I think that, in itself, would undermine the notion of confidence. So let’s have at it. Here are my thoughts on confidence, and what it means to be a confident, beautiful woman.
If there is anything I’ve learned about this gap year, it’s that confidence, true, intrinsic confidence, is key to a life well lived. By a “life well lived” I mean one where you can go to bed every night, readers, and rest well, knowing that you have done what you wanted and needed to do to achieve your goals for the day. It means going to sleep knowing you are living your purpose, or, if not, doing everything you can to learn and figure out what that purpose is.
This year I learned that real confidence is crafted in the face of hardship, disappointment, loneliness, and fear. After facing a series of rejections from colleges I’d spent my whole life working to get accepted into, I can comfortably say I’ve never been so sure of myself and my capabilities. After experiencing extreme sickness and injury while living and working in El Nido, I am confident in my ability to simply survive.
After entering a relationship that quickly turned unhealthy, I am more sure I know how to take care of myself than ever before.
Spending an entire year away from the common path of high school to university, I’ve grown incredibly trusting of myself, of my ability to judge situations, places, and people. My newfound confidence, readers, has come from a number of affirmative experiences and relationships, yes, but it is fortified by twice the number of very shitty times.
My life looks glamorous on social media. It seems I am always doing something, living large, and exploring the world. And I am. But all I choose not to show: The doubt of others, the insecurity, the occasional feeling of being lost, and the many moments of loneliness on this unique journey, are where my confidence really comes from. Confidence comes from being there for yourself when nobody else is. Confidence comes from believing in what you have to bring to the table and knowing it is enough.
Confidence comes from facing your painful times, not by running away from, but by basking in them. Whether your pain comes from a complex relationship with a sibling or parent, a breakup, rejection from a dream job or school, bullying from peers, or all of the above, all at once (been there, done that!), reader, confronting it will only strengthen your resolve.
Acknowledge your problem, feel your hurt, notice the injustices of the situation you are in. Feel your pain. Then, weigh your options: What can you do, what changes can you make, who can you ask for help and support? Once you answer these questions for yourself, readers, you’ll be able to move forward, more confident than before.
Given that this is a fashion and beauty column, I shall also devote some time to explain how I’ve grown to feel confident in my outward appearance—a subject I am often questioned about. In the world of fashion, it is easy to let insecurity swallow you up whole. After all, fashion and beauty companies, to an extent, profit off of peoples’ insecurities. Growing up a dancer and then an equestrian whose family was involved in retail, it is safe to say I’ve had to slay more than a few demons regarding insecurities about my “look.” I used to think feeling confident meant reaching a number on the weighing scale. I then thought confidence equated wearing good makeup. Then, I thought I could eat my confidence in açaí bowls, grilled salmon, and green veggies, and grow it by weightlifting. This year, I discovered that feeling confident and beautiful is a result of all of the above, as much as it has nothing to do with any of it. Self-care in the form of proper diet, exercise, fashion, and beauty greatly contributes to feelings of confidence, don’t get me wrong. But the deeper you involve yourself in the art of appearances, readers, the more you will realize that this world is filled with physically beautiful people.
Everyone is eating as right as you or better, exercising as much or more, getting surgeries to enhance their natural efforts, dressing in all the best clothes, or are simply genetically blessed. Trying to compete, and derive your feelings of self worth from “winning,” will not get you far.
Instead, I encourage you to focus on simply trying to be the best version of yourself. As cliché as it sounds, this is a concept I live by. I have learned this year that our bodies, faces, and resources forever change as a result of life. I have tried controlling it all: Diet, clothing, hair, makeup, fitness regime, angles, lighting. And yet, life always manages to throw me a curveball or two. Remember this the next time you’re feeling insecure, readers: You are the only version of yourself. No one else will ever be you, and that inherent uniqueness is where real beauty is found. True feelings of beauty and confidence come from believing in yourself, your power, your magic, your flaws, and your strengths, wherever you’re at in life, no matter what you look like. And as hard as it is to do so, we must try, every day.