When it comes to an exploration of beauty and insecurity I’ve been privileged to a very unique perspective. For a dozen years I’ve had the rare opportunity to work regularly with professional models (the kind every guy wants to meet), as well as with pregnant mothers, awkward kids, popular high school seniors, college athletes, introspective artists and high power business people. As a photographer, everyone has a tendency to let me in about how the feel about themselves in general and more specifically what they don’t like about their appearance. I myself am a very open person so I treasure that the people I photograph are so open. It is this transparency that has led me to conclude a few things I hope will inspire meaningful conversation.
Insecurity has absolutely nothing to do with beauty. I mean it in the most comprehensive and complete sense and make no mistake about it – insecurity has absolutely nothing to do with beauty or the lack thereof. The most beautiful models in my portfolio have the exact same range of confidence and insecurity as those of us who will never “cut it” as a model. When I first got started shooting non-model types I thought it was normal that everyone started off a shoot by telling me what they want me to “fix” or avoid, but I always assumed that the professional models would be different. They aren’t – and they know they are beautiful – that is my point. Even knowing they have the coveted look – they are equally susceptible to insecurity.
The opposite is also true. I remember working with a mom who was in the middle of a very difficult pregnancy. Pregnancy even in the best of circumstances can affect the most confident woman, but this particular mom had a particularly rough case. Her complications included long term hospitalization, bedrest, and weight gain. Despite all this, she was one of the most confident women I’ve ever shot.
Confidence is not the absence of insecurity. Everyone has insecurities – everyone. Even the most confident people I’ve worked with articulate insecurities. That little discovery was very helpful to me personally. I had always thought that the way to become confident was to rid myself of insecurities, but as I watched confident people across the spectrum of “traditional beauty” it quickly became obvious that insecurities are universal and even the most confident person in the world has some insecurities. To work at ridding myself of insecurities was not only a fools errand – it was counter productive because it missed the bigger truth about confidence.
There are powerful “false confidences”. True confidence is rare to achieve, so people settle for counterfeits. I have found that even I will do things to gain confidence from the validation of others. We all do it. Some of us strive to have the big house. Others wear expensive watches. Someone might wear provocative clothing. Maybe we have a “bad boy” or “bad girl” persona. I see it all the time. We do what we can to approximate confidence with it’s artificial version – attention seeking behavior. I’m a dad of four kids, so maybe I’m not looking for sexual attention by wearing a provocative skirt, but how it is any different if I buy a car because I’ll feel better about how others might perceive me with it? And if my confidence is determined by how my makeup or how good my suit looks on me today is that really confidence?
Confidence is choosing to be one’s true self DESPITE insecurities. I am convinced that our goal should not be to rid ourselves of insecurities nor to cover them up by doing things to make others see us a particular way. Rather, it should be to focus on being our true selves despite the very real insecurities we might have.
We all have insecurities, and we always will, unfortunately. But the truly confident person overcomes those insecurities, not by overcompensating, or distracting, but by being their true self despite them. You wear what you want to wear, not because it will get you more attention, but because it’s you. Of course, I might have enough common sense to say “David, that shirt is way too tight on you,” but if I really like a weird purple sweater, then I should just go for it. If I’m going to walk into a party where I don’t know anyone, I’m not going to let my fear of rejection cage me into a corner. I’ll be my chatty self and approach the people I want to approach. If I get turned away, then so be it. Someone’s bound to enjoy my company, right? …. right???…. :/ …. well I guess the point of this post is that it doesn’t matter.