stop telling me to be more confident

It’s not all about confidence.

I am tired of people saying, “Just feel good! It makes you look good!”

It might be true, but I don’t like it anyway, because it’s too much pressure.

I know the confidence people have good intentions. They want to make beauty more accessible. They’re trying to do what I’m trying to do with this blog: point out that beauty is available to all of us, all the time, we already are it. But since I’m not already glowing with self-esteem, I have to find another way.


And anyway, sometimes the confidence people get a little snippy. They have no patience for women feeling insecure. “Come on! You’re ruining it for everyone! Why can’t you tell you look fine?” The moment is always being spoiled by women’s insecurities. If only women would just stop whining and love themselves! Then we could finally do something interesting. Then we could have really good sex. I don’t know. The message is: you are suddenly beautiful when you get confident, because inner beauty is the only beauty that matters. Or because your inner beauty magically becomes outer beauty. So just do that.

I think I’d rather feel good than look good, but I’m not sure that feeling good really changes the way I look. It’s more likely to just make me stop caring so much about the way I look. But somehow, we have ended up with this idea that feeling good means looking good.

It feels accusatory sometimes.

In Tangled, that Disney movie about Rapunzel that I obsess about, the villainess is motivated by a desperate desire to stay young and beautiful. Much like in Snow White. And probably like fifty other ones I’m writing too quickly to think of. The desire to be beautiful is gross. It’s dangerous. It’s sometimes despicable. It’s always at least a little pathetic.

Heroines are either naturally stunning or they don’t care even slightly how they look. Often, they are naturally stunning and they don’t care even slightly.


It’s a lot of pressure. Stop feeling unattractive! Just decide to love yourself! And then you’ll look good! If you look bad, it’s because you’re insecure. Get secure! Be the woman whose smile lights up the room, simply because she’s so happy, all the time. Be the woman whose poise and self-assurance puts everyone else at ease, and makes everything feel somehow more reasonable. Be the woman whose warmth is radiant. Who doesn’t need makeup, who doesn’t worry about her weight, because she knows these things are trivial compared to her radiant warmth. Be the woman who trusts herself intrinsically, all the time. That is beautiful. Supermodels have nothing on that. Be her.

These are mixed messages. Wait…will I be AS beautiful as the supermodel if I feel good about myself? That doesn’t sound right…Or will people just stop caring completely what I look like? Am I supposed to want to be beautiful at all? Or is that not allowed?

This is much is clear: I am not that fabulously self-possessed woman. I am awkward. I am complicated, and not necessarily in lots and lots of cute ways that complicated women in movies are. I am too moody for incessant confidence and too doubtful for vibrant self-trust. I need reassurance. I can sometimes rely on myself and sometimes I really, really can’t.

I am a little of a lot of things. A little beautiful, a little ugly, a little totally messed up, a little ridiculously cool, a little tempestuous, a little obnoxious, a little lame, a little fun, a little full of potential. I am not an easy solution. Because there really isn’t one. I am one day at a time. I am tiny epiphanies.


But I will give the confidence people this much: it’s better to smile, when you feel like smiling.

I used to think that I looked ugly when I smiled. I think someone left a comment on this blog recently about how she used to think smiling made her nose look bigger. I was like that. And also, once this guy told me that smiling made you get wrinkles. And I didn’t really believe him, but I sort of believed him. So I went for a long time without smiling. And then, when I smiled, I kept my lips closed. And not terribly long ago, I realized that I have a big, stupid smile, and it doesn’t make me look like a breathtaking beauty, but it makes me look like I’m really, really happy. And I like that look. So I’ll give you that.

But I also reserve the right to be totally mopey. To be frustrated when I need to. To not light up the room.

I don’t want to have to light up the room, OK? Not right now. Maybe later. But don’t tell me to light up the room.

(That’s what lights are for! source)

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in the earrings Bear helped me put on (they have a weird catch). I slept in them because I don’t want to take them off yet, in case I want to wear them when he’s not around.



Kate on October 11th 2011 in beauty, being sad

39 Responses to “stop telling me to be more confident”

  1. grace responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    There’s pressure to be super confident and self-assured all the time when you are a woman who people secretly/quietly/subconsciously? assume (because of the way you look) can’t be super confident and self-assured, which is ironic because they want you to look like someone you may or may not be because of someone they’ve judged you to already be.

    And if, let’s say, you’re not feeling super confident and self-assured because it’s say, Tuesday, then you (ok me) sort of feel like you’re disappointing the other women who look like you and who need you to represent strength for them.

    It’s a lot of work

  2. Caitlin responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    I love the unroast idea! Considering starting a journal where I write myself one unroast a day. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    I absolutely love your think out loud honesty…

  4. Krystina responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    “I am a lot of things….” I really like this qoute. :) I might have to use it myself…

  5. Maria responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    F a n t a s t i c post, darling. Really fantastic. *retweeting*

  6. San D responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    There IS absolute pressure to “light up the room” when that is what people tell you that you do so well. When I was sick I felt I had to “light up the room” to relieve people of worry, when I am visiting people and there is silence in the conversation I feel I have to “be witty” to “light up the room” to take away the awkwardness, when working in a group and we stumble upon a problem, I feel I have to “be creative” to “light up the situation”, as that is what is expected of me. So I definitely understand your lament of “to not light up the room” not now, not today……

  7. tian responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    This post resonates with me. I think the pressure to be “on” all the time also detracts from genuine connections and honest conversation. My boyfriend works in an office full of people who like to one-up each other with sarcastic jokes laden with pop culture references, and I’m pretty sure they all think I’m boring as hell because I don’t feel the need to participate. I end up having intense on-on-one discussions with random people, and I usually don’t need to be the life of the party. Sometimes I want to be that, and it can feel really good, but other times I wish my more serious personality would get the respect it deserves…life isn’t all about laughing! Especially when the jokes are stupid.
    Wow, I sound like a fun-killing schoolmarm…

  8. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Confidence is about recognizing what is beautiful about you (much like your unroasts do). It doesn’t magically transform you into a supermodel but it changes your attitude, your poise, and the way you interact with people.
    All of these things really do make you come across as a more beautiful person to others.

  9. katilda responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    haha oh man…the other day at the airport a complete stranger walked by me and said, “smile! it’s a beautiful day!” i wasn’t in a bad mood before, but he suddenly made me FEEL grumpy. i wanted to tell him to mind his own business. PMS maybe, but still…STILL…

  10. Another Kate responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    You don’t have to be confident if you don’t want to, but it really does somehow transform you into a beautiful princess. Okay, that may be a bit extreme, but a little confidence seriously pulled me out of a giant rut in which I had been stuck for years. I’m fat. I wasn’t always, so back in high school, a lot of guys were interested in me and I got hit on a lot. I liked that. Then I started gaining weight (it was the way I rebelled against my controlling mother) and suddenly guys weren’t interested anymore, so I rebelled against the idea of only being liked for my looks and got even fatter. Years went by with lots of comments about how great my personality is and how pretty my face is, with a giant silent “but” hanging in the air every time. It was killing me. Then one day, and I still don’t know why, the hottest guy took interest in me, and my whole world turned around. Nothing ended up happening with that guy, but it gave me a giant confidence boost, and suddenly, I was being hit on left and right. The number of guys clamoring for my attention borders on ridiculous. It’s not all the time, because there are plenty of days where I feel ugly or I’m just tired and I don’t exude this weapon of confidence. But I realized that all those flirt-less years weren’t a result of how much I weighed, but the message I was putting out: that I was gross and not worthy of being flirted with.

    I have lost 80 pounds and I’m working on losing the 100 that I’m still dragging around. I’ll admit that I have a pretty face, with today’s obsession with skinniness, I am by no means attractive according to society. But on days when I’m feeling confident, you’d never know it.

  11. Sara responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    First of all, it’s like you’ve been in my head this intire day, (not just today) since my most recurrent thoughts was about confidence. It was just a subject that didn’t leave my mind, for multiple reasons.
    Then, I totally loved that setence: “I am one day at a time. I am tiny epiphanies.” *.* I feel like putting in my tumblr or something haha

    xo sara

  12. bethany actually responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    I don’t think it’s that having confidence makes you magically beautiful. It think it’s more that when you believe (or at least act like you believe; fake it till you make it) that what you look like doesn’t have even the teensiest bit to do with your worth as a person, you relax and become more *attractive* to people in general, not just to the opposite sex. Does that make sense? I know I prefer being around people who are relaxed and easygoing and have a sense of humor about themselves, regardless of what they look like.

    Of course that doesn’t mean you don’t still have times when you wish your nose were smaller or that ten extra pounds would magically migrate from your butt to your boobs. :-) But maybe it won’t ruin your day.

  13. Ashley responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    I know that it wasn’t easy for me to become confident. It was a process over time. I guess each little step helped because it gave me something to be proud of, so my confidence built little by little. I sure didn’t just decide one minute to stop being so insecure. It took some time, a couple of years maybe. You’ll get there.

  14. Spelling responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    The best part of this post (for me) was the fact that Bear helped you with your earrings. Adorable!

    And that you’ll keep wearing them cuz you might want to wear them when he’s not around to help you put them in again.

    I don’t know, but that was the part that resonated with me the most. I can picture me a few years down the road with my hubby helping me put my earrings in, and for some reason I’m gorgeous (and slightly resemble Stana Katic :D ) and he’s really handsome, and we’re all dressed up in really fancy clothes in front of a fancy mirror. (who knows? mental picture!)

    And then decades down the road, we’re both old and wrinkled and he’s helping me put in my earrings for the weekly dinner for all the retirement home residents.

    So thank you!

  15. Iris responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Read this post and thought “wow, Kate is such an awesome writer”. I think that most of the times I’m reading this blog, but thought I might as well say it, too.

    Great post, and thought provoking, and though it’s an angle on the issue I hadn’t thought about before I really do agree. On one side, there’s empowerment, on the other there is creating a new, equally unattainable beauty standard – because most of the time, how many of us actually manage to be dazzling, confident, radiant creatures who light up the room with our self-assured grace? Well, I know /I/ do, but… *shot*

  16. blackdogramona responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    Great post and I identify with Katilda’s reply, that has always irked me, being told to “Smile!” by strange men in the street, like it was my job to look pleasing to them, no matter what was really in my own head at the time.

  17. melissa responded on 11 Oct 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    I laugh as I consider this will only result in a “well good for you” reaction, but I’m sure glad that my physical insecurities kind of blend into the background!

    When I was a teen, I actually thought I looked perfect except maybe if I didn’t have zits today, or a terrible cold tomorrow, or if I didn’t have to do all of my clothes shopping out of a trash bag…

    And then I gained a bunch of weight after high school and it bugs me. You know? Once having “it” and then losing “it”. Though the confidence thing… does it really make you look better or does it just make you think you look better? When I’m out and confident, I imagine myself as someone else entirely.

    I’m thankful that I don’t obsess about it beyond the “normal” occasional quip about how fat my arms are. Maybe it’s the extreme obsession I see in some people I know and how desperate they seem that puts things in so much perspective. As it was said on this very blog, eventually we will all age and fall apart and all of that emotional dependence on our beauty will all be for nothing.

    Maybe considering our mortality might have the opposite effect and cause others to obsess even more about squeezing the most out of our 20s, I don’t know. :/

  18. Beth responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 12:08 am #

    I’ve been reading you forever (well, several months) but had to comment today to tell you how much I love this post. The pressure to always be happy and gloriously exuberantly shining with glee is as restrictive as the pressure to always be properly made up or acting in a certain way. It’s a “women are supposed to be…” type thing. And that’s always problematic. Love your take, love this post. Thanks!

  19. Lexie responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 1:39 am #

    I’ve been thinking about this for YONKS and after a few months I decided the only way to do it was to get in THEIR shoes (the confident woman.) I realized after a few moments (sorry, couldn’t last longer than that before going into my lovely awkward snail shell) that the reason I was getting pissed off at the insecure woman, was because it made ‘me’ feel bad. The situation applies to most things; if you believe in a religion and somebody goes around constantly saying ‘I dont believe in that, I never could, I never will, NO WAY’, after a while it makes you doubt yourself, even in just a small way, and in turn you hate them for it. Like the common phrase that you get angry at other people for the qualities you see in yourself; this is a perfect example of it. The confident woman felt great till somebody walked in and started whining about their thighs and stomach and how they wished they were prettier; because they were then faced to deal with their own body insecurities which they obviously like to hide/and/or pretend aren’t there. I think in some way, you make other people feel worse about themselves when you feel bad about yourself; because it makes them question themselves. If you feel really ‘ugly’, obviously I’m the same and only human, so I must be ‘ugly’ too?

    *Note, the ‘you’ wasn’t referring only to you, beautiful girl =) explanatory term.
    Hope this was of some assistance/not too long!

  20. nahl responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 4:52 am #

    Thank YOU for this!

  21. somewhere in there « Jiminy's Blog responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 10:16 am #

    [...] The things by which I define myself are not pick-and-choose, although, for the sake of minimal confidence, they are the ones one rather concentrates upon. I don’t think there is peace to be had with [...]

  22. Maow responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 11:06 am #

    This is my problem with MOST self-improvement blogs. ALWAYS going on about this sort of stuff, and not only with beauty but with general unwellness feelings of any kind. The message is always something like: you just have to want to feel different and it will happen! it’s just up to you! all in your hands! Refrased: it’s your fault if you’re not confident/happy/brilliant/feeling stunning! WELL I say that’s *stupid*! I know there’s all good intentions behind it but it doesnt make it less stupid and/or wrong! For a while I did think, like many people, that this sort of message was brilliant! That’s what i had been getting wrong till then! There was the key to my own happiness and self satisfaction and realization! I tried, I tried so hard for months and months and months. I tried so hard i thought i was getting there sometimes! But all the meanwhile I was slippering and just sort of pretending with myself that there was nothing wrong really, will i started getting really depressed all over again, blamed myself for it for a while and then finally began to see I was ok the way i was. That the whole point of this life wasn’t in that and I didnt care after all…
    I’m so glad you’re not the zillionth photocopy blogger going repeating the same thing everyone else says all the time :)

  23. Janet Oberholtzer responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Just found your site today … and love it!

    This post is excellent … self-confidence/loving yourself and all the jazz is not automatic and is not even possible all the time. We are all human and each of us is awkward or insecure (pms days are the worst for me!) at times.

    And your unroast idea is brilliant!

  24. Kate responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Thank you! And welcome!

  25. Liz responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Hi, Kate!

    Beauty…Another thing that annoys me is when people tell me that I’m too thin. I know, some of you may be rolling your eyes, but I’m serious. I am naturally thin (and flat chested as they come). That’s just who I am. I don’t have “womanly” curves. When someone tells me I look too thin, I think: why is it socially acceptable to tell someone they are too thin? It’s not acceptable to tell someone they are too big. Why is this anyone’s business? I am a healthy person. I’m good to my body. I am a healthy size for my bone structure.

    I’m disheartened with some body image “experts” who don’t walk the talk. They say they are for all women, but what they really mean is women who look like them.

    We are unique individuals who deserve to feel f*ing fabulous as we are. I could have surgeries to change the way I look and to “boost” my confidence, but I don’t feel that I should need to.

    I wrote a post Monday called “Beauty Image Issues ~ Let’s Get Real”. I had a lot of people write to me and tell me they loved the article, but I also lost a friend over it. Ridiculous. Like “if you don’t think just like me, then you’re out”. I’m over one-dimensional thinking.

    These are deep seated complex issues that take lots of discussing. So, Kate, I applaud you for continuing to talk about the reality, which is girls and women do struggle with body image, confidence, and self-esteem.

  26. Kate responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    I am so sorry about your friend. I’m always a little scared that something like that will happen to me. These days, I seem to be losing longtime friends over unexpected things too often. Not the blog so far, though.

    I’ll read your post.

  27. Liz responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    Women are complex for sure. I’ll email you the back story so you can get the full picture.

  28. Emily responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Wow, this was incredible! I love how you put into words the things I feel but don’t know quite how to express.

  29. Sooz responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    Its a lot of pressure to always be “on” and feel fabulous and never have any insecurities. ALOT OF PRESSURE!!!!! Stop it, people. Feel how you feel. Do the best you can in any given moment and let the rest go!!!!!! Love you Kate!

  30. MarieElizabeth responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    The beautiful part is that with experiences in life, some of the understanding and confidence becomes who you are, without even trying. It’s not about being “on” or being something others want you to be, it’s understanding the you already rock and even on bad days, that kind of beauty doesn’t fade.

  31. Tempest responded on 13 Oct 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    timely post…for the first time in my life, I can say to myself “I am beautiful” and it has nothing to do with how I look, but how I FEEL from the inside out. Undergoing a major life change, and the release of all of that negativity is an amazing feeling. And it has NOTHING to do with anyone else’s expectations of me…even my own. I just am.

  32. Lovely Links: 10/14/11 responded on 15 Oct 2011 at 8:40 am #

    [...] “The message is: you are suddenly beautiful when you get confident, because inner beauty is the only beauty that matters. Or because your inner beauty magically becomes outer beauty. So just do that. I think I’d rather feel good than look good, but I’m not sure that feeling good really changes t….” [...]

  33. Eat the Damn Cake » no one is too smart to worry about beauty responded on 25 Oct 2011 at 11:23 am #

    [...] It’s embarrassing to be the girl who admits to feeling insecure about something that really smart girls shouldn’t be thinking about. If I was smarter, I would have already figured out that this stuff doesn’t really matter. That’s the message. It’s a lot like the message about confidence. [...]

  34. GirlInDreamland responded on 06 Nov 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    oh my gosh this was amazing to read and made me laugh and cry and I understand. I love you whoever you are!

  35. Eat the Damn Cake » it’s impossible to be an antiquated woman responded on 07 Dec 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    [...] terrible! Why am I so bad at being a modern woman? Is there something wrong with me for not being more confident? Since then, I’ve been thinking about what she said. It really confuses me. Which makes me [...]

  36. Eat the Damn Cake » the ugly woman detective responded on 19 Jul 2012 at 9:05 am #

    [...] Just be confident and move ahead. Never mind that people feel comfortable saying things about how Lena Dunham is too fat for television and that Hillary Clinton has cankles. Never mind that the goal of women-geared industry seems to be to help you lose weight as quickly as possible so that you can finally have a shot at a decent life. [...]

  37. Eat the Damn Cake » why aren’t we allowed to think we’re pretty? responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 9:13 am #

    [...] are getting caught in a sticky trap of mixed messages: we are supposed to be modest, even as we’re supposed to be confident. But it shouldn’t have to be immodest or arrogant just to acknowledge when we’re good [...]

  38. Rl responded on 06 Jun 2013 at 4:15 am #

    Too true. So much of what women are told 24frickin7 is that they bear the responsibility of the world. Distract, distract, distract. Beauty, inner or outer. Personality. Life is a pageant. You never know what judges lurk behind every fold in reality, you are worthless if you’re not making everyone else feel better because to hell with your needs. To hell with your humanity. Women are public property to be gawked at. No boundaries. Here’s a glass ceiling, by the way. Pressure? You must be menstruating, Missy. Jennifer Love Hewitt is pregnant? Oh, no, now that body will be ruined by pregnancy! At least those jugs Weill get even bigger. Because it’s all about the divine masculine need to gawk and have the lightning quick windows of need fulfilled at every moment, at the cost of everyone else’s sanity. Smile, light up a room. For everyone but you, but it’s for you, really, we swear. We just keep focusing on the women to be the moral compasses and the titillation. To be straitjackets in this crazy society despite their predilection to be too emotional. If women were nicer to each other, they could run the world. Look at how the men run the world…with…um, wars and violence and coercion you know what? Let’s not focus on the men. Those two nanoseconds of scrutiny were waaaaay uncomfortable. Quick, someone tell women to get expensive genetic screening for breast cancer and sare them into cutting off their perfectly healthy breasts.

    Yeah, I’m goddamn sick of it, too,

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