According to physician and spiritualist Deepak Chopra, self-esteem may determine how we age. But Los Angeles-based photojournalist Miki Turner says age may determine how much self-esteem we have to begin with.
It's a theory Turner arrived at over the course of six years and by way of more than 90 interviews with women across the globe. Her mission -- to pinpoint the moment when a woman's self-esteem is at its peak -- is the subject of a new book "Journey To The Woman I've Come To Love," and a conversation Turner recently had with the Huffington Post.
How did this project come about?
The question for the book is “At what point did you fall in love with yourself?” and the genesis of that question really started with some high school friends of mine who were in their mid-40s and starting to see wrinkles and talking about botox and plastic surgery. They would look at me and say “You’re not changing at all!” I saw them as beautiful creatures ... I was really looking past the exterior, so I didn’t even notice it. I began to wonder at what point were they going to fall in love with themselves just as they are.
From your own experience, did you have an expectation going into this project? Do you think by a certain point in life you should know who you are and love it? And how did that play out when you started talking to people?
I knew I didn’t want to talk to anyone under 36, because I felt like they weren’t really in tune with themselves; they didn’t really know who they were. With the exception of two people, everybody in the book is over 36. Typically, we felt like women between 36 and 44 really come into their own being. They really stop thinking about what other people think and really become comfortable in their skin.
What I found when you break it down, particularly along racial lines is that black women by and large were far more in love with themselves at an earlier age than women of any other race. Some white actresses, particularly older white actresses, their self-worth is tied to the way they look. So if they start to age, they actually start to fall out of love with themselves a little bit. Latinas kind of straddled the fence. Indian women, Native-American women were like “We have other stuff to worry about … We’re trying to live past 35.”
And for most women who fall between 36 and 44 who had had children, it was always the kids, after giving birth, that’s when they started to fall in love with themselves.
Why do you think the age of 36 is a sort of trigger for people as far as self-awareness?
For a lot of women, particularly professional women, that’s the point where they’re either getting what they want in their career or they’re changing up. So I think anytime you have the confidence to walk out of your comfort zone and do something else, your own self-confidence will grow. I think that’s the age that starts to happen. At 30, you’re still kind of scared, like “Oh I’d never do this, because I want to get ahead.” At 36, you’re kind of like “Look, I’ve worked hard.”
Why do you think it was different for black women? Why did that moment come earlier for those women?
I think it’s because black women don’t age as quickly. And quite honestly, we’re strong. I’ve always had this joke: “Black women don’t panic, we holler.” I think all of that plays into the fact that black women are … I don’t want to say stronger across the board, but they have an inner strength that other people don’t possess, and it’s conditional -- it comes from our history, from who we are.
Of the 91 women, which ones were the most memorable responses you got? Which ones have really resonated with you?
Angela Davis, who said that she fell in love with herself when she realized that the community was more important than her. Nicole Ari Parker, who said she fell in love with herself when she realized God loved her. And there was a late add, a highschool friend of mine who was going through a very bitter divorce. She said she fell in love with herself again after realizing that she needed to dance again after all that she’d been through.
Why do you think a project like this is important now? And who do you think will benefit from reading it the most?
We have partnered with Jenesse Center in L.A., a center for domestic abuse victims. These are women who need to learn or re-learn to love themselves. I think this will work for the kid in high school who has no friends, because of the way she looks or the way she acts. For older women who, for whatever reason, didn’t realize it was possible or necessary to actually love themselves outside of their marriage or family. And for younger women, that 21 to 36 crowd, who’s not quite sure who they are. They can read these responses and know that they’re worthy.
So what's your answer to this question? When did you fall in love with yourself?
I was really only able to answer that question after I finished the foreward to my book. After everything had been completed, I wrote the foreward and the last line is … “I’ve never been more in love with myself than I am right now.”