Gabourey Sidibe walks into the room flaunting electric blue eyeshadow and a laugh that has everyone turning to see who it belongs to. Right off the bat, she's got our attention saying, "I don't assume that I'm not awesome." All I can think is what did she eat for breakfast, because this scone is not doing that for me!
Then she spills the beans: 'Awesomeness' is not as easy as it looks, and it might wear off by Tuesday morning. In fact, it took her 21 years to decide to be confident. I loved that, because confidence is absolutely a decision. And not a one-time decision, either. It requires recommitment everyday. Growing up, Gabourey experienced my fear for every young girl. She didn't hear that she was beautiful or worth something. She didn't see anything in the media that represented who she could become. She didn't exist -- or at least not in a way that she thought mattered.
Finally, at 21, Gabourey had an epiphany: Life wasn't worth living if she wasn't happy. So what did she do? Listen up, those of you knee-deep in to-do lists! She put her doubts on the back burner and made a list of all the things about herself that made other people happy. Finally, one list where you don't have to worry about crossing anything off. Isn't that a good enough reason to write one yourself?
"Success is relative," she says. I hope more people give themselves the permission to embrace this perspective. If you don't know what your version of success should look like, or if you're letting someone else define it for you, real, satisfying success will remain unattainable.
At camp, I ask my Fabulous girls to make vision boards -- not because they're little and that's cute or because I think vision boards will magically make your dreams come true. I assign the activity because (1) Making goals and building dreams 101 is much harder to teach than you'd think, especially when you throw 'steps to achieve' into the mix. (2) Admitting your dreams out loud can mean risking your self-esteem and exposing yourself to failure. It's scary to put faith in yourself, and it gets even harder the older you get and the more you become responsible for. (3) It's important that girls see how different each person's vision board is. There's no perfect formula, but there are smart ways to pursue your passion and remain resilient when things stray off course.
No matter how big or small or how often it evolves, the practice of creating a vision builds the kind of confidence that we need on the not-so-great days. Scraping together whatever bits of confidence you can find when you're in a bad place, is not going to encourage growth or produce a very exciting bucket list. "If I hadn't found this person before Precious," Gabourey says, "I wouldn't have made it to that movie."
But Gabourey isn't one to sugarcoat the daily struggles of being a confident woman. Here are a few tough-love tips for the days when we don't feel like taking on the world:
Don't Give Up on Tuesdays
Being confident on Monday doesn't mean you're confident on Tuesday, and that doesn't mean you're weak. It means that you are a fighter, and you might even have the battle scars to prove it. Gabourey tells a story of walking into CVS one day and seeing herself on the cover of a tabloid that was guessing her weight (while she was buying a candy bar, no less!). But what was she going to do, cry in the middle of CVS and end up on the cover of another tabloid? She had to keep going. "You need confidence that will sustain you," she says.
Go to the Audition
Going to the audition for Precious, she had no expectations, but she went for the sake of the experience anyway. Turns out, she auditioned Monday and was hired Wednesday. Talk about an overnight success story. Be a curious person, she says... be open to what might happen on a random Monday. "Even failures say more than the person that stays at home and does nothing."
Be Ambitious for the Right Things
"Instead of doing the things that people want me to do, I only do the things that are fun." We all laugh, and think how nice it would be, but Gabourey is serious, and better yet, she's not sorry for it. Curate your experiences, she insists. Of her journey in Hollywood thus far, she says she's chosen scripts because she's wanted to work with a specific director or a favorite actor or try a different genre. She might even take up writing -- and not because she's tired of being an actress, but because she doesn't just want to wait for work... she wants to make work. By the end of her interview we all want to know her secret and she says simply, "I am ambitious for the continuation of my happiness."