On my mind
The Oscar-nominated actress explains how she guards her self-confidence from intrusive comments on a daily basis
ONCE, EARLY IN MY CAREER, an interviewer asked me, ‘Where do you find your confidence? A colleague of yours said that it’s out of this world and you’re either an alien or you have no idea what you look like.’ I don’t remember my response, but I remember fi nishing the interview crying.
After that embarrassing exchange, my mum wanted to know why I hadn’t told the reporter I got my confidence from her. My mum is great. She’s super fun and interesting, and she loves me as best as she can. But she did not give me confidence. She has hurt me many times in my life – as many times as I’ve hurt her, I’m sure. So I won’t be giving her or anyone else credit for the confidence I’ve achieved.
My brand of confidence is personal. It involves shutting out all the hurtful things that people have said about and to me. That includes things said by my family. But what I’ve learnt is that hurtful words aren’t the only threat to my sanity. Positive feedback wrecks me too.
Last May, I had weightloss surgery, and I’ve been losing weight ever since. The people in my life who love me are all proud, and that’s fine. But strangers who’ve noticed my metamorphosis just assume I finally got myself a mirror and decided to get healthy. They comment on how good I finally look. They say things like, ‘I always thought you were beautiful, but you’re even more beautiful now.’
The comments are meant to bolster my selfconfidence, but they make me want to hide in a piece of cake or dive into a pool of icecream – to be anywhere but with strangers who think it’s appropriate to share their opinions about my body. I don’t yet know why those comments make me want to reverse all the work I’ve done. I know I’m still in the middle of my body struggles. This is not the beginning and not the end. If I were battling drugs, mental illness or cancer, then people would be careful about what they say to me. I’m not sure why my changing body is an invitation to discuss food, kilos, workouts, or how you can ‘fi nally see’ my face now that it’s thinner. I actually don’t want to talk about it. I have to block out the ‘compliments’ as I block out negative comments, since they’re just as dangerous.
‘ I HAVE TO BLOCK OUT THE “COMPLIMENTS” AS I BLOCK OUT NEGATIVE COMMENTS’
So no, I’m not an alien. My confidence isn’t made from a magic potion, nor is it anything other people can give me. It is something I wall myself inside with no door, and everyone else must stand outside it. My confidence is a safe haven – a tower for me alone. Harsh words, compliments and disappointment come at me like wrecking balls, and when they do, the bricks start to crumble and I have to rebuild. In an attempt to discover what makes my walls strong, people chip at the bedrock and compromise the foundation. I stay steadfast at rebuilding even as they try to demolish it. It’s not magic. It’s not out of this world. My confidence is nothing if not persistent.
CHECK OUT GABBY’S BOOK, THIS IS JUST MY FACE: TRY NOT TO STARE.