On my mind

The Os­car-nom­i­nated ac­tress ex­plains how she guards her self-con­fi­dence from in­tru­sive com­ments on a daily ba­sis

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

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.

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