If you’ve lived through the teenage and young-adult years, it’s safe to say you’ve experienced plenty of monumental insecurities already. But no matter how much older we get, overcoming our most self-conscious traits doesn’t get any easier with age.
We know this because womanhood has proven to serve up a whole different breed of painful, awkward, or exhaustive challenges—ones that trigger insecurities so deeply rooted in our adult psyche. But, as we know, women are strong and capable of accomplishing tremendous feats. Ahead, seven real women open up about how they conquered their greatest fears and self-doubts.
“My scars are my biggest insecurity. I have one on my face, one on my abdomen from my sternum to belly button, one from my C-section, and one on my back. I was in a horrible car crash when I was pregnant. Then, I caught a parasite from sushi. I was complaining to my surgeon how I was ugly from all my scars and he looked at me and he said, ‘No, you are amazingly beautiful and any guy would be lucky to be with you.’ That day forward I remained positive and now I’m with an amazing boyfriend. It took me years to embrace and love my scars, knowing I survived 24 surgeries.”—Becky, 38, Mission Viejo, CA, Registered Nurse
“Speaking publicly about fitness and health is hard because I’m not super fit or rail-thin but I’ve lost over 200 pounds naturally. I feel like I’m ALWAYS explaining that I lost weight without surgery. It took me 27 months to lose 238 pounds and every day is still a struggle. I always kept that insecurity in my mind but I have had others tell me that I don’t need to lose more weight before advocating about being fit. I personally don’t think being healthy is a size issue. It’s basically about being a better you than you were before.”—Natasha, 32, FL, Master Trainer and Lifestyle Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program
Dating a woman turned out to be an incredible and transformative experience for me in terms of exploring my sexuality and getting over my fears of intimacy.
“I hadn’t had much experience with being in romantic relationships until just the past year, and I’m in my late 20s. I was highly insecure about it, and being insecure about it made me even more freaked out about dating men. I’ve tried my best to open up and give myself the benefit of being capable of loving and being loved, but ultimately it felt like it wasn’t for me. But things changed one day when I decided to try meeting someone on a dating app, and that person turned out to be a woman. I don’t know what it was that made me want to try dating women because I never thought of myself as gay. I’d say I now identify myself as queer. But dating a woman turned out to be an incredible and transformative experience for me in terms of exploring my sexuality and getting over my fears of intimacy.”—Tracy, 29, Chicago, Public School Teacher
“My biggest insecurity started at the age of four after being burned on the left side of my face. I wanted so badly to get rid of this imperfection because I thought it would make me look ‘normal.’ After several unsuccessful visits to plastic surgeons, I soon found my confidence as I entered into my adult years. While so many women look to makeup and other beauty tactics to look like the next woman, why would I want to cover up the one unique feature that sets me apart from the world? I overcame my biggest insecurity by keeping one thing in mind: Embrace your imperfections because they’re what make you unique. I also learned that you don’t set trends by trying to look and be like everyone else. You do that by showcasing and loving what you have, perfect or not!”—Natasha, 28, Charleston, SC, Motivational Speaker
“My biggest insecurity was not being taken seriously at work. Not only do I work in a predominantly male field, but for several years I was the only woman at my workplace who wasn’t a secretary. I’m also about 20 years younger than most of the other scientists my rank. I overcame this insecurity, not just by being excellent at what I do, but by making sure I cultivated executive presence. I dressed professionally—even though our culture here is pretty relaxed—and I sent out agendas and followed Robert’s Rules of Orders for all meetings I was in charge of. I never tried to be one of the guys. I was just me … and it worked!”—Alice, 42, Athens, GA, Research Scientist
No matter how hard it is, speaking about [infertility] and normalizing this issue has been cathartic and enlightening.
“I was insecure about not being able to get pregnant, especially since my husband and I were trying for over a year. We were going to extreme and very expensive measures to do what we could. After one early miscarriage, I felt hopeless and that it wasn’t in the cards for us. It gave me a lot of grief but I was too insecure to talk about it with others because I didn’t think they would understand and I didn’t want to admit that I was having trouble conceiving, as if my body was broken. I’m so incredibly lucky that I eventually did get pregnant—I’m due in February—and it came at a moment when I was going to give up going to a fertility doctor and fertility acupuncturist. It’s still an issue I have trouble talking about. I feel empathy for other women who are going through a similar situation. But no matter how hard it is, speaking about it and normalizing this issue has been cathartic and enlightening. Women need to know they’re not alone.”—Lucy, 31, Brooklyn, Self-Employed
“I grew up in a small town in Minnesota where I was the only one who didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes. I couldn’t speak English at that time and because we were poor, and I wore the same outfit every day that I got from Goodwill. I developed acne, which made the situation worse, and got called names like Pizza Face. My road to recovery took a really long time. Since I didn’t have any friends and was bullied regularly, I grew up to be independent and learned to do my ‘own thing’.
In 2010, I drew my attention to YouTube and turned the camera to my face. I reviewed different skin-care products and slowly developed followers. Others would comment about my journey and how they related to my struggles. All of a sudden, I had a community and it made me felt like I belonged for a change. I gained confidence from others who appreciated my honesty and how I encouraged them to embrace their own beauty, even with acne. Five years ago, I started a now multi-million-dollar natural beauty and acne product line called Banish from just my laptop! Now we are a team of 13 women, inspiring confidence in others.”—Daisy, 27, Los Angeles, Beauty Vlogger and Entrepreneur