The one essential beauty accessory which the French woman wears daily is not a scarf or heels or even a Breton striped T-shirt – it’s confidence.
Why do I feel eminently qualified to tell you about looking confident? Well, let me tell you – I was born with a complete absence of the stuff, just as sure as if it were a missing body part. I had a choice – become invisible, or get scrappy. I got scrappy.
French-woman confidence is learned from an early age, but anything can be learned at any age. Just look at Julia Hawkins, who started running at age 100 and set a world record for the 100-meter dash at age 101, or Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses, the famous American folk artist who began painting in earnest at the age of 78. Come on, girl, you got this.
What does confidence look like? Well, it looks pulled together. It looks like you know what you’re doing. It’s approachable without being a push-over, strong without being scary (well, maybe a little scary, but in a good way).
Confidence is ultimately acquired through getting things right and learning from your mistakes (one of the beautiful things about getting older). It is an active thing – the product of gaining knowledge and the inner satisfaction of putting what you know to good use. But in the meanwhile, there are some things you can do to get your strut on right now.
1. Take a lesson from Willie
Shakespeare tells us “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” What does your character look like? What’s your idea of confidence?
A big part of French-woman confidence comes from discipline. The French woman shows exactly what she wants you to see.
Here’s the thing – if I were to give you a tour of my house, and if my laundry room were messy, I just wouldn’t show you that room. It’s the same with the French woman – she doesn’t have to “bare her soul” or talk about her frustrations or insecurities. She will show you the “pretty rooms”.
Let’s face it – we’ve all got our shortcomings. But why point them out when you can just keep them in the laundry room.
2. Be Present
You can’t listen to two conversations at the same time just because you have two ears, and you can’t be in more than one place at a time just because you can be mentally “elsewhere”.
Confidence manifests itself in being present with the person you’re talking to or the thing you’re doing, not being scattered in different directions.
There’s really no such thing as “multitasking”, there’s just really fast “task-switching”. Often the result of this, on top of being less productive, is that you look and feel frazzled.
If your attention is shuffled like a deck of cards, make a list of the things you’re trying to do or think of all at once. Get them out of your head (which probably has way too many thumbtacks in it already), take a long, deep breath, and see what (or who) is in front of you.
3. Make your presence felt
Have you noticed that you can “feel” someone looking at you? That’s because attention begets attention.
In our world of modern technology, it’s easy to wind up with your attention fixated a couple of feet in front of you.
Here’s a little experiment you can do when you walk into a room. Pause, like you own the joint, and put your attention out to the far corners of the room. Just take it all in, and take a second to notice the people and things in the room. Watch what happens – I’ll bet you feel more comfortable and confident, and people will wonder who the heck you are.
4. Stand tall
Head up, shoulders back. Your posture says a lot about your confidence. A dancer trains her body to stand and move with grace and style, and so can you.
Visualize a string coming down from above you, attached to the top of your head and pulling you up. Tuck your shoulder blades in your back pockets, pulling them back and down. Remind yourself to do this and soon it will become a habit.
5. Move with purpose
Chasing your tail is cute, if you’re a puppy. The confident French woman moves with purpose and decisiveness.
There’s no reason we can’t be at least as aware of how we’re placing or moving our body as we are of where we place our handbag.
Walk with one foot in front of the other. Sure, yeah, that’s how you walk – one foot and then another foot. But when you literally put one foot in front of the other, following an imaginary line, you create a poised and confident walk. (Yes, I watch all the geeky videos so you don’t have to – you’re welcome.)
6. Show up right or don’t show up at all
Sure, we’ve all snuck into the grocery store trying to be incognito in our Uggies and a baseball cap, right? (Please say yes.) But for anything else, take the time to get gussied up a bit.
It starts with the right basics; a wardrobe that is right for you, a good haircut that looks great without a lot of fuss, and a simple basic makeup routine that takes you through the day.
You have to know what’s “right” for you. French girls learn at an early age not to ask if something looks alright on her or if “these pants” make her look fat. Oh non! She strides out the door knowing that she looks like herself, and that’s enough.
Having to survey your friends or significant other negates your own sense of yourself. And why ask to be criticized?
Here’s a little more insight to choosing what’s right –
7. Don’t follow trends
Short skirt? Maxi skirt? Wide legs? Skinny legs? What’s in this season? Who cares! The French woman wears what’s right for her and to hell with trends.
There’s a difference between looking trendy and looking current. Trendy pieces are those pieces that are all the rage – for about a minute and a half. Classic pieces – a simple cashmere sweater, a white menswear shirt, a little black dress – look good forever. IF a trend looks good on you, buy it on the cheap and be willing to trash it when the trend is over. But only if it makes you look and feel great.
8. Don’t look like you tried too hard.
Under-dressed is always better than over-dressed, but just-right dressed is best. Stick to simple classics and, when it doubt, wear black.
Here’s the real deal – if you feel the need to ask someone if something is right, it just means that it doesn’t make you feel fabulous. When something makes you feel great, it’s right. If that means re-circulating the same dozen or so wardrobe pieces, then so be it. Isn’t that what the French capsule wardrobe is all about?
9. Banish negative self-talk
It’s so insidious, it can creep in before we’ve even noticed it – the “I’m too …”, “I can’t …”, I’ll never …”.
I can throw a pitty party as good as the next girl, but what good does it do? Aucun – none, whatsoever.
There are as many different things not under our immediate control as there are Doan’s little kidney pills (as my grandmother used to say), but one thing that is always under our control is what we think.
When your mind starts having a mind of its own, it’s time to spring into action. What action? Doesn’t really matter. Clean something. Take a walk. Go get your nails did. Sew on a missing button or two – heck, sew buttons on everything, maybe you’ll start a new trend. Get some hairs waxed off (that’ll take your mind off just about anything). Just keep at it until the clouds part and you’re feeling like yourself again.
Does all this sound like a lot of extra effort? Well, maybe, a little, at first. But being a rock star doesn’t happen overnight and anything worthwhile takes a little conscious effort, right? Besides, if it was easy, everybody would do it.
Confidence is not arrogance – not by a mile. It’s not an asserted, “look at how amazing I am” sort of thing. It’s more like a quiet secret that you have with yourself, except it shows in everything you do.
Now get out there and strut your stuff, and let me know how it goes!