How would you like to improve your looks? You won’t have to buy a tummy trainer and there’s no need to slug it out for hours on the dreadmill.  No fancy face creams are required and you can do it without ever having to force yourself to eat broccoli. 

What could it be?  It may sound too good to be true.  Are you ready for the answer?  You may not like it, or at the very least you may not believe it.

Instead of working on your body, work on your confidence.  Audrey Hepburn famously said “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest” and I mostly agree with her.  As a woman working with thousands of women over the years, I have come to learn that confident girls are the prettiest girls.  Women who believe in themselves and find a way to embrace both their strengths and weaknesses are the prettiest women in the world.

Think about times you’ve been in a social situation and you notice a confident woman walk in the room.  She may not be the most beautiful woman in the room and she may not have a magazine cover body, but there’s just something about her that draws your attention to her.

As I’ve had these encounters over the years, I’ve discovered that it’s usually confidence that makes these women stand apart.  The way they carry themselves, their willingness to make eye contact, their comfort in their own skin and in their thoughts, beliefs, and actions have a magnetizing pull to those around them.  These women don’t have it all figured out, but here’s the thing:  they know they don’t have to have it all figured out in order to be good enough.

And I have seen the opposite.  I have seen beautiful, thin, and stylish women who shrink from view.  Either they try too hard or their self-consciousness becomes a brick wall that repels connection.  Their true beauty is masked by a brittle perfectionism that tends to wear poorly over time.

I’ve not only noticed this phenomenon in other women, but I’ve noticed it in myself as well.  When I look back at pictures of my younger self I see a self-conscious girl trying her best to be perfect.  I can imagine her tugging at her shirt and worrying about her hair being out of line.  I was so concerned with being perceived a certain way that I couldn’t be genuine or engaging.  And I’m totally genuine and engaging!

Today I am a much more confident woman.  I’ve found a way to make peace with my flaws and appreciate my quirks.  I value my strengths and know that I have much of value to bring to the table.  And you know what?  I get a lot more looks from others than I did when I was younger and more focused on presenting as though I was perfect.

What’s changed?  I’ve gotten more wrinkles and more miles on my body—things typically not equated with beauty.  But the biggest change is that I’ve become a confident girl.  I’ve developed opinions and I know how to share them (perhaps you’ve noticed).  I’ve come to identify my strengths without apology and my weaknesses without shame.

I carry myself differently as a confident woman.  I don’t mind taking up space in a room and I don’t slouch or shrink to make myself smaller.  I’m no longer willing to apologize for who I am or change myself in order to accommodate the needs of others.  This has brought a freedom to be genuine and curious about others and to actually connect rather than perform.

The Dove Real Beauty campaign has done a lot to help us challenge our assumptions about beauty, confidence, and self-esteem.  While some have had concerns about Dove’s agenda—they’re trying to sell beauty products, so sue them—with the campaign, I’m in favor of anything that helps us as women challenge our collective neurosis with our bodies.  Check out this latest video that highlights a woman from Salt Lake City who learned to embrace herself and has become a light to others.