Joanna Gaines: ‘If I Could Tell the Younger Generation Something, It Would Be…’

We had the best time celebrating the launch of both Darling and Magnolia Journal‘s newest issues in Waco, Texas with Joanna Gaines and the Magnolia team this weekend. Over meals and workshops on “Renovating Self,” we explored the meaning of imagination and intentionality together. Stay tuned for a recap coming soon!

On that note, you may remember Joanna’s feature in Darling Issue 15. Given the theme of the weekend, we wanted to revisit a portion of her interview that we feel really zeroes in on the power we have to see others and make them feel known. Darling’s Director of Digital Content, Ziza Bauer, previously chatted with Joanna on self-confidence, purpose and making room at the table. Below, we’re sharing a few of Joanna’s answers that we can’t stop thinking about.

We hope you enjoy.

Joanna, You Inspire Us

Interview by Nicole Ziza Bauer

Anyone who has watched “Fixer Upper” for more than five minutes can attest that Joanna Gaines isn’t your typical host.

Though her thoughts on open floor plans and her eye for antiques are surely inspiring, some of her show’s most captivating moments have nothing to do with design and almost everything to do with how we see this Waco, Texas-based wife and mother of four living when she’s off the clock. Her warmth with others and that down-to-earth, genuine spirit had us wondering: Can an eye for seeing a diamond in the rough manifest in real life, in relationships — even in the mirror?

We chatted with Joanna about purpose, self-confidence and the risk of making someone’s day.

Nicole Ziza Bauer: You exude a certain humility and kindness that is readily apparent. Even in the midst of having so much success, you still carry yourself in a very genuine, yet strong way. Have you always been a confident person or is it something that you’ve learned?

Joanna Gaines: I don’t think confidence has ever really been one of those things that came naturally for me. If people thought I was confident, it was really just the way I masked my insecurity, because I didn’t want people to really get to know the real me. If you haven’t heard my story, my mom is full Korean and my dad is Caucasian. Kids in kindergarten would make fun of me for being Asian and when you’re that age you don’t know really how to process that; the way you take that is, “Who I am isn’t good enough.”

I let that build up throughout the years. I was never completely confident in my skin. My sophomore year I was the new kid at a high school in Texas and I had never been a part of a school that big.

My parents told me, “Walk in. You’ll make friends like you always do,” and I just remember walking in and … I just did not know what to do with myself. In the lunchroom everyone was a blur and I was thinking, “How do people do this? How do you find that one person to sit with?” So I literally walked in the lunchroom and walked out and went into the bathroom. My fear and my insecurities just took over and I felt like I’d way rather sit in the stall than get rejected.

It was the first time I thought, “This is weird, this isn’t normal for me.” It just hit me. But later on we moved towns again and to a smaller school so I never had to deal with that feeling again because there were 28 people in my class in Waco. It was easy to make friends there.

My last semester in college was when I moved to New York. I was by myself again where it was just me in a big city, and I remember that came back up again — just the thought of, “Am I good enough?” And finally I felt like I got to really tackle that question head-on. For six months I wrestled with my identity and the themes of, “Who am I?” and “What’s my purpose?”… and I kept remembering that time in the bathroom.

… that experience grounded me in that I want to look for the lonely, the sad, the people who aren’t confident, because that’s not where they’re supposed to stay.

I discovered that my purpose was to help people who are insecure because I didn’t like the way it made me feel, in that stall; that’s not who I am. That’s not who I was made to be, but I let one stupid lie overcome my thoughts. So while I was in New York I really felt like God was telling me that I would be able to help women who weren’t confident, who were looking for guidance or who were lonely. And so I knew that from that place of pain there was going to be a place to reach others, because I had actually lived in that place; I had felt that pain myself.

I always tell my kids to look for that kid on the playground who’s not playing with anybody, to go reach out, ask them their name, to look for the kid in the lunchroom who isn’t sitting by anybody, be their friend. I think when you come from a place like that, even though it was only six months for me, there’s always that place of humility you never want to forget, and that experience grounded me in that I want to look for the lonely, the sad, the people who aren’t confident, because that’s not where they’re supposed to stay.

So I now, as a 37-year-old woman, for one am thankful for that pain and confusion and loneliness [in high school] because I feel like that gives me a heart for what it is I do now.

So to summarize, I think confidence can be confusing. You think beauty is confidence, you think what you have is confidence … when really confidence is a mindset of, “I am created to do what I do, to be the best at what I can.” It doesn’t come from your giftings and talents, it comes from knowing who you are and that there’s a purpose for your life.

NZB: Would you say that a certain amount of bravery or boldness is necessary for having self-confidence?

JG: Every woman has places of shame or pain that we assume are best to just keep quiet about. I feel like women need to be more vulnerable and share their stories with one another. It’s in those hidden places of the past where there are treasures and gifts we need to share with others. Our stories are powerful and in those raw and dark places there is light … and that light needs to shine.

NZB: How do you think self-confidence can motivate us to bring out the best in others in a way that isn’t boastful or self-centered, but that leads others to find their own self-confidence?

JG: I think when people see others walk out in strength and in their giftings, it’s inspiring. I’ve seen over the years when these actions are from pride and I don’t think that inspires people. It makes people either want to compete with you or not like you at all.

I think when you’re walking in a place of, “With what I do, I want to help you do your thing better too” — that’s what makes people great. When I’m doing homes, I love what I do and I love that I get to create beauty. I don’t want to hide that gift from the rest of the world. I want to share it with other women. It’s my gifting and I want it to be other women’s giftings too: I don’t want to be possessive. I think when you can use your strength to make other people confident, that’s when the dynamics start changing and you start seeing more growth in others.

I think when you’re walking in a place of, ‘ With what I do, I want to help you do your thing better too’  — that’s what makes people great.

NZB: What have you learned through having such a large platform that even the most shy or insecure woman could apply to her life (and relationships)?

JG: We must know the importance and the value of who we are, whether that is as a stay-at-home mom or a CEO of a large company.

It seems like for so many years, as a young girl, as a teenager and as a woman in her 20s, I feel like I never blossomed because I didn’t understand the value of who I was, truly. I knew I came from a good family, I knew these certain things, but because I didn’t believe in myself — and I didn’t know my worth completely — I doubted it. But now I look back and think, if I could go back and relive those years with that knowledge, what could I have accomplished, you know?

As I am getting older the idea of beauty is very different for me, yes, I am getting gray hairs and wrinkles, but I feel more beautiful now because I know I have a great purpose. I know I’m meant to raise my children well, to love my husband well, and to help others in their home. When I do these things, that’s when I feel beautiful.

We must know the importance and the value of who we are, whether that is as a stay-at-home mom or a CEO of a large company.

Beauty comes in so many different forms, whether it’s a delicate rose in the garden or the tender touch of a child. Not until I stopped being so hard on myself did I start noticing beauty in other places, and that was freeing and refreshing … So many times in our culture we focus on the external and forget that we have to tend to our hearts.

If I could tell the younger generation something it would be to start from within. Pinpoint insecurities early on and find the root of those dark places: What planted the seed? What started the lie? Find and focus on the truth in those areas and in that place your heart will find freedom. Deal with the issues of your heart and allow your beauty to be defined from a whole place from within.

Once a woman finds that kind of beautiful … I feel like she can really change the world.

Like this? Find the full interview in our digital archive. Become a Darling subscriber HERE to immediately gain access to all of our digital versions, plus get our latest issue delivered right to your doorstep.

Images via Tony Li for Darling Issue 15




This post is brought to you by the Darling Team! To learn more about who we are, please visit our Meet Our Team page.

  • Madeline March 2, 2018

    What a great article. I appreciate Joanna for sharing her experience because I also had a similar childhood. As a Korean American raised in this country it was very difficult to be accepted. I was bullied to the point of occasional beatings in the school bathroom, which at the time the school ignored. The word “gook” and “chink” were common words used in that school and no one thought much of it. I was the outsider in which everyone just ignored or considered a pest. Now that I am a mother too, I try to remind my daughter how valuable and important she is everyday. Thank you Joanna for being our inspiration.

  • Hannah February 25, 2018

    Even more reasons for me too love Joanna Gaines!!!!? I completely agree we understand the importance of our position and what is that we do is when we feel truly beautiful and confident!

  • bergmannsalm February 24, 2018

    Darling Magazine, thank you for your blog post.Really thank you! Awesome.

  • Gala Sampson February 21, 2018

    I injoy reading about what u we’re talking about Joanna I hope everyone can read it to and learn from it but I really do love y’all show fixer uppers and I hope one day I can go and meet u and chip in person cuz that is all I talk about to my best friend is going to see u so I hope one day my dream will come true 4 me to go to Waco Texas….I’m from North Carolina and I stay in a town call Lumberton I have never Flynn on a airplane before in life but I will fly on one just to go see u so I’m saving up my money so me and my friend can go see u soon so goodbye 4 now hope to see u soon Joanna My name is Gala Sampson

  • Anonymous February 21, 2018

    Loved the article, and thank you Joanna, for sharing! Your show is a blessing to me, and even my hubby of nearly 60 years, loves to watch!

  • Charlieg February 21, 2018

    Thank you for this interview. I do watch your show a much as I can…luv the interaction between you & Chip, and also the children! :)) Congratulations on sharing your faith…not easy to do these days anywhere, let alone TV! May God richly bless you and your family in any endeavor y’all, as a family, embark on! Am thinking of a cross country trip, and on our way back to east coast am thinking seriously about stopping in Waco to see your “spread!

  • Lupus Adventurer February 21, 2018

    Fan of your show and even more of how you have become a great role model for moms who succeed in making time for family and children while still pursuing their other callings in life. Finding such life-balance and success requires an accurate self-view and wisdom mixed with a dose of humility and knowing who God created you to be. Many congrats on baby number five!

  • Lupus Adventurer February 21, 2018

    Thanks for sharing your personal journey. My daughter-in-law first introduced me to your show, and she is a true Texas gal, stay home mom, and mother of five. The person, wife, and mom you reveal kept me watching, much more than the amazing remakes and deco. Congrats on baby number five and for being wholesome role model for moms everywhere.

  • Steve February 21, 2018

    My wife is Korean and hence our daughters are one half Korean and one half German-English American.

    We always advocated and tried to instill personal excellence in our daughters and this has paid off. We also fully exposed both of them to both American and Korean culture which I believe gave them a strong sense of self-identity and pride in themselves. Not selfish pride either. Productive pride.

    Kudos to Ms. Gaines for opening up her heart and sharing her challenges while growing up. She is 100 percent correct in everything she speaks on.

  • Justme February 21, 2018

    Wow. I love Joanna. I wish I could borrow her for a few months to pick me up. Thank you Joanna Gains!

  • Sharon February 21, 2018


    Thank you for sharing your story. I also think women should open up more and share with each other.

    I love what Joanna and Chip so on Fixer Upper. It’s beautiful.

  • Anonymous February 20, 2018

    I love the show Joanna and Chip have a great TV presence 1

  • Jessica February 20, 2018

    What a great read, and an important reminder that when we share from a place of authenticity, we can do so much to help make the world a better place.

  • Alicia February 20, 2018

    This was great, thanks!

  • I feel like I’m the only one who has yet to watch Fixer Upper – I guess largely because it doesn’t stream where I live. I feel like I’m missing out majorly! Time to stream it online, I guess. Thanks for sharing this interview! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog