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