confidence and joy: how to

Confidence and joy. They are how you make magical sex happen.

But confidence and joy are hard to come by sometimes, friends. Sometimes the world is an awful place and sometimes it tries to tell you you’re awful too.

So for a long time, I’ve been trying to work out great ways to teach people how they can increase confidence and joy. Today, I’m pleased to offer this idea:


Try on the tiara.


“What the hell does that mean, Emily?” you ask.

And I answer: in the movie, “Frozen,” Elsa, the sister with the ice power, uses her superpower to create this giant ice monster to keep people away. (It’s a metaphor, see.)

At the end of the credits we see the ice monster again, in what immediately became my favorite moment of the entire movie. He staggers on screen and steps on Elsa’s tiara:


That, my friends, is a fucking metaphor.

It instantly reminded me of the day I defended my dissertation. I had earned my little crown, and something inside me just relaxed and softened. I’ve been a nicer person ever since.

It happened again the day John Gottman blurbed my book. The feminist in me was all, “Do I need some bearded man’s approval to know I wrote a good book?” and the thing is, I don’t. I don’t need his or anyone’s approval.

But man oh man, does it feel good to have.

It felt so good, I could even shed my armor for a little while and just feel good under the warm light of external validation.


And that’s the point. It feels good. We are allowed to feel good.


If confidence is knowing what’s true and joy is loving what’s true, it’s all well and good to know, inside yourself, that you’re smart or sexy or interesting or whatever else. But it’s a really amazing thing, it is a pleasure, when someone else knows it too, and tells you so.

(There’s science behind this, having to do with how we form attachments in our families of origin, blah blah, but for now just work with me.)


Sara Benincasa bumps up against this idea when she writes (in Playboy) about why every woman should do a pinup photo shoot. She got dolled up in hair and makeup and fancy underwear, and posed all sultry in a house full of anachronisms. And this is what happened:

When we sat down after the shoot to pick out the best images, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe I looked like that. It wasn’t that they’d magically made me look skinny or “perfect” in the eyes of Hollywood or something. No one would mistake these images for, say, Brooklyn Decker. But I looked good. Like, really good. I looked pretty. And best of all, I felt good when I looked at those photographs.


She tried on the tiara, and she felt good. And it lasted!

And even when the makeup came off and the hairspray washed out and I put on sweatpants and sat on the couch to watch Bar Rescue, I still felt changed in a good way.

QUESTION: Shouldn’t we be able to feel good about ourselves without putting on makeup and getting our hair done and wearing the fancy underwears and receiving praise? Shouldn’t we not NEED the tiara?

ANSWER: Fuck “should.”

This is a culture where most of the public images we have  of “beauty” have been through this whole process of hair and makeup and clothes and posing and then, furthermore, Photoshop. That’s what it takes to look that kind of good. Which means that you, too, can look that kind of good, if you, too, go through that process. And if proving it, if by going through the process, you can more fully own your sexy ladihood, GO FOR IT. Try on the fucking tiara.


This is a culture, too, where most of the public images we have of “success” have been through a process of narrative construction and reconstruction; we don’t see the struggle and the failure and the self-doubt and the ugly that happened along the way. All that ugly happened, though.

And all the private ugly that we each experience on the way to being the amazing that we are? It’s the same ugly that lots and lots of other people experience, but mostly we only ever see our own, so it’s so easy to forget that everyone has the same ugly as we have, and we have the same successful/pretty/smart/all the things we see in them.


Try on the fucking tiara. You already know, somewhere deep inside you, that you deserve it. So put it on.


I don’t know what the tiara is for you. It might be beautiful, professional photographs. It might be words from a lover. It might someone you admire saying something positive about your work in public. Whatever it is, you are allowed to enjoy it. You are allowed to want it. You are allowed to ask for it. And you are allowed to let it feel just as nourishing and fabulous and joyful… as its opposite feels awful.


It is exhausting to try constantly to generate your own internal validation when the world is being stingy and awful.

But it’s present season. Let yourself receive some frickin’ gifts.

It’s okay to enjoy external validation.

Try on the fucking tiara.