Tracee Ellis Ross: "I Don't Want to Be Comparing Myself to an Airbrushed Version of Me"
Tracee Ellis Ross is as real as they come. Whether she's leveling with us about Snapchat filters or confessing how much she loooves potato chips, she's authentic and firmly rooted in her sense of self.
We got the chance to chat with Tracee about her new role as spokeswoman for Motrin's #WomanInProgress campaign, which aims to "inspire women to shift the way they look at painful moments and empower them to see that pain can be progress," (according to the campaign press release). So naturally, we wanted to talk with her about all things self-esteem, body positivity, and finding courage in tough times.
On self love . . .
"I think self-acceptance to me is more important and more inclusive and more gentle than self-love," Tracee told POPSUGAR. "Sometimes self-love feels out of my reach, but self-acceptance kind of makes space . . . This idea of making space for what the reality of the experience of life is actually like . . . hard moments and disappointments and pain are a part of a journey, and they're not moments to stop. For example, self-acceptance makes space for the parts of you that you don't necessarily like."
"I remember someone said something to me that was the most helpful thing in the world, like, 'What other people think of me is none of my business,' and I took that and twisted it a little bit and added to it — that even what I think of myself sometimes is none of my business."
"It's really helpful because a lot of times we are the hardest on ourselves. I am my own worst critic, and so self-acceptance for me makes space even for the things that I don't like about myself; it makes space for me to still be a whole person and to be compassionate and kind and loving to myself, even if there's parts of me that I don't like or moments that are difficult or hard, or moments that have pain in them . . . that there's still space to be kind and compassionate and loving to myself, no matter what is happening in my experience."
On perfectionism . . .
We asked Tracee what she thought about society's standards of perfection, she mentioned that it's not just outward perfectionism. "Our culture right now . . . there's a lot of this perfectionist idea that has amplified into even how we respond to ourselves; it's one thing to feel like you want to do a good job and be perfect and another to impose that kind of thinking on your physical appearance or on your growth curve."
"I don't want to be constantly comparing myself to some airbrushed version of me; I want to feel good even when I look in the mirror, not just when I look at my Instagram."
"In order to try new things and take risks and grow as a person, you have to give yourself space to make mistakes or to fumble and to fall," she said. "This idea [of the campaign] really allows a conversation, which in turn allows people to have a different kind of relationship with themselves that makes space for them to be a human and actually learn and grow in the experience of living your life."
Social media can also create an idea of perfectionism, but Tracee warns against using that as a benchmark for evaluating what someone's life is like. "[My] Golden Globe is a lovely fun sparkly example of things going well, but the truth is that [there is also] the experience of what it's like being in my skin, and being me, and being able to take responsibility for things that I do that I wish I hadn't, or for moments that don't go as I had planned . . . All of those things come from having a sense of self-acceptance." She also noted that you need to be able to "tolerate the discomfort of what it feels like for things to not always go perfectly."
On social media . . .
For one, she loves it. But she also acknowledges some drawbacks that can impact our self image. "I think with social media and all that — which I think has so many benefits — there's this side that presents as if 'I woke up like this.' Like, NAH I didn't! [laughs] NO I didn't wake up like this, people. I didn't wake up and all of a sudden, win a Golden Globe. Like, it just did not happen like that, you know what I mean?"
We asked Tracee how she feels about getting personal on social media, and she does have her limits. "I have a real sense of intimacy and sacredness about what things are for public consumption and which things are for private," she said. "My social media accounts are public so I am mindful of what I share, but I definitely am mindful of not sharing just some airbrushed perfect version of me. I do like it to look like . . . my favorite version of me! [laughs] I'm not gonna lie! I'm not afraid of a filter! Nothin' wrong with that, Snapchat filters are INCREDIBLE [still laughing]."
Tracee mentioned that she doesn't wear makeup when she's off-camera, which makes her extramindful of how she looks on and off of social media (and TV). "I don't want to get trapped in a position where I start to feel bad about what I really look like, because I'm constantly comparing myself to some airbrushed version of me, like that's no fun! I [don't want to] feel pressured to present myself, even to myself, as some airbrushed version of me. I want to feel good, even when I look in the mirror, not just when I look at my Instagram."
On dealing with painful moments . . .
"I would never have made so many of my dreams come true; I would not be able to be in a relationship with myself on the good days and bad days if I didn't make space for the hard moments and if I didn't make space for the things that didn't go the way I wanted or liked, or were painful," she said.
"I would never have made so many of my dreams come true if I didn't make space for the things that didn't go the way I wanted or liked or were painful."
She acknowledges the hard times, but equips herself to deal with them in a healthy way. "Hard times are part of the experience of life. What I do is try to look at all of the bumps — all of the highs and lows as just a part of the journey. I make space for those the same way I make space for the good stuff." One of her favorite tools? Journaling. "I reach out to friends and get support; I love journaling . . . all of those things that support me in those moments. Getting support from friends in the lower moments and the disappointments is a big part of it."
On being kinder to yourself
Speaking of journaling . . . Tracee uses this as a tool to be kind to herself and allow for more "gentleness." We can all be our own worst critic, and this is one of her tactics for fighting that.
"I love a spiral notebook, and I love journaling! It's so funny, I"m a big list person and I do a lot of listing with a felt-tipped pen, but I journal with a ballpoint. I'm really big on free form flow writing, just getting it out; I think it's really helpful. I'm not trying to write pretty prose; it's really the connection of the hand to heart and slowing my brain down enough to actually express what I'm feeling." She emphasized the handwriting versus typing it out, saying "Your hand moves at a slower pace, and it slows your thinking down and allows you to move more into your heart."
Another great tip we picked up? Talk to yourself. Sounds a little silly, but check it out: "I also talk to myself a lot; I do 'Hey, how ya doin'?' as if I'm talking to a little girl [laughs]. And sometimes the writing takes the form of that. It allows me the gentleness with myself, which I think is not naturally, culturally how we talk to ourselves. The journaling and talking to myself internally our out loud like I'm a little girl brings in a sense of gentleness."