Brooke Shields: I spent so much time making myself small so I wasn’t threatening

Brooke Shields has been teasing the launch of Beginning Is Now for months now, her new lifestyle brand for women over 40. The website still says “coming soon,” but based on Brooke’s recent appearances I think its coming will be sooner rather than later. Last month she nabbed a spot on the four-person panel with Duchess Meghan to mark International Women’s Day at South by Southwest. Now Brooke has just appeared at Publicis Media’s HealthFront 2024 in New York, where she described the focus of Beginning Is Now as giving women a forum “to voice how they felt and what they wanted for their lives.” So in that vein, Brooke got candid at the upfront about being so excessively self-deprecating so as to make herself small when she was younger. Considering how last week we covered her AARP interview where she got real about working with men her own age who have remarried much younger, I’d say Brooke’s thankfully no longer burdened with trying to be non-threatening.

Brooke Shields has spent much of her career working on her self-esteem and learning self-acceptance. Now she wants other women to feel empowered to do the same.

The actress discussed her new online wellness community, Beginning is Now, at Publicis Health Media’s HealthFront 2024 on April 10. The purpose of Beginning is Now — which is targeted at women over 40 — is to “allow women to voice how they felt and what they wanted for their lives,” according to Shields.

“I spent so much time self-deprecating, making myself small so I wasn’t threatening,” said the actress, who will star in Netflix’s upcoming Mother of the Bride. “You do it long enough, and you kind of start to believe it. That’s the danger. I had to really practice not making myself less than and not letting myself be intimidated by people who were just yelling louder.”

During the event, Shields, 58, said the hardest thing she’s had to teach herself has been self-advocacy.

“We’re not taught that as women,” the actress told the president of PHM Andrea Palmer, who led the Q&A. “We’re not taught that we know our bodies better than other people do. It’s not in the narrative.”

She also touched upon how she helps her daughters Rowan, 20, and Grier, 17, in their own health journeys. “You have to have conversations with them, about their bodies, about what’s happening with their bodies, about what they’re feeling,” she said. “The dialogue has to keep happening so that you can teach them the questions to ask their health care provider.”

Ultimately, young women need to learn the keys to empowerment. “You need to teach them to be able to speak up for their own selves,” she explained.

Shields also spoke about the importance of empathy after Palmer read a quote about empathy and respect being tools for self-advocacy.

Said Shields: “Empathy is the thing I go to — nobody knows what anybody else’s real story is and what they’re going through.”

She added, “Humility for me has been a source of being accepted, being like, being hired. All those things, that as a good girl, that’s what you do. When it gets detrimental is when it shifts into self-deprecation.”

[From People]

I’m not quite over 40 yet but I’m already into the ethos behind Beginning Is Now! (Except for maybe the title, which is a little too new agey, hippie dippie even for me, and I’m from Haight/Ashbury in San Francisco.) Brooke’s comments on how she’s been raising her daughters got me thinking. First I was gobsmacked at their ages; I remember E! News covering their births when I was in high school, and that was only five or six years ago so…. Then after feeling old, depressed, and eating potato chips for an afternoon (the last item of which I’m sure Brooke would approve), I was thinking about high school, and how up until then I was a girl very much in tune with her power. I enjoyed school and never felt hesitant about voicing my opinion or taking the lead on projects. Then it all kind of crumbled at the end of middle school, and adulthood has pretty much felt like a quest to reclaim the surety of that kid. And to kind of forgive myself for letting her get lost along the way in the first place. So to add onto Brooke’s comments on empathy for others, it’s something to extend to ourselves as well. Beginning now (sans is).

Photos credit: Sasidis Sasisakulporn/Netflix and via Instagram

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8 Responses to “Brooke Shields: I spent so much time making myself small so I wasn’t threatening”

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  1. B says:

    The concept of making yourself small so the men are more comfortable….

    What an ongoing loss to humanity.

    • BlueNailsBetty says:

      Sadly, it’s not just men. I’ve spent most of my life trying to make myself small in order to please girls/women who felt threatened by my (insert random attributes here). It took decades for me to finally acknowledge that they were right: I was smarter, funnier, prettier, whatever than them. It took more decades for me to acknowledge they did not have the right to diminish me or my abilities and in doing so that was a form of abuse.

      Bottom line: be yourself and be willing for people to hate your fabulousness. Let them walk away. If they try to stay and force you to change, then you walk away. The majority of people are average and many are downright mediocre. There is nothing you can do about that and you can’t help those people if they are unwilling to change.

      Live YOUR one wild and precious life (shout out to Mary Oliver!), and no one else’s.

      • BlueNailsBetty says:

        Also, my above comment was aimed mostly at personal engagements.

        Unfortunately, in the workplace men are still the dominant majority of management and decision makers and women still have to waste precious energy and time placating idiots and aholes in order to have a reasonable successful work life.

    • otaku fairy says:

      Being a woman comes with the pressure to keep any and everybody’s inner conservative in a constant state of comfort. The minute a woman can’t or won’t- either because it’s bad for her, bad for others, or most likely both- she becomes all the stereotypes.

  2. Jack says:

    I found in the corporate world, that both men and women expected women to make themselves small. Women were especially offended if another woman stood out.

    In two separate companies I’ve worked for, a woman cozied up to our male boss and worked to get me fired so they could have my job or so people would listen to them and not me. I was never fired because the President and C-Suite people thought I was great, but my immediate supervisor (in both cases) was really nasty to me in defense of their favored female.

  3. Concern Fae says:

    Happy for her, but I’m getting tired of all these women who played the game and became rich and successful saying not to make yourself small. Meanwhile, those of us who never did and paid the price careerwise are wondering if we’re ever going to be able to retire.

    • Renee' says:

      Concern Fae,
      I can so relate to what you are saying. I have so paid the price for speaking my mind and having an opinion. It has cost me career-wise big time. It shouldn’t but it did.

      I agree with what Brooke is saying and am glad she is saying it to the younger generation. But what she is not saying is that the women that had the power, privilege and wealth and could have spoken up years ago (I’m looking at your Katie Couric) decided to play the game and be the only women in the room.

  4. Elsa says:

    My personality is naturally assertive and strong yet I have made myself so small to try to fit in and be nice. I have given up earned power because I wanted to be nice. The older I get, the harder it gets.