Is Confidence Cultural?

A few months ago, I was invited to be a part of Lark Skin Co.’s Campaign for Confidence. It was a really cool experience that allowed me to connect with women from all walks of life and hear their stories. During the photo session, I was asked what made me feel the most confident. For me, the question seemed easy — my laugh and powerlifting. I’m comfortable with my laugh. It’s almost an equalizer, a tool in my tool belt to get me through almost any type of situation. It’s infectious and I love how when I laugh, people laugh with me. And then powerlifting, because it requires not only a great deal of physical strength, but training, a focused mind and even confidence. There’s something about being strong that inspires confidence. 

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the other women and their stories. It got me  wondering, could confidence be cultural? I am brought back to my childhood in Senegal, where  I never thought about the shape of my lips, which was something women in the states think about. As children and in our early teens, my friends and I didn’t worry about the shape of our bodies, whether they were big or small, or what that means. 

Senegal was colonized by France, and there is still this neo-colonialism there. Women tend to think more about their hair and skin tone more so than body type or shape. Imagine my surprise when I came to the United States as as skinny teenager and, within a few years, I gained weight and was made fun of for that weight gain. It was so strange. Back in Senegal, weight is not seen as a negative or positive thing. 

Confidence, with respect to body image and the way women are seen and perceived every day here is very much cultural. Maybe I give too much credit to my laugh and to the fact that I'm physically strong, and not enough praise to a culture that doesn't credit or discredit women based on the shape of their body. I think a lot of my confidence is because I didn’t grow up thinking about my body in a positive or a negative way. It was just my body shape, nothing more. 

I think it would be a gift to girls to be allowed to grow up without thinking about the shape and type of their body, whether they’ll have curves or not. It is a privilege I didn’t even realize I had. I believe that creating strong, beautiful, confident women starts in the womb and I praise Lark Skin Co, for BEING the change they want to see in the world. Check out their campaign here. 

All photos courtesy of: Lindsey Hinderer Portraits


4 comments


  • Expedition Subsahara

    Hi Mary, Thank you so much. YOU are wonderful and I think of you so often. I hope you are doing well, friend. Thank you for your continued support.


  • Expedition Subsahara

    Hi Maria, Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. It broke my heart reading that. It breaks my heart that little girls are subjected to so much negative talk about their bodies, their hair, and their skin. Here’s to a better future for our girls.


  • Maria Turner

    Hello,
    I just read your blog. I definitely couldn’t agree more, with confidence being cultural. Bring a A D.O.S, I grew up with the infamous light skinned/dark skinned stereotypes, “good hair”, "bad hair ", and of course the weight issue. I was always the tall, skinny, medium brown skinned girl. I was often teased for being to thin, and sometimes due to my hue of my skin color.


  • Mary Nicolai

    Sofi, I love your confidence and agree with you that you were blessed to be raised in such a culture. Totally opposite for girls and women here. And yes, we all need to be the change we want. You are wonderful!


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