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Let's get real about body image, self-confidence and how to truly own it

The Know Your Value founder and MSNBC anchor Yasmin Vossoughian talk candidly about body image, self-esteem and the expectation to look a certain way.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.Miller Hawkins

Loving and accepting yourself inside and out is easier said than done. And if you’re a woman on television, the struggle with body image and self-confidence can be especially daunting.

Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski recently sat down with MSNBC anchor Yasmin Vossoughian, who wrote an article about her birthmark that for years affected her self-confidence. The women talked candidly about body image, the expectation to look a certain way for their professions and how they learned to accept who they are and truly own it.

When you work on television, “it’s like an exaggerated version of reality for you,” Brzezinski said. “The reality is that it’s a difficult journey for many of us and one that can last our entire lives.”

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Brzezinski admitted when she was first starting out in her career, she had insecurities about her looks. Many women around her in television were pageant winners, and there was an expectation to look a certain way. “The local news industry was a lot about looks, and I felt like that was my job to try to look like that,” Brzezinski said. “It was such a pressure.”

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Vossoughian said early in her career, she concentrated more on the way she looked versus learning about what she was talking about. “I had people in my life advising me on how I should look when going on television versus advising me on what I should be talking about, on the expertise I should be concentrating on, the things I should be reading,” she explained. There was a consensus that she looked too young and that no one was going to buy what a 27-year-old was saying on camera.

Yasmin Vossoughian
MSNBC anchor Yasmin VossoughianVirginia Sherwood / NBCUniversal

Then, suddenly, you’re the right age, and soon after that, you’re starting to look old and should look a bit younger, Vossoughian said. It’s a problem that men don’t have to deal with as much.

“Male counterparts don’t get the type of tweets and interaction online about the way in which they look,” Vossoughian said, also noting that it’s hard to do your job if you don’t look and feel like yourself.

“I felt like I was an imposter, I was wearing things that I didn’t feel comfortable in, things that were too tight or too short,” she said. “When I went on TV to present a story that I was doing, I also felt awkward because I wasn’t being myself.”

Brzezinski added that when you’re presenting yourself when going to job interviews or going to work, you want to develop a persona that matches your goals. “Anything less, anything that’s low-cut or made to distract, has sexual connotations, to me it’s day trading,” Brzezinski said. “You might get some attention from some people some time, but that’s not the thing that’s going to keep you in a job forever.”

“You want to be you when you walk into that room,” Vossoughian said, and that applies regardless of whether you’re a news anchor, working in finance, a teacher, or any occupation. “You want to feel like you’re being authentically yourself. If you’re not bringing that to the table, then you really have nothing to go back on.”

Brzezinski explained that she has reached a point where she doesn’t spend a lot of money on clothes. “I wear the same thing a lot. If something works, I wear it,” she said. “I find it [clothing] to be distracting to my life, taking away from what I really bring to the table.”

For Vossoughian, her views shifted when she was working on air during her pregnancy. She felt insecure about her body and clothing, but she came to terms with the fact that it was about what she was bringing to the table — her reporting. Now that she has two young sons, she wants them to see her as a confident woman. “I want to own it,” she said.

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“Accept first yourself, and everyone else will follow you,” Brzezinski said.