I started modeling when I was 16. The odds were against me. At 5’8″, I was shorter than most girls in the business. Still, I gave it a shot, and like with most things in my life, I never gave up.
It took a while before I had stability in the business. I worked hard to be accepted by the fashion community in ways beyond my physical appearance. In no time, though, I found myself surrendering to the industry’s approval process. I felt like I needed validation from everyone. As a result, I lost sight of myself and what it meant to be happy, what it meant to be successful. I think it all stemmed from a deep-down feeling of wanting people to like me and love me.
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When you do everything you can to make people happy with your work but there are still people who aren’t happy, you start to think, “Well, I’ve worked my a** off. I’ve done everything. I’ve pushed myself into the ground.” You just feel like you’re constantly disappointing others, and there’s this moment when you’re like, “Wait, what am I trying to do? Who am I doing this for?”
Over time, I came to realize that work and getting others’ approval isn’t the most important thing. Yes, your career is very important—but it’s not the most important. Of course I was proud of my accomplishments, but I wasn’t genuinely happy.
I was nearly 20 and had been modeling for several years. My vantage point had changed…and I had changed. I knew I had to reevaluate my life and my goals for my future. I didn’t want to resent fashion or my success. The process didn’t happen overnight, but it was imperative for me to preserve my integrity.
It’s taken time, but now I realize that work isn’t everything and success comes in many forms. I’ve opened my mind, and now I embrace new things with a childlike curiosity. I’m spending more time doing the stuff I love. And I’ve been able to do better work because of it.
When you’re coming from a place of living just to work, it’s never as good as you want it to be. It’s never as authentic. When you have balance in your life, work becomes an entirely different experience. There is a passion that moves you to a whole new level of fulfillment and gratitude and that’s when you can do your best…for yourself and for others.
I still have so much to learn, but I have realized that beating myself up, feeling guilty and regretting past mistakes will only hold me back.
After all, no matter how many people like you and your work, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like yourself.
Cara Delevingne is a model and actress.