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How Sarah Jessica Parker finds confidence

by Emma Margolin /
Sarah Jessica Parker speaks to Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough at Monday's Know Your Value event in New York City.Anthony Scutro/Miller Hawkins /
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A “Know Your Value” moment can come in many forms. It can be a clear-cut professional victory, like getting exactly what you need out of a job by refusing to bend on what you care about and deserve. It can also be low point, like getting fired or passed over for a promotion.

Yet for Sarah Jessica Parker, accomplished actress, producer and businesswoman, knowing her value came from somewhere in between.

“For me, it’s this sort of interesting exchange of moments of private triumph in some way, and also disappointment,” said Parker on Monday at Mika Brzezinski’s Know Your Value event in New York City. “How do I wrangle those experiences so I don’t put all my eggs in this basket of, ‘I’ve got to have this moment that will dictate everything else,’ meaning that everything good will happen, everything right, everything deserved. For many women, it’s just not a reality. The greatest challenge is to have an ambition, but to allow it to be nuanced.”

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Rather than turning to a singular moment, the star of HBO’s Divorce attributes her success to a blend of confidence and experience, two traits that Parker finds go hand in hand.

“I think confidence can be an internal experience; not everybody has to feel your confidence,” Parker said. “I’ve spent a huge amount of time listening and learning and really trying to be around [people who are] the best in their industry. I think that what I learn and what I hear, what I put into practice is my form of confidence.”

Parker also spoke about the success of her shoe line business. But she was conscious that she was coming from a place of privilege when she launched the endeavor – and didn’t want to offer any advice if it couldn’t be replicated by the women in attendance. For example, when she finally did decide to go into the shoe business, she called Manolo Blahnik CEO George Malkemus to see if he would collaborate on a line designed primarily for women who were fans of Parker’s shoe-obsessed Sex and the City character, Carrie Bradshaw.

I think confidence can be an internal experience; not everybody has to feel your confidence.Sarah Jessica Parker

“I was thinking, that’s all well and good for me to share this story with you. But a lot of people don’t have those contacts,” said Parker. “So, what is the reality and how is it applicable to most people’s lives?”

The big takeaway from that experience and from her career more broadly, she added, was that in most cases, people are willing to share their knowledge with those who reach out for help.

“I will say that when and if there are people you want to be mentored by or learn from or just witness in practice, I think people are really willing,” Parker said. “It’s very hard to ask for help… But my experience has been that people are wanting to do that.”

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