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Mika on body image: 'I'm no longer a slave to outside expectations'

"I’ve let go of the expectations (not to mention the Botox and the Fraxel)," says the Know Your Value founder. "I want to spend my time in better ways. I’m finally figuring out that a happy me looks better than an 'enhanced' me."
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.Miller Hawkins

I’ve been really honest about my struggles with body image over the years. It can be a hard journey for any woman, of course. But there's a special kind of difficulty that goes along with working in television, when untold numbers of people are looking at you—and judging you.

At some points in my career, I felt like my hair and makeup was more important than what I was saying — and the sad truth is, maybe it was. So I tried really hard to fit in and “look the part.”

Looking the part meant being thin, lip glossed, wrinkle-free and glamorous. It was not natural for me. Sometimes it took me two hours to get ready for work (I have carpel tunnel from the hair dryer). And when it did, I would be exhausted before I even stepped out the front door.

Mika became a weekday morning anchor for CBS affiliate WFSB-TV/WFSB-DT in Hartford, Conn. in 1995.

Ages 29 to 39 were especially tough. My weight was all over the place from having kids, I was raising babies and working very odd hours.

I also look dramatically different without makeup. I have white, pasty skin, breakouts and blond eyebrows and eyelashes you can’t see. Let’s just say I’m a good palette for makeup.

In fact, when I was working as a weekend editor at CBS News, I’d come into the office without my makeup, and the security guards would stop me because they didn’t recognize me. I’d show my ID, and they wouldn’t believe the picture was actually me.

For most of my career, my oily and sensitive skin has been a fight. I’d break out because of makeup (which there’s no getting away from in my industry), stress, having kids, you name it.

And my hair! You might be surprised to know that it’s naturally curly and very thin. The roots look black, so I have to color it a lot.

In 1997, Brzezinski joined CBS News, where she served as a correspondent and as anchor.

Every “look” was a lot of work, and I spent decades stressing out about it.

I went through different looks trying to figure out who I was, or worse, trying to look like the “pretty” women who seemed to get more air time than me. It wasn’t a healthy way to think.

Brzezinski co-hosting the MSNBC show "Homepage."

Sometimes management tried to shape my look and got me stylists. When I hosted MSNBC’s “Homepage,” a three-hour women’s show, from 1998-2000, I was given a huge makeover. It included a horrid haircut, tons of makeup, short skirts and tight, bright sweaters. On one particular day, I found myself wearing red snakeskin boots that were hideous and ridiculously expensive, up to my knees.

Brzezinski co-hosting the MSNBC show "Homepage."

I wasn’t comfortable with my body or my clothes. And it showed.

My posture and body language told the real story: “This isn’t who I am, and I am not comfortable with myself at all.”

Brzezinski, left, co-hosting MSNBC on the weekday afternoon show, HomePage.

I wasn’t telling the truth about myself in my presentation. I was living up to someone else’s image of what they thought I should look like. And that didn’t work because I was trying to be someone I simply wasn’t — and would never be.

At some point, I started Botox and other skin treatments in hopes of zapping my face into submission. The fight to “fit the look” took a whole new dimension of expensive touch-ups and “adjustments.”

I’m never going to say never, but I honestly believe that most of that is behind me now. I stopped it all two years ago and haven't looked back. It’s too exhausting, too expensive and never really that good.

Now I’m 52, and I feel more beautiful than I did 20 years ago. Why?

I believe it has something to do with knowing my value. This journey has helped me figure out who I am, what I’m made of and what truly is beautiful — and what’s not.

I’ve let go of the expectations (not to mention wrinkle-erasing treatments like Botox and Fraxel). I want to spend my time in better ways. I’m finally figuring out that a happy me looks better than an “enhanced” me.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski and Co-host Joe Scarborough on "Morning Joe" on March 13, 2009.Virginia Sherwood / NBCU Photo Bank

I have a lot of wrinkles, and I look different from everybody else. That’s my look — and I own it.

You can’t have a positive self-image when you’re a slave to outside expectations of what your body and face should look like. It’s an impossible goal.

So now, I’m the bar for me. I’m the threshold. I measure myself against me, not what anyone else expects.

And the results are fantastic.

It took me a while to realize this, but I finally recognize that the confident women who say, “screw what anyone else thinks, I look good” really DO look better.

I learned this in large part by traveling across the country for Know Your Value, teaching women about body language, eye contact and confidence. When I show what bad body language looks like, then straighten myself to show a confident stance, I see myself become beautiful in real time. And it didn’t cost a penny or result in even a pinch of pain from a laser. I’ve seen many women, including myself, transform their mentality about their body image,

It’s not about your shape, size or what your face looks like. It’s about the way you own it with body language and confidence. It’s so fun to watch the transformations. That’s the difference that makes you truly beautiful, and that shows you know your value. I finally realize that too.