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"Dancing With the Stars" Winner Rumer Willis Reveals How She Gained Her Killer Confidence

"Dancing With the Stars" Winner Rumer Willis Reveals How She Gained Her Killer Confidence

By Shaun Dreisbach

Rumer Willis — the 26-year-old daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore — won "Dancing With the Stars," but she gained something more valuable: killer confidence. As told to Shaun Dreisbach.

"Comparison is the thief of joy.” I read that quote the other day, and it is so true. When you grow up in the public eye the way that I did, everyone’s looking at you and waiting for you to do something crazy or say something wrong or have a meltdown. I was constantly bullied because of my looks, so I struggled a lot with my body image. I wanted to have no butt; I wanted to have no boobs. For a long time I just wanted to look tiny and androgynous.

I never really shared what I was going through with my parents, because it was too painful. I didn’t know how to ask for help or how to even bring it up. But I do remember my mom telling me, "There's always going to be someone who's a better singer. There's always going to be someone more fit. There's always someone who's going to be, in your mind, better than you — who you're comparing yourself to. But you can't do that, because you will live such an unhappy life." It just took me a long time to put that advice into practice.

I'd say that, before this year, I was kind of stuck. Fear is a really debilitating emotion. Yes, there's been paparazzi: There were times when personal stuff in my life was blasted everywhere and I couldn't leave my house for a week because I would be aggressively and dangerously followed. But the real pressure comes from the Internet and social media — the mentality that it’s OK to attack people from behind a computer screen. Strangers say the nastiest things. Until recently the thought of making one misstep that could be criticized would stop me from trying new things and from standing up for myself.

Then last year I decided to pose for a fashion shoot, and without my permission my face was photoshopped to appear thinner. I’d had enough and spoke out against it. I was done allowing other people’s perceptions of me to dictate how I viewed myself. Seeing my younger sisters be brave also inspired me: Scout is so unbelievably strong and opinionated, and she sticks to her convictions. And the way Tallulah was so honest and owned her situation when she went to rehab was amazing. The norm is to hide what you're dealing with, but Tallulah came out and said, "This is who I am. I struggled and fought, and I came out on the other side." Honestly, I wouldn’t be so strong if I didn't have them.

"Dancing With the Stars" helped me get over my fear of failure too. When I signed on to do the show, I didn't know what to expect. I had no dance training, had never played sports or even worked out much before, but I came in with an open mind. I just wanted to become the best dancer I could be. The first day I danced on-air, I was nervous; I had been struggling, and the dress rehearsal hadn’t gone well. But after I finished I felt more beautiful than I had in my entire life. Not because of how I looked — it's not about having on a fancy dress or having your hair and makeup done — but because of what I’d accomplished and worked so hard for. When you conquer something you didn’t think you could do, energy and confidence radiate out of you, and that's more beautiful than if you were skinny or had the perfect face.

That feeling is completely new for me. When you don't think you can do something, you have so much self-doubt — but then when you not only do it but do it well, you start believing in yourself. You feel unstoppable, like, OK, well, what else did I think I couldn’t do that I can? I'm excited to start working on my debut album, and at this point if someone said, "Hey, would you want to do this Broadway show?" I would say yes in a heartbeat.

This doesn't mean I'm invincible. I still have low moments. Just because I was celebrated on "Dancing With the Stars" doesn't mean the bullying has stopped. After the show started, I had to block almost 10 people every day on social media because they wouldn’t leave me alone. But when it happens now, I remind myself that focusing on people’s negative opinions will only make me feel like crap. If I start to get discouraged, I take a step back and go, All right, I don't feel great today, but what can I do to shift how I’m thinking? It's difficult, but the moment you stop saying, "I'm really fat," or "I'm ugly," and just say, "Wow, I have this," then you'll see a change.

Honestly, the best part of doing a reality show is having a platform for people to get to know me better. I feel like I have a voice for the first time and that I can say, "This is who I am, and this is what I’ve gone through." I've received an overwhelming outpouring of support. It’s amazing to know that I've been able to have a big impact on people.

What it comes down to is this: We all need to stop bullying ourselves and being cruel to other women. Attacking one another instead of supporting one another has become the norm. Life's hard enough as it is. Let’s find strength in the fact that we're different and unique. Let's allow ourselves to say, "These are my flaws, but I’m still beautiful." Let's find our own value, know what we have to offer — and know that that is enough.

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