What makes me so certain I'm beautiful Daddy's love… Samantha Brick reveals the secret of her self-belief
23:15 GMT, 12 April 2012
23:37 GMT, 12 April 2012
Daddy's girl: Samantha Brick with her father, Patrick, who she credits with giving her the self-belief to live a successful life
Just in case any of you were inhabiting another universe last week, I am currently recovering after becoming the subject of a very modern, global witch-hunt.
It’s certainly not an experience I am ever likely to forget. One minute I had written a piece about how being beautiful had always caused me difficulties with other women. The next I found myself pilloried and insulted online, on the radio and on TV shows around the world.
How dare I call myself beautiful Who did I think I was Had I not looked in the mirror recently Was I the most deluded woman in the world
The comments, most of them deeply insulting, came in thick and fast. I knew the article would cause controversy but no one was more shocked than me when I learned nearly three million people read it on the Mail website alone. Twitter was also ablaze with comments about my ‘arrogance’.
Since then I have appeared on TV to defend my position, and my darling husband Pascal, a carpenter, launched a spirited defence of me in this newspaper.
But now I’ve had time to reflect, one question, asked by many (mostly female) critics, has occupied my mind: why, unlike so many members of my sex, does my cup runneth over with self-confidence
The answer is simple: my beloved father, Patrick Brick. Ever since the day I came into this world, my dad, a retired nurse, has showered me with love and affection.
His love has been the key to my being able to love myself.
In the middle of last week’s media storm, he was the man I instinctively turned to. Yes, Pascal, my loving husband of four years, was behind me all the way, telling me that to him I was the most beautiful woman in the world. But Dad immediately knew — as he always has — what to say to make me feel better.
I called him from my home in France to ask what he thought. As ever, his support was instant and unwavering. First, he reassured me that those lambasting me were ‘very sad people with very shallow lives’.
Then, unable to understand why I’d become the focus of so much bitterness, he asked: ‘Why aren’t people directing such anger towards the real problems going on in this country You’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve struck a nerve and you’ve proved that your point is valid. Treat them with the contempt they deserve.’
Unwavering: Samantha says her father was the first person she turned to for support as last week's internet tempest descended around her
In that instant I felt better. And it occurred to me that without my adoring dad I would never have felt able to write the piece — let alone deal with the vicious onslaught that followed.
Unashamedly, I am a daddy’s girl, utterly confident in my father’s love. For as long as I can remember, I got birthday cards from him addressed to ‘my No 1 girl’. While he was probably referring to the fact I was his eldest daughter (he has five) I interpreted it as meaning I was No 1 in his life.
And it’s an outlook I have taken with me into my adulthood. It’s the reason why when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a 40-something woman with crow’s feet, squidgy cheeks sliding southwards and the beginnings of a crepey chest. I see a twinkly eyed temptress who grins confidently back at me — one who stands tall, proud and with masses of va-va-voom.
And it would seem I am not alone. Dr Linda Nielsen, author of a recent book on father-daughter relationships, agrees how a girl relates to her dad has the power to transform the way she feels about herself.
A psychologist based in the US, Dr Nielsen has studied for 24 years what she considers a very special bond. She believes that while society views the dynamic between mothers and daughters as the most important in a girl’s life, the connection between her and her father is in many ways more important.
‘It’s fathers who have the greater influence in shaping their daughters’ future,’ she says. ‘Research shows that fathers teach women how to successfully communicate with men, how to speak up for themselves and how to love themselves.
‘If a little girl gets Dad’s approval, even if she isn’t perfect or beautiful, she’ll go through life believing she’s fine as she is.’ That’s certainly my experience.
Special girl: Throughout her childhood, Samantha's father always told her she was beautiful and guided her through all her most difficult milestones
Yes, Dad taught me to swim and bought me my first dog, but from as far back as I can remember, he’d also sit me on his knee at our home in the Midlands and tell me of the special life I was going to have. He always made me feel loved and cherished.
He would tell stories of how he had grown up in poverty in Ireland and how he wanted the complete opposite for me.
I had a lazy eye when I was younger and it was Dad who determinedly ensured I had it fixed so I wouldn’t be picked on. I remember waking up from the operation at the age of eight and seeing him looking down at me telling me I was beautiful.
Throughout my life, every one of my boyfriends has had ‘the talk’ from my dad. He’d warn them I was his special girl, and if they mistreated me in any way they’d be answerable to him.
This week I told him of my theory that he was behind my belief I was beautiful. I asked him why he felt it was important I grew up feeling I was good-looking and mattered in the world. He said: ‘Women can be far nastier to each other than men. Raising five daughters I’ve seen enough over the years, from the way your friends often behaved towards you, to know there’s constant rivalry among women.
'I realised instilling self-confidence in my daughters would protect them from the inevitable difficulties they’d face as adults.’
Bond: Samantha's parents divorced when she was 16 – but she has always felt like No1 in her father's life
Dad’s daughters, from two marriages, now range in age from 18 to 41. When any of us need advice or a confidence boost, it’s still him we turn to. As sisters there have, of course, been occasional bouts of rivalry and jealousy — we each want to be the prettiest, the most intelligent, the funniest. But Dad’s made us all feel confident, and bestowed us with the belief we look good — whatever size or shape we are.
Even though Mum and Dad divorced when I was 16, I have never felt anything but No 1 in Dad’s life. He saw me through all the major milestones, and guided me through the angst-ridden teens. There was little I couldn’t talk to him about.
Yet the crucial father-daughter bond is often down-played. As Dr Nielsen says: ‘We live in a sexist society that tells us the mother is most important. Yet if you look at the research, that’s nonsense.
‘Girls who grow up without their fathers have sex younger, are more likely to fall pregnant as teenagers and are at higher risk of anorexia.’
When I appeared on ITV1’s This Morning last week, my interviewer Eamonn Holmes confided off-air that, just like my dad, he regularly tells his young daughter she’s beautiful because he wants her to enter adulthood with confidence.
Samantha on This Morning last week: She says
that, off-air, presenter Eamonn Holmes confided that he regularly tells
his young daughter she's beautiful because he wants her to enter
adulthood with confidence
Therapist Marisa Peer, author of the book Ultimate Confidence: The Secrets to Feeling Great About Yourself Every Day, also believes this approach is crucial. ‘The first man women encounter is their father,’ she says. ‘If he consistently praises you and compliments you on your looks, this becomes familiar.
‘If your dad loves you, treats you with respect and boosts your self-belief, you can do anything and go anywhere in the professional world.’
This viewpoint is mirrored in the stories of many successful women. Dawn French’s father Denis played a pivotal role in instilling confidence in her as a teenager. She says: ‘He sat me down and told me that I was beautiful, that I was the most precious thing in his life, that he prized me above all else, and that he was proud to be my father.’
Gwyneth Paltrow refers gushingly to her father, the late U.S. director and producer Bruce Paltrow, in just about every interview she gives.
It’s not just famous women, either. After my article, I received emails from hundreds of females who, like me, had suffered jealousy from other women as a result of their looks. Many confessed to having strong relationships with their fathers.
In love: Samantha says she's glad for her relationship with her husband Pascal, a strong, masculine partner who would walk over hot coals to ensure no harm comes to me just like her father
Take Angela, 33, from Cardiff, who runs her own IT company. She said: ‘By boosting my confidence from an early age, my dad gave me fearlessness, and I have succeeded in a man’s world.’ While Helen, 27, from Edinburgh, wrote: ‘He was the first man to tell me I’m beautiful.’
This comment struck a chord, for I’ll never forget my school prom at 16. My father’s eyes watered when I walked into our living room in a long, strapless, black dress. Mum was always lovely to me but when Dad said I was stunning, it meant more.
Dr Nielsen believes for women to succeed, mothers need to back off and allow fathers to develop their own relationship. ‘Mothers do get jealous but it’s crucial for father and daughter to spend time alone, communicating with each other,’ she says. ‘This way, daughters grow up able to talk to men easily and confidently, and avoid picking the wrong life partner.’
I’m so glad I found Pascal, a strong, masculine partner who would walk over hot coals to ensure no harm comes to me — just like Dad.
And, no matter what strangers say about me, I will continue to look in the mirror and see a strong, attractive woman: one who, thanks to my father, won’t ever cower down or walk away — even when it feels like the whole world is against her.