As HGTV star Joanna Gaines prepares for the birth of her and Chip’s fifth child, she opened up about the deep, bruising struggles she experienced growing up. We may admire her for her confidence and level-headedness, but her struggles were difficult for her to overcome. Gaines, 39, before she was ever a household name, was an insecure schoolgirl trying to make her way in a harsh world.
“If you haven’t heard my story, my mom is full Korean and my dad is Caucasian,” she said in an interview with Darling magazine. “Kids in kindergarten would make fun of me for being Asian and when you’re that age you don’t know really how to process that; the way you take that is, ‘Who I am isn’t good enough.’”
Her struggle with her identity did not end in kindergarten. It got worse after her family moved to Texas and she joined a new and much larger school.
“In the lunchroom everyone was a blur and I was thinking, ‘How do people do this? How do you find that one person to sit with?’” she said. “So I literally walked in the lunchroom and walked out and went into the bathroom. My fear and my insecurities just took over and I felt like I’d way rather sit in the stall than get rejected.”
Fortunately, things got better when her family relocated to Waco, Texas, where she thrived in the close-knit environment that helped her feel good with herself and at ease: “It was easy to make friends there,” she said.
But her confidence, which grew with each passing year, was tested again when she entered her last semester of college in New York City.
“I was by myself again where it was just me in a big city, and I remember that came back up again — just the thought of, ‘Am I good enough?’” she said. “For six months I wrestled with my identity and the themes of, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What’s my purpose?’… and I kept remembering that time in the bathroom.”
Joanna found a way to fight through those dark moments, and in the process realized that she could use her pain to help other women suffering the same ordeal. It was then that she discovered her passion.
“I discovered that my purpose was to help people who are insecure because I didn’t like the way it made me feel, in that stall; that’s not who I am,” she said. “So while I was in New York I really felt like God was telling me that I would be able to help women who weren’t confident, who were looking for guidance or who were lonely.”
That desire to help others translates directly into how she guides her four children to reach out to those kids who feel down about their identities and place in the world. It’s also helped her find the confidence to give back to the community through her multi-talented business skills.
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