Elizabeth Banks on learning to 'age gracefully': 'I've never felt more confident'
The Unwind is Yahoo Life's well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.
Considering that her latest directorial effort, Cocaine Bear, is the number-one movie in the country right now, it's understandable why Elizabeth Banks says she's overcome any sense of impostor syndrome or self-doubt at this point in her life. Armed with a box office hit and a new beauty campaign for the No7 skin care brand, the actress and filmmaker is feeling pretty damn good as she embarks on the last year of her 40s.
"I've never felt more confident," Banks tells Yahoo Life. "I've never felt more like I'm living in my power. My kids are amazing, I'm really excited by my work ... and more importantly, any sense of impostor syndrome or any lack of confidence, like, it's all gone. I'm like, you know what? Actually I am experienced. I have life experience and wisdom and strength and, you know, I'm still here. I'm still active and doing things and I'm more in control of my life than I ever have been. And all of those things are sort of feeding me in a way that just wouldn't have happened when you're younger."
The Hunger Games star credits No7's products — a favorite being the Lift & Luminate Triple Action Serum — with "helping me just stay confident as I get older," admitting that she was initially wary when her dermatologist suggested a few years ago that it might be time to start trying retinol. Growing up with acne-prone skin and accustomed to having various products put on her skin as part of her work as an actress — "I've done it all" — Banks is generally change-adverse and feared the skin care ingredient would "dry me out." But she's found that the British brand's creams are still hydrating and make her feel good, inside and out.
"What I've really come to realize too is that I have to really treat my skin holistically," she says. "Like, my skin is an external reflection of my internal wellness.. ... I can age gracefully and I'm taking care of myself."
The Pitch Perfect star has other ways of making sure she's feeling her best.
"Water and sleep have become my best friends," says Banks, who considers herself a "pretty good sleeper." She also starts the day with hydration, and won't drink coffee, tea or any other beverage until she's downed a full glass of water. Spending time outside — "and I don't mean just like running to the subway or like, from your front door to your car" — is another essential practice she's sworn by since childhood.
"Go outside ... let your body take in the light," she says. "As soon as you get up, go outside and just breathe the air. That's really helped me just ground myself every day."
Banks is also big on setting boundaries, whether that's saying no to unnecessary tasks or tuning out trolls.
"I don't get involved with online negativity — for my mental health, for everything," says the Charlie's Angels director, who has previously spoken out against Hollywood's beauty standards. "If I leave the house feeling good and confident, I don't need to know that somebody online was like, 'Ew, she did what?' Like, who the hell cares about somebody's opinion that I don't know. I don't know you, I'm never gonna meet you, you don't know me and you are not gonna affect my mental health about how I feel, look, age, any of it. So I just like to remind people that you don't have to read comments — you just don't. I don't turn them off. I just don't get involved with any of it, and I think that's really hard for people to do."
Banks also tries to avoid overthinking any photo she might post on social media, or worrying that something needs to be edited or put through a flattering filter. It's OK for a selfie to be "cute enough," or to post something because of how you felt at the time as opposed to how you look.
How we look online has "infiltrated so many people's self-perceptions," she says. "'What am I going to put out online and how am I going to present myself and whatever?' We're thinking about it more than ever. I mean, can you imagine your grandmother thinking about which picture she was going to post on Facebook and whether her hair was too gray? Like, what are we doing to ourselves?"
At this stage in her career, Banks feels lucky to have more control over her life, from being able to choose what work project she takes on next to the luxury of taking weeks off at a time to just hang out with her two sons and husband Max Handelman. She credits advice from Shonda Rhimes with helping her prioritize her time and energy.
"She said, people are going come to you when you're a leader. When you've got a lot going on, people are going to constantly come to you with their emergencies. And you have to figure out what's an actual emergency that requires your time, energy and mental health, and what is just something that can just keep on keeping on — like, you don't really have to fully get involved with [it]?" Banks shares. "And I've been getting better and better about being like, 'you know what, I don't need to take that on. That's not actually an emergency that requires me.'"
Right now she's focusing on "understanding what actually needs my immediate attention and what can be delegated, frankly, to other people." Not every email needs a response, and other people can be left to figure out how to solve a non-pressing issue, and things "are going to work out."
"Don't let me take on somebody else's version of an emergency," she adds. "It might feel like an emergency to them, but it's not an emergency to me."
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