Helen Mirren’s secret trick for self-confidence that anyone can do

The Oscar-winning actor on rule-breaking, embracing later life and the difference sitting up straight can make to your life.

Helen Mirren has revealed that her secret to self-confidence is her posture and that she wouldn’t want to be at any other stage of her life right now.

In a panel event this month for L’Oreal Paris, she told beauty journalist Nadine Biggot that she adores getting older and credits her mother for giving her such a positive outlook.

Mirren recalled her mother’s words of wisdom: “She always said to me, ‘Darling, never worry about getting older. When you’re 20 the thought of being 40 is terrible, but you’ll find when you get to be 40 you won’t want to be 20 again, because you’ve got wonderful advantages.

“You’ve lost certain things, but you’ve gained an awful lot more.’”

Helen Mirren with a bun in her hair wearing a bright pink top with a large bowCredit: Shutterstock/Fred Duval

An RSC-trained actor, Mirren’s big breakthrough role was in 1980 starring opposite Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday. However, it was Prime Suspect, a role she played in her forties, that really cemented her as a household name.

Speaking about the role, she revealed she felt very lucky as the early Nineties were a difficult time for actors of a certain age.

“I was in my 40s – and that’s always a very difficult moment for actresses, moving from your beautiful young freshness into your maturity,” she said.

“The mature side is not allowed, not interesting… That was the sort of extremely sexist and ageist world that I grew up. I was lucky that Prime Suspect allowed me to move into that other world.”

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Helen Mirren’s secret to self-confidence

As a woman who has worked with literally everyone in the acting world, Mirren said she still uses the advice of acclaimed actor, Sir John Gielgud, when she needs a boost of self-confidence. And it’s something we can all do – very easily.

“John Gielgud always said, ‘It’s all in the spine’ and you know that’s very true,” she said.

“Sitting up immediately changes everything. It’s amazing and gives that feeling of ‘taking my space’. I’m taking up space this is my space and I’m filling it up.”

“Don’t let anyone else take your space from you. It’s your space. You’re the only one in the world like. You’re literally one of a kind take your space and maintain it.”

How important is posture as we get older?

“Posture is really important to our overall health,” says therapist (MSc.) and Pilates instructor, Tracy Richardson.

“Posture comes from the core as a foundation, the musculature around the trunk, abdominals, back and pelvic floor. Promoting an upright, but relaxed posture, and a whole body approach to core strength also helps to improve balance and stability.

This in turn enhances your ability to function and perform everyday activities such as walking, turning and reaching with ease.”

If you want to improve your posture, Tracy suggests Mirren’s idea of sitting up straight is a good idea.

“All you need to do is imagine a piece of string pulling you up really tall from the crown of your head, drawing you upward towards the ceiling,” she says.

“Think about your spine gradually lengthening. This draws you into an upright, but relaxed, spinal posture, that simultaneously lifts your chest and helps to align your back, shoulders and neck.”

You can do this sitting or standing and is a great at opening up the chest area, perfect if you’ve been sitting at your desk or car for long periods.

Mirren, who has been an ambassador for L’Oreal Paris since 2014, has never been one to follow beauty rules. She enjoys experimenting with makeup and doesn’t let age dictate her style choices.

“I’m always wearing things that are completely, if you like, inappropriate, but I love just love sort of shaking it up. It’s good to break the rules, isn’t it?”

That same rule breaking energy also meant Mirren decided to eschew societal expectations when it came to her hair.

“I grew it long deliberately because I knew it was an unacceptable thing for old women to have long grey hair,” she said laughing.

When asked about her age, Mirren is unapologetic about her years. “I feel the age that I am with all the curiosity I have about life, the knowledge I have about life,” she said. “I love being the age I am. It’s great, so why would I want to be someone else? I don’t.”

Great British Menu host and writer Andi Oliver, who was also on the panel, agreed, saying we shouldn’t fear getting older.

“I do think that we don’t necessarily need to be scared of the word old,” she said.

“It’s that we conflate the word old with decay and with death and with disappearing and vanishing, but actually it’s about wisdom and confidence and empowerment.”

What’s next for Mirren?

Mirren’s varying career has seen her star on the stage in Shakespeare and also in hugely popular film franchises, such as Marvel and Fast and Furious, however, she refers to her career as ‘just trudging on’.

As for what comes next, it will inevitably be something that scares her!

“It’s the thing that has scared me the most, that I feel I should do,” she explained. “If I fail or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

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For Mirren, who says she’s not growing old, but growing up, she feels this act of life is one for learning and not being so inward as she was when younger.

“One of the great advantages of getting order is you’re not so self-concerned all the time,” she said.

“It’s not all about you. It becomes about the wider world and it’s so much more interesting than when it’s all about you. You look outward much more than you look inward.”

As for her younger outward looking self, when asked what advice she would give her, Mirren answered the question in the only way a rule breaker could.

“Use SPF, but also don’t smoke as it’s terrible for everything. Also, learn this phrase ‘F*** off’!” she said.

Watch the full interview here

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Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her

Updated:

Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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