Having been in the public eye for decades, Scarlett Johansson seemingly knows a thing or two about what it’s like to have all eyes on her. But the 37-year-old admits she hasn’t always been super comfortable in her own skin during a candid new interview with The Cut.
“We’re all so critical of ourselves,” she told the publication. “And it seems even more so now because everybody’s always constantly looking at photographs of themselves, which is a phenomenon that’s maybe ten years old,” she continued, referring to the current selfie and social media culture.
“Now, you can take a picture of yourself and zoom in and dissect it,” she explained. “It’s hard to not be hypercritical of ourselves and others.” (See: Bethenny Frankel Just Made an Important Point About Filtered Photos On Instagram)
That same hyperfixation caused by the ability to see yourself in almost too much detail in digital images goes hand-in-hand with Johansson’s biggest beauty regret, as she revealed to The Cut. “I wish I didn’t pick my skin so much when I was younger, I could’ve avoided so much scarring and drama,” she said in the recent interview. “It was really hard for me to get over that compulsive need to touch my face a lot or pick my skin.”
Even though it might be a natural urge to pick at a zit or a scab from time to time, for some people, a compulsive skin-picking habit can become a serious long-term struggle. Dermatillomania (aka excoriation or skin-picking disorder) is a recognized mental disorder similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it can cause “significant distress” to those who suffer, according to the International OCD Foundation. It involves “repeated picking at one’s own skin, resulting in skin blemishes, scars, or lesions,” Terri Bacow, Ph.D., New York City-based psychologist and author of Goodbye Anxiety, previously told Shape.
Although the Black Widow star didn’t specify whether or not she struggled with dermatillomania specifically, she did share what helped her kick her skin-picking habit. It took a little tough love from her older sister, she explained. “Finally, my sister told me to throw away the magnifying mirror,” recalled Johansson. “She said, ‘Nobody is looking at your pores that closely, and it’s a liability.’ It was the simplest advice but really true for me, especially because I can get compulsive about my skin.”
Johansson seems to have come a long way in her ability to feel confident, both in private and in the public eye. “I don’t think [being photographed in public is] ever gonna be something I’m totally comfortable with, but I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve gotten older,” she shared. “I used to feel so terribly petrified on the red carpet. I felt like I was having a heart attack.”
Another thing she’s gotten better at over the years? “As I’ve gotten older, I try to be more forgiving of the way that I look at myself,” she told the publication. Now, she sees the “abstract” concept of beauty as something deeper than looking good in a photo or magnifying mirror. “Beauty is this elusive quality that comes from being comfortable in your own skin,” she concluded.
Most people might never find themselves under a white hot red carpet spotlight like Johansson, but plenty can surely relate to the urge to zoom in and fixate on perceived “flaws.” Hopefully, fans can take a cue from the actress and be a bit kinder to themselves, even when it feels tough.