Amy Poehler: "It’s a struggle sometimes, to not apologise for yourself."

Image: Amy Poehler at the Australian premiere of Inside Out (Getty).

For many women, Amy Poehler is like the patron saint of joyful, unapologetic confidence. It’s this quality — along with her obvious talent, wit and drive — that’s helped the 43-year-old forge a successful path and respect in a field that’s highly competitive and still largely male-oriented.

Yet in a new interview with The Guardian, the comedian, actress and director admits she grapples with the same self-defensive habits so many of us employ, like making jokes at our own expense and needlessly apologising.

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“It’s a struggle sometimes, to not apologise for yourself. It’s not easy. I have to really work at it, to not look in the mirror and think, ‘God, I hate my face.’ That demon is always there,” Poehler tells writer Hadley Freeman.

“[Self-deprecation] can be super-charming, but it’s also self-eroding. You also shouldn’t pretend to be harder than you are. It’s about fine-tuning the channel.”

Saying ‘sorry’ when you feel you’ve done something wrong is one thing, but so often we — women in particular, it seems — find ourselves apologising for not fitting societal expectations of appearance, behaviour or even the spaces we inhabit.

For so long women were expected to be small, meek, humble, kindly and not forthcoming with opinions or attitude; even now, this has a bearing on how many of us go about our lives.

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Recently, Nicole Kidman recalled how, in her younger years, she used to be ‘afraid of her own power’ and would adjust her behaviour so that she wouldn’t threaten or intimidate other people. “It’s a great sadness wishing to be less than you actually are. And it’s hard to take on the world when you’re constantly in a battle with yourself,” the actress said.

Nicole Kidman was "afraid of her own power". (via Getty)

“Women are too susceptible to the voice that tells us we need to be accepted… [this] leads women to second-guess our decisions, to ignore our own confidence, to revert to a place that we think is safe, acceptable."

Amy Poehler seems to agree with this, and refuses to be limited by her diminutive stature or "cute" appearance. The Parks and Recreation star sees life as "like being attacked by a bear", and says it's important to steel yourself accordingly.


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“You can run, you can pretend to be dead or you can make yourself bigger. So, if you’re my stature, you stand on a chair and bang a pan and scream and shout as if you’re going to attack the bear," she tells The Guardian.

"This is my go-to strategy. I really liked being pregnant, for example, because I got to take up more space.”

Amy Poehler promoting her new film Inside Out. (Getty)

The mum of two says she also gets a kick out of seeing people react to women who defy those old-fashioned expectations and aren't afraid to be brash or opinionated or angry.

“It’s super-exciting to not care if you’re liked, and to watch someone’s face as they realise that. It’s fun defying expectations about me. It’s a nice secret weapon," she says.

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As if there aren't already enough reasons to admire Amy Poehler (hello — she dreamed up the character of Leslie Knope!), she's also famous for her love and support of other women in the industry.

For instance, she played a huge role in making TV series Broad City the comedy hit it is today, and her long-time friendship and collaborations with Tina Fey prove there's no need to cut other women down in order to succeed. (Post continues after video.)

As a mother, Poehler's especially perplexed by the tendency of some women to judge and criticise how others go about raising their children.

“It’s so wild. People get so personal, and you’re so sensitive. You think you’re above it, then you see yourself doing it," she tells The Guardian.

"Just give yourself a break. I wish I could go back sometimes because, God, I really put myself through the wringer about what type of mother I was supposed to be. I used flash cards on my eight-month-old. I mean, fuck!”

Do you find it hard to not apologise for yourself?

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