Actress Connie Britton: Parenting, Women's Roles, and Finding Self-Worth

Like most parents, actress Connie Britton admits that finding that elusive "me time" can be a bit of a challenge. "I used to take long baths, but that has gone by the wayside," says the actress, who is mom to son Yoby. "Even when I finally get him to bed and have a moment, [taking a bath] feels like so much work. I'm tired!"

Still, the beloved star, whose fame skyrocketed thanks to shows like Friday Night Lights and Nashville, says she's becoming more adept at knowing and asking for what she needs and wants, a skill she credits to years of practice. "I stand up for myself much more now," says Connie, 51. "I've done a lot of conscious work around my own sense of value."

That is fitting, as one of Connie's roles was playing a successful entrepreneur who sacrifices everything when she becomes ensnared in the web of a dangerous con man on Bravo's new scripted series Dirty John, based on the popular podcast of the same name.

For Connie, the conversation around women standing up for themselves is about much more than her own personal journey. "We're in a real watershed moment for women," she says. "There may be pushback, but we have to be assertive about our truth. This is a time for more growth than ever."

Over an avocado salad in a corner booth of a restaurant near her L.A. home, Connie speaks candidly to Health about single motherhood, defying conventions, and the wellness ritual that keeps her sane.

Peggy Sirota

What drew you to the role of Debra Newell on Dirty John?

I'm always looking for a way to explore what makes us tick as women. We're all influenced by the things in our lives that created us. Particularly now with the #MeToo movement, we have the opportunity to look at the traditions that have been handed down to us—to realize that 50 years ago, we weren't even allowed to have a credit card.

We were encouraged to find a man and take care of him—that was our job. I saw this role as an opportunity to say, "OK, instead of judging this woman—like, how could she stay with this guy?—let's look at the specific set of circumstances that she grew up in." There is a part of Debra that bases her sense of value on a man, and I think that's a common thing because we come from that history. It's hard for us to look at ourselves as we stand alone and say, "I'm enough."

What were the circumstances that helped shape you?

I'm very aware of the way that I was brought up [in Lynchburg, Virginia]—to be polite, not ever get angry, and defer to others. I had to reshape a lot of that. But even though it was a traditional home, my sister and I were always told that we could do anything we wanted.

Peggy Sirota

How has it been balancing work and parenting?

It is very difficult to be a working parent. And I'm a single mom, which adds a whole other element. If something out of the blue or scary happens and you have someone to bounce that off of, you're ahead of the game.

It can be incredibly challenging. There are areas of my life that don't feel full—time for myself, time for a relationship. Finding that balance is hard, but we shouldn't put so much pressure on ourselves. I have days where it's like, "Wow, I succeeded as a mom today" or "I succeeded at work today." It's not all perfect.

How do you find your center when things seem off?

Meditation has been a big part of my adult life—meditation, breathing, and connecting to whatever is my own version of my center. It can be 10 minutes; it can be in the car while I'm driving or just taking a deep breath before I'm about to shoot a scene.

It's about going deeper than the external noise. To me, that's a really important tool. And I really believe it helps with wrinkles. We can change our body chemistry through meditation.

Peggy Sirota

What is your workout philosophy?

I don't love the gym. For a good part of my 20s, while I was pounding the pavement auditioning for acting roles, I taught aerobics in New York. I did step class or good old high-impact aerobics and calisthenics. I spent a lot of time in gyms, but now I really love a mind-body-spirit kind of workout, and that's more easily done outside—swimming, hiking, or yoga.

Do you have a beauty regimen?

I have an embarrassingly uncomplicated routine. I do have potions that I put on at night and in the morning. I am obsessed with Beautycounter. But I'm really simple. I'm so boring in that way!

I should probably not say this, but I'm not going to make it up—I have mousy brown hair. The first time I dyed it red was when I got a job playing Ariel the Little Mermaid at a toy fair in New York City. It was the worst job ever! I had never colored my hair before, and they said I could do a rinse-out dye. I started putting in highlights after that, and then eventually I went red.

Do you keep a strict diet?

I've done a bunch of cleanses over the years. Raw food really worked for me, and so did the Blood Type Diet. But now that I've turned 50, it's not so easy.

I used to be able to exercise or change what I eat, and in a few days I was good, but that doesn't happen anymore. I'm in a new phase, and I haven't figured it out yet.

But moderation is important. I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and clean proteins. And I try to stay away from sugar—it really is a drug for me. It not only impacts my weight, [but it also] impacts my body chemistry. Though if I could have a chocolate chip cookie or really anything that is chocolate, I would be a very happy camper.

How has your sense of your self changed as you've gotten older?

It's true what they say—your body really does change. And I do for sure have those times when I don't feel good in my skin. In your 40s, you have this genuinely acquired grounded wisdom, and your body is still recognizable. In your late 40s, it's like, "What is happening?"

But I'm not super hard on myself, and I allow myself to feel sexy. We have to be patient with ourselves. We are constantly evolving.

Peggy Sirota

What are your thoughts on social media?

I'm not a fan of it. I think it's very hard to do social media when you're a parent. It feels like a job. And if you go deep into Instagram, you're seeing this very edited, censored version of what everyone is up to. It jumbles your brain.

Even without social media, I was constantly comparing myself to others. I had a strong impulse to be negative, and I think a lot of women deal with that. I hope we can start changing the way we speak to ourselves.

Is your life how you pictured it would be?

I never could have dreamed it. Every day I'm bursting with gratitude. At the same time, if you had asked me what my life would look like, there is so much that I couldn't have imagined. I probably thought I'd have biological children, which I haven't. I also thought I'd adopt a girl, and I got a boy! My family is very girl-dominated, so I was like, "What am I going to do with a boy?" He's such a great teacher to me.

What do you hope for next?

I'm toying with the idea of taking a little break. I've been working nonstop for a very long time, and part of that is because I really love it. But I also want to spend more time with my son and spend more time with myself.

I want to be able to breathe and be present in those moments. And it's hard because my mind is always going in 20 different directions. But those are the moments that serve me most. And maybe I'll get back to taking some of those baths!

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