There was the following passage in Vanity Fair magazine’s (January 7 issue) article under the headline, “Meryl Streep responds to Russell Crowe’s controversial comments about ageism in Hollywood”:

Russell Crowe raised some eyebrows with comments made during an Australian magazine interview about not believing that there is ageism in Hollywood, particularly for actresses. He argued that if actors were simply more willing to "live in your own skin—and act their age, you can work." He even went so far as to point out "Meryl Streep (64) will give you 10,000 examples and arguments as to why the ageism rumors are bullshit."

As for his comments denying that actresses have a hard time being cast as they get older,—after literally waving off his remarks, Streep continued, “I agree with him. It’s good to live within the place that you are.”

I was drawn to the phrase,"Live in one’s own skin.” I assume it means to live within the age and place that you are, as the great actress put it.

I searched the meaning and usage of ”live in one’s own skin” on Google, which did not show the phrase, but Wiktionary had an entry for “Comfortable in one’s own skin” together with the following definition:

(idiomatic) Relaxed and confident in one's manner of presenting oneself and interacting with others; conveying the impression that one has a clear, satisfying understanding of one's own abilities and situation.

What does “Live in one’s own skin” mean? Is it same with, or different from “Comfortable in one’s own skin” in meaning and nuance? Is“Live in one’s own skin” a common and popular figure of speech?

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They are essentially equivalent phrases, but to me "live in one's own skin" has a bit more of an implication to it of activity and interaction with others, where being "comfortable in one's own skin" has an air of self-satisfaction regardless of the presence of, or reactions of, others. The former seems to me to somewhat connote that you are hoping for others to honor your own skin that you yourself have accepted while you live in it, while the latter is the internal contentment achievable by accepting oneself and not desiring to change one's nature, and pretty clearly does not involve others in its meaning.

The former is used notably less commonly than the latter, although Google Ngrams seems to indicate that it is only since the 1980's that the self-realization form has overtaken the other.

  • Google Ngrams is telling. Could you explain me why it's one's own "skin," not other parts of body, e.g. face, hands, and legs? What does skin represent as a simile? – Yoichi Oishi Jan 9 '15 at 22:35
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    I don't think it's a simile but rather a literal interpretation, intended to mean "your whole body", which is all literally "in" (inside) your skin. If another body part were used, it would seem to imply only being comfortable with one's hands or feet, but not the rest of one's body. The phrase is intended to convey a contentment with the current state of one's entire body. – Mark Thompson Jan 10 '15 at 8:13

“To be comfortable in one’s (or your) own skin” is the usual expression; “to live in one’s (or your) own skin” takes that expression as a starting point and slightly tweaks it. Russell Crowe thereby seems to have added, or emphasised, the sense of 'being willing to present yourself as the person you really are, and to accept whatever that implies'.

So though “[to] live in your own skin” is not an idiom in its own right, it is close enough to the more familiar form of the expression that it would be readily understandable to most native speakers of English.

  • As opposed to living in a fox-skin. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 9 '15 at 22:30
  • @EdwinAshworth - Jacha-chacha-chacha-chow! – Erik Kowal Jan 9 '15 at 22:37
  • I've still not forgiven you for posting that link. I've had to replace my speakers (admittedly on a different system). – Edwin Ashworth Jan 9 '15 at 22:40
  • @EdwinAshworth - The good news is, you now have much better speakers. :) – Erik Kowal Jan 9 '15 at 22:42

If you live in one's own skin, you are living under the same circumstances which the other person lives, to be more precise you endure the same pain, come across the same difficulties and so on. It means the same meaning as "to be in smb.'s shoes". I think so.

  • Please avoid abbreviations (smb.s) unless absolutely necessary. Dictionaries resort to abbreviations for reason of space e.g. "somebody" and "something" (sth) are words that are frequently used in definitions so it makes sense that they are abbreviated. Less so in your short answer. – Mari-Lou A Jan 9 '15 at 5:23

In Hollywood, there is a lot of pressure on actors to be young and "fresh."

Just about "everyone" starts out that way, but no one can stay "under twenty-five," or "under thirty" for very long.

As people get older, their skin starts to wrinkle. That's not a bad thing, except in Hollywood.

So to "live in one's skin" is to be comfortable with the fact that your skin is becoming wrinkled in particular, and that you are getting older in general. Russell Crowe pointed out sixtyish Meryl Streep as someone who does this particularly well.

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