Joanna Gaines Once Revealed She Locked Herself in a School Bathroom as a Child Because She Didn’t Have Any Friends

It’s hard to believe there was a time when HGTV star Joanna Gaines felt out of place and lonely. Today, the icon palls around with friends like Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez of Johnnyswim fame

However, Gaines recalls when she felt deeply out of place in school. Though she describes a few hard periods of self-doubt in her life, she’s since used them to find additional purpose in the multi-million dollar Magnolia platform she now runs with her husband, Chip

Joanna Gaines felt out of place in school

Joanna Gaines
Joanna Gaines on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 | Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

In a video for a Palm Sunday service in her adopted hometown of Waco, Texas, Gaines briefly shared about moments of deep insecurity she faced in school. Much of it stemmed from being biracial, as her mother is Korean and her father is Caucasian. 

“I’ll never forget an experience I had with the school lunchroom,” Gaines recalled in the video (shared by Baylor University). “I remember standing there and seeing this sea of people. All eyes were on me. And I was thinking, ‘Who is going to be my friend? Who am I going to sit with?”

The pressure felt like too much. Gaines fled the room that day in favor of solitude in the bathroom. “I started walking through that lunchroom. Then I remember darting straight out, and I found a bathroom, locked myself in the stall,” she said. “In those moments is when I really believe that that’s where the lie was sewn. That who I was wasn’t good enough.”

Gaines found purpose in her self-doubt

Gaines dug deeper into the story in a 2018 interview with Darling magazine. She said she first felt singled out by being called “Asian” in kindergarten. The lunchroom incident happened as a sophomore in high school, when her family first moved to Texas. “My fear and my insecurities just took over and I felt like I’d way rather sit in the stall than get rejected,” Gaines explained. 

Gaines faced her questions of self-worth during her last semester of college when she moved to New York City. She came to terms with questions about her purpose during that time. And in her business today seeks to give other women confidence in their own giftings, especially when designing their homes. 

“I discovered that my purpose was to help people who are insecure because I didn’t like the way it made me feel, in that stall; that’s not who I am,” the design maven said. “That’s not who I was made to be, but I let one stupid lie overcome my thoughts.”

The Fixer Upper star said that today, she finds joy in sharing her gift of home design and boosting the confidence of other women around her to create beauty in their living spaces, too. “I think when you can use your strength to make other people confident, that’s when the dynamics start changing and you start seeing more growth in others,” she said. 

Gaines’ former insecurities impact how she parents 

In addition to running the Magnolia brand with her husband, Gaines is a mother to five children ages 3 to 18. Her own childhood experiences have shaped some of the advice she gives to Drake, Ella Rose, Duke, Emmie Kay, and Crew. 

“I always tell my kids to look for that kid on the playground who’s not playing with anybody, to go reach out, ask them their name, to look for the kid in the lunchroom who isn’t sitting by anybody, be their friend,” Gaines said in the Darling interview. 

According to Gaines, feeling out of place gave her a sense of humility she never wants to forget. Instead, she wants to encourage others to find their confidence — and help her children similarly impact people. “That experience grounded me in that I want to look for the lonely, the sad, the people who aren’t confident, because that’s not where they’re supposed to stay,” Gaines said. 

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