From Dancing with the Stars to facing down online bullies, the birthday girl is all about being her best self

By Julia Emmanuele
August 16, 2015 12:50 PM
Noel Vasquez/Getty

You learn a lot over the course of 27 years, and we’ve learned from birthday girl Rumer Willis that one the most important lessons is discovering how to be proud of who you are.

The Dancing With the Stars winner has never shied away from talking about the challenges – both internal and external – that she’s overcome over the years, and her journey to self-acceptance has inspired all of us.

As Willis celebrates her birthday, let’s look back at five of her most empowering and inspiring moments.

1. When She Overcame Her Insecurities
Puberty is a difficult time for anyone, but when you’re growing up in the public eye, it’s like having all of your most awkward moments broadcast to the entire world. Willis knows that firsthand, as she tearfully admitted that dealing with mean comments about her looks her whole life had made her “uncomfortable in my own skin.” But, inspired by her younger sisters, Tallulah and Scout, she accepted who she was – and was able to channel all of her pain and insecurity into a stunning waltz on Dancing with the Stars that earned her a 35 out of 40 (and eventually, the mirrorball trophy). Take that, haters.

2. When She Battled Negativity With Self-Acceptance
Online bullies? Willis knows just how to deal with you and your insults: “When it happens now, I remind myself that focusing on people’s negative opinions will only make me feel like crap,” she told Glamour. “If I start to get discouraged, I take a step back and go, ‘All right, I don’t feel great today, but what can I do to shift how I’m thinking?’ It’s difficult, but the moment you stop saying, ‘I’m really fat’ or ‘I’m ugly’ and just say, ‘Wow, I have this,’ then you’ll see a change.”

3. When She Learned That the Most Important Opinion Is Her Own
Sure, winning Dancing with the Stars is great, but the real victory for Willis was the confidence she gained in the process. When she unveiled the tattoo she got to commemorate her journey on the show, Willis wrote, “I got this as a reminder that what we are searching for can only be found within yourself….not from your job, how much money you make, who your dating, how many followers you have. The value and love you have for yourself can only come from within and I am so grateful to have had such an incredible experience to help me understand that.”

4. When She Shook Off the Haters
As Taylor Swift once said, “Haters gonna hate (hate, hate, hate, hate),” Willis has proven that the best thing to do in those situations is, indeed, to shake it off. She told PEOPLE: “If you let your value be determined by what other people think, you’re screwed.”

5. When She Encouraged Everyone Else to Find Beauty in Their Flaws
Even though Willis has finally reached a place in her life where she is happy with who she is, her journey isn’t over yet: She wants to make sure that others are able to experience the same kind of self-assurance, and she’s more than willing to help them along the way: “Let’s find strength in the fact that we’re different and unique,” she told Glamour. “Let’s allow ourselves to say, ‘These are my flaws, but I’m still beautiful.’ Let’s find our own value, know what we have to offer – and know that that is enough.”

Happy birthday, Ru!