Updated: Apr 29, 2021
It starts innocently enough. You walk into your closet in the morning and do what is necessary. “If you are not a nudist, style is for you.”, says Tan France. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any nudists, meaning we all need to get dressed, to cover our body in some form or another.
We have thoughts circulating in our minds that sabotage our true style potential. I picture them as style skeletons.
Some of them literally manifest into a physical form (think that dress I wore 15 years ago to my graduation). Unfortunately, many of them live back in the dusty cobwebs of our brain, leaving us subconsciously unaware of how dirty, old, and blocking they truly are. Following is a written cemetery of the skeletons I encounter most often in my own closet and that of my clients and some thoughts on how to start burying them for good. We'll start with:
1. Living in a fantasy
This is my # 1 because it is by far the one skeleton I meet the most. It rattles its bones like this:
“Once I lose 10 pounds, I will go shopping/wear that dress/feel better about myself/dare to wear that shirt."
“That dress used to fit and I loved it. It will fit again.”
“When I was younger, … (insert what made you happy about your body that you were not grateful for back then).”
“Before I became a mom, I wore A/B/C.”
“Once I start going out again, … (or right now: “Once this darn pandemic is over, …”).
Have you had any of these “living in the past/future”- thoughts before? Actually, scratch that. I know you have at some point in your adult style life. It is in a way, as they so often say, human nature to strive for more/different/better in the future and to reminisce about the grass that once was greener. Taking a closer look at the initial conditional “Once I weigh less/go out/have time for this... .“, reframes these thoughts into
“I SHOULD weigh less/go out more/be this other woman.”
In short, it’s about who we think we are supposed to be to make us worthy of love and acceptance. As common as these thoughts are, sadly they also waste a lot of mental energy, time, and money. I’m not gonna lie, this stinker is a tough one. Accepting what is in the here and now requires conscious effort, be it for your body or current circumstance.
This problem is so substantial that I see a whole other blog post just about this topic on the horizon, but for now, let’s understand some basics. Here's what happens when we live in fairyland too often:
We start dressing another woman - the woman with the younger or thinner or curvier or whatnot body, the woman who used to work a different job or used to have a different social life, the woman we think we are supposed to be. Turns out our closet has morphed into her closet (we’re addressing this in the next post but as you can guess “I have nothing to wear!” is highly connected to this).
There are several strategies to dress for the life you are living right now, but the first step towards a healthy state of mind is actually recognizing these thoughts in the first place.
Awareness is the first step into style freedom.
Next time you go into your closet:
Give yourself 5 more minutes.
Put one hand on your heart and one on your tummy.
Close your eyes.
Take several deep breaths.
The idea behind this is signaling to your brain that you are in a safe, non-stressful situation (best place to be for rational decisions as opposed to rash fight or flight selections). Now, ask yourself, how are you feeling at this moment? Be specific. "Good" or "Bad" are mere labels. "Happy", "Frustrated", "Confident", "Confused" and the like are what we are going for. Open your eyes and look at your clothes. Dressing the woman you are today requires that you are able to name how she is actually feeling and detect when these blocking thoughts of inadequacy arise. Meet those thoughts with self-kindness and compassion. If that size 4 dress used to fit 5 years ago then it belongs to another woman. Your action to lift this block is to let go of that dress and to choose something you truly LOVE and feel good in. You deserve that every day.
Awareness + Self-compassion + Action
Acceptance and Self-love in the present
On a broader scale, these feelings of “shoulds, ifs, and whens” to "deserve" self-love and being loved are kept in the dark all too often. To let go of them they have to “come out” of the closet (sorry, I couldn't help myself, lol). We have all had these thoughts yet we rarely talk about them. Finding the courage to tell each other our true story ironically gives us the power to reach exactly that feeling of love and acceptance that we all long for. For further reading on this, I highly recommend “The Gifts of Imperfection" by the wonderful Brené Brown. Her phrase "hustling for worthiness" sums up exactly what these fantasy land thoughts are.