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I used to feel a lot of anxiety about what I wore.
It seemed strange—I had been in the fashion industry well over two decades at that point. I had been a buyer for many of Australia’s leading fashion retailers and was a judge on “Project Runway Australia.”
Yet, I still felt the all too common insecurities about what to wear.
I used to nervously wonder, is it just me who feels this?
Yet, the results of a survey of 2,000 women, published in the Daily Mail in 2015, reported that the average woman spends five months of her working life choosing what to wear! They also reported that 45 percent of women find deciding what to wear stressful.
It’s pretty clear, I wasn’t alone. And I was puzzled: I knew how to put an outfit together, yet getting dressed could still be an ordeal.
So, I got curious. Why do I feel so indecisive?
I discovered that the dysfunctional thought patterns that play out in our lives also wreak havoc on our wardrobe.
For me, lo and behold, this particular pattern was the “pleaser.”
As a kid I had taken on the role as “pleaser” in my family. Growing up in a fairly chaotic home environment, with five of us born in seven years, I really disliked feeling unsafe when my siblings or parents would argue. It created such inner tension for me and I would do anything to alleviate it.
Very early on in life, I conjured up in my mind a strategy that saw me trying to keep everyone happy. I developed a strong empathic streak that allowed me to read others, and I went into action trying to please them.
Fast-forward into my 40s and one day, I am standing in front of the mirror getting dressed, and I hear this quiet inner voice that says, “You can’t wear that, they will think you disrespect them.”
What? Disrespect them? Puzzled, I wondered what that meant.
As a keen meditator and mindfulness practitioner, I had become alert to the voices in my head and was especially interested in this one.
As I inquired more, I realised that I had spent most of my life dressing primarily for others, rather than myself. I believed, somewhere deep inside me, that I needed to please them and look “perfect,” or they would see me as being disrespectful toward them, and that would feel unsafe. When I traced this pattern back, it was steeped in my need to please as a child.
It was such a disempowering pattern.
I used to think about what others would think of me and how they would receive me, more so than how I felt in what I was wearing. And it knocked my confidence. A lot.
Yet, to be honest, until I was awake to this pattern in my wardrobe, I didn’t realise just how much it had been holding me back—in the whole of my life—from living as the real me and loving who I am.
It was my own personal take on a common pattern I see in women as they dress to gain acceptance and approval from others. This distorts their own style and their overarching connection with themselves, both in the wardrobe and beyond. (I am under no illusion that men may do this also, but I work with women primarily.)
We so often think that what we wear is a superficial part of life.
But getting dressed is as spiritual as anything else in our daily lives; how we approach it will dictate whether we use it as a function to come home to ourselves, or disconnect from ourselves.
When it comes to our wardrobes, we tend to think we are making conscious choices in what we wear, yet my experience working with clients tells me most of our style choices are unconscious, driven by our mindsets and belief patterns that govern the relationship we have with ourselves. This means we might be hiding who we really are!
My desire to please others with my wardrobe, rather than wear what really felt right for me, was costing me my own style, my confidence, and the ability to show up fully in my life!
I went to my wardrobe and started by asking the following questions:
Which pieces really light me up? Which are my favourites, regardless of whether I wear them or not?
I then looked for themes.
*A word of caution in doing this:
Often, we may think we love a piece of clothing because we get great feedback from others. If this is the case, it’s possible that we may be playing out an unconscious pattern.
Or, we may choose pieces that we wear every day because they seem “easy,” not because they bring us joy—this may indicate we are ignoring our true desire, or maybe we feel stuck somewhere in our life.
Or, we may think something is a favourite because it is “comfortable.” This may indicate that we are resistant to change and attached to comfort in our life, which may inhibit our courage to grow beyond our comfort zones.
Once I had selected and interrogated my favourites, I looked at the pile of clothes on my bed and saw what themes were running through these pieces: elegant, sensual, and playful. I call these my style essences. They are different for all of us. Some clients have combinations such as sexy, unique, and sophisticated, or mischievous, sleek, and integrated (masculine and feminine).
Instead of dressing from my head these days, I now feel into my style essences and put them into every outfit; I feel so deliciously aligned with me. (And crazily, it’s worth noting that I get more compliments than before!)
I now rarely think about how others will view my outfits, and instead, I listen to myself and truly rejoice and celebrate who I am. It’s like I have been plugged into an electrical socket and boom! There I am in my fullness, my light, and in relationship with a deep inner connection and confidence within, that goes way beyond the wardrobe.