Take A Good Look In The Mirror

Who do you see yourself as? This is a loaded question BUT I think it is an important one that we need to ask ourselves.

Lately, I have been asking myself if I am the person that I want to be when it comes to both the inside and outside package? And if I am that person, can other people see it for themselves as well? Personally, I am starting to feel like I’m getting there in certain regards – yet in other areas not quite so much.

The topic I want to focus on with respect to the above noted comments begins with the what we see on the outside. This may at first seem superficial, but I can assure you it goes much deeper than what our eyes merely see – so please humor me and see where I am taking this post.

In short it is fair to say that my blog has captured my journey working on my mental health. This should come as no surprise given the name of my blog and to be honest I feel like I am actually on the cusp of becoming the physically and mentally stable version of myself that I have strived to achieve for over the past 6 years. Great news, right? Perhaps even fantastic news. Yet, there is a part of me that has not reflected this change and it is who I am looking at in the mirror, literally.

How we choose to dress, how we choose to style our hair, how we choose to groom ourselves – makeup or no makeup, shave or no shave? This has all been on my mind lately, not in a vain way but in the sense that I had to ask myself if I was whole heartedly presenting myself in a way that I felt showcased to the world who I was. My personal brand so to speak. Does my outward appearance reflect how I feel about myself inwardly? Never underestimate the power of a good outfit or hair cut. The psychological impact that our outward appearance has on our lives is immeasurable and should not be taken lightly.

Have you ever heard the phrase that you should “dress the part” or perhaps “dress for success”? Let’s be clear when I say that I am not suggesting you go out and buy a $2000.00 power suit to make you feel better about yourself – what you spend on your clothes or grooming has absolutely nothing to do with what I am talking about in this post. What I am saying though, is that part of our identity is how we outwardly present ourselves. Please let me emphasize how important it is to not neglect this very crucial and critical part of our identity (speaking from experience). Our objective should be dressing in a manner that allows us to take pride in our appearance and feel the utmost confidence.

So lets have some real talk about personal style and the impact it has on our identities – I’m emphasizing it’s importance, but to be honest at this point in my life I’ve come across a hard pill to swallow (which doesn’t happen often because I take tons of pills) – ladies and gentleman I do not have a personal style (it is presently a work in progress). Say what??

Believe it or not, I have changed since my early adolescence and early 20s. I have grown. I have evolved dare I say matured and yet I took notice that my wardrobe has remained the same and does not reflect this change. Perhaps, this is not a big deal for most people, but I think there is more than meets the eye (pun intended).

Next month I will be having my 28th birthday and as I am sure most people do, I was reflecting on the woman I have grown into the past year. When it came to my outward appearance, I concluded that I was jipping myself. Where had I gone? When I was in my earlier years I would definitely say I was a diva  – I loved me some glam on the daily BUT when I took attendance the past few weeks I realized that the young diva I once knew and loved had indeed retired and left the building. Not in a bad way, I just finally admitted that I no longer felt as diva-esque or connected to that version of me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this particular fact, it just means that I’ve changed – and yet the clothes I have been wearing contradicted this.

Having personal style, or perhaps to be more clear: a sense of self with how we appear, is a big deal. Not tiny, not insignificant BUT MUCHO GRANDE. Personal and may emphasize personal style helps us to feel more comfortable in our skin no matter what shape or size we are (more on this point later…). It grants us the ability to “hold our own”, a wee bit more then if we were just wearing any old thing with no rhyme or reason.

I’ve always strived and generally maintained a personal style, marching to the beat of my own drum from a very young age (I was in fashions class all through high school, fashion was in my blood). I dressed and felt killa’ confident in what I wore – I did not dress for society; to fit in with people or get their approval – or “likes” as is a plague in our present society. However, on this recent journey of self-reflection I realized that my essentially non-existent style was the makings of the past year(s) at a minimum. I have been swaying with no direction, I have been trying to fit into the versions of myself from a time when I did feel confident with my aesthetic, but that shoe no longer fit. For example, I have been wearing pieces this past year that perhaps I felt confident in 5 years ago but presently they cause me to feel insecure. Note: insecurity = what we don’t want.

Example time.

I previously wore lots of patterns and colours, is there anything wrong with that? Not at all, but what I’ve noticed is that when I recently paid attention to how I felt while looking in the mirror, I can easily say I feel more comfortable in natural tones and muted colours – cream, beige, brown, black, grey, soft pinks, greens and blues. If I am drawn to a print or pattern it is usually subtle and delicate rather than bright and bold.

My former style, when I owned it as I mentioned before was more diva-esque, bold, bright and dare I say loud. It was more on the street fashion side of things, however today in stark contrast the look I envision for myself and that I am working to achieve is more subtle, classic, timeless and at best chic.

Fun tip, a strategy that is helping me rediscover my style is words. I ask myself, what words do I want to emulate? This is a question you can ask yourself if you were like me drifting with no real direction for your aesthetic. When you have a handful of words see if they coordinate with one another or if there are any outliers and if there are maybe ponder the question, why? See if the words compliment your current wardrobe. I don’t have the answer for you, but I assure you that as you refine your words and zero-in on the look you want to achieve it won’t seem as daunting of a task, especially if you are like me starting from scratch.

My goal and objective as I enter a new year of my life is to invest in myself. I want to be more intentional when I take care of my outward appearance and pay attention to the fine details. A little off topic but another example of self care is that I started doing face masks once a week for the past 2 months and it’s amazing how such a small effort can impact your appearance and your frame of mind so drastically. A face mask people!! And I make this face mask from 2 kitchen ingredients in my kitchen, so you can guarantee I am not paying for this mask with my unborn child.

Anyways, what now? As is the case with any ambition, it requires work and effort. So, that is exactly what I have been putting in. Last weekend and week, I purged my wardrobe – clothes, shoes, belts, bags, sunglasses. Literally everything that I own was assessed and if the piece complimented and coincided with the aesthetic I am trying to achieve I kept it. If the piece did not align with who I want to present and represent myself as, it was placed in a pile to donate. I was cut-throat and brutally honest with myself. It is fair to say that my wardrobe shrunk dramatically, which at first scared me as I am used to having tons of clothes and accessories ** confessions of a former shop-a-holic ** I formerly had a walk in closet crammed full of things and now I have all my clothes fitting on a single bar holding very few select pieces.

The fear I initially felt was soon won over with a sense of accomplishment and peace. My vision was coming to life. My wardrobe was actually starting to reflect who I saw myself as. I can proudly say that it now contains pieces that I love and I know make me feel comfortable and confident when I wear them.

My wardrobe is not complete, let’s be clear about that (this is not a one-day feat), but it is going in the right direction. My focus will be to add to my collection BUT add with more intention, rather than buying a piece because its on sale. I want to ask myself if it compliments or detracts? Take a moment to think about the shift of perspective that your mind just had by reading the word “collection”, rather than clothes. Saying “collection” automatically makes me feel like my wardrobe has more umph and should be taken a bit more seriously and is worth investing in.

I have been researching articles and watching YouTube videos for inspiration and ideas on how to navigate more effective shopping. I want to invest in my collection a.k.a wardrobe and when I say invest, I mean buy timeless pieces. I also want to do my best to avoid fast fashion. I want to steer clear of spending money on pieces that can be worn a few times and then look shabby thereafter. I want to buy pieces that are made from good material and actually pay attention to the labels and dang-nab-it – dry clean if it says dry clean.

Going back to the concept of investing, you do not need to shop at high end stores to have well-made pieces. I am all for thrifting; I found an amazing Jones New York blazer for $8.00 that looks like a million bucks at my local Value Village. I dry cleaned it, pressed it and it looks like new. The blazer was a win, but let me remind you that the purpose of my shopping now is for quality not quantity – don’t get sucked into buying more because the price is right. I don’t want to be in the habit of buying something just because I like it in the moment. In the past I have literally bought something and then “had to” buy 3 additional different items so that I would have something to wear it with. Ummm?? No. How is that being friendly to your pocketbook?

Rewinding a bit, I want to clarify why there is a gap between my budding style now and the one I refer back to when I felt confident in my early adult life. I am turning 28… what happened to my style between 23-27. That my friends is the age bracket where I really feel like I lost and essentially let myself go. I was going thru school, I graduated and then I was working I was working on my health – but what of my exterior? I did something that I want to advise you not to do and if I could go back and talk to my younger self I would say as follows:

Weight does not make you or break you. You do.

After I started a certain medication, I gained an easy 40 lbs very quickly… welcome my ages 23-26. I lost my confidence, I felt terrible about myself and in frustration I threw in the towel. Don’t throw in the towel! I lost any desire to try and wear anything aside from gym clothes (even when I wasn’t going to the gym). When I would get ready for work, I would wear anything I could that I felt hid my weight and it didn’t have to necessarily be something I liked; whatever was baggy enough. I honestly, didn’t like who I saw in the mirror and rather than trying to work with what I had – I just stopped. I stopped doing my hair, I stopped wearing makeup, I just stopped caring about who I presented myself as AND my confidence suffered because of it.

Fast forward to when I was able to lose some weight, I was then trying to fit into clothes that I formerly wore and formerly felt confident in BUT as the long post went on to explain that just didn’t jive. I had mentally changed.

I just wanted to put it out there – style is not size specific and confidence is not reserved for petite waist-lines. I never want anyone reading my blog to feel insecure, that is not why I blog. I have always had a severe distortion when it comes to my weight and the value I place on my self because of it. At the end of the day my mantra over the past few years has been progress not perfection.

I am presently 20 lbs heavier than I would like to be BUT I feel beautiful. I feel confident. I feel great in my skin. I feel like I am putting my best foot and face forward regardless to my size and I am proud of who I see. I have noticed a huge impact on my mental health from just taking the time to care how I look – it has made me stop and take notice of myself and love myself a little more because I matter. The number on the scale doesn’t (as long as you strive to be healthy).

This journey to curate my wardrobe and aesthetic is exciting. I feel like I’m really paying attention to who I am in my entirety. I am taking in to account my lifestyle, my medications, my sleeping patterns – literally everything. Is it realistic for me to wake up and do a full face of makeup? Maybe for you, but for me that’s a hard no. Nor would I want to. Part of this fun journey is discovering how I like to wear my makeup – again. For now I’m thinking more minimal, while still looking polished and put together. Hair… that’s another story. My goal is to create a signature look that I can do with my eyes closed.

Let’s face it, I have bipolar. I have lows. I have days wear putting a look together is too much effort let alone having a shower or doing my hair. So, what I am trying to do is combat those days (or weeks) by putting in the effort now; curating my wardrobe, makeup and hair – so that I can pull together a look from top to bottom without trying on the days that life is a bit too much BUT please note: I will never surrender my sweatpants, there is a time and a place for all things my friends.

Long post with a lot of different avenues, but I hope you were able to see the bigger picture– care about how you look on the outside because believe it or not it dictates a lot of the inner voices we hear on the inside. Love yourself whatever size you may be and know that you have your own identity and that is priceless.

– Steph