I just wrapped up a four-hour style consult session with a client. She'd felt stuck in a sartorial rut, wearing the same outfits over and over again, and it was beginning to erode her self-confidence. She was also battling with some self-consciousness about her figure and was worried that she had no idea how to dress that figure properly. We spent almost the entire time building outfits from clothing that she already had on-hand, and as the consult wore on she became energized, excited and invigorated.
"I'm starting to feel really happy!" she told me, surprised and delighted.
And when I scooted out her door a few hours later, I felt happy myself. Because, once again, I'd seen firsthand how style and creative dressing can be powerful tools for improving self-image.
There are a million different paths to self-love, and no one is quicker, better or more effective than the others. There are a million different ways to bolster your body image, and all of them are worth exploring. So why should you consider personal style as a means to transform your self-image?
Change Without Change
Making changes to your wardrobe and style can affect how you view your body, even if your body itself hasn't changed. Throwing on a skirt that works with your curves instead of against them allows you to embrace those curves. Slipping on a fantastic pair of boots can illustrate that those legs are damned fine just as they are. Finding styles, colors and textures that enhance your natural assets can help you see how gorgeous you are right now -- and have been all along. Just by changing the clothing, shoes and accessories that adorn your body, you can change your relationship with that body for the better. Minus the oppressive workout plan, restrictive diet and nip/tuck.
The Power of Choice
You dress and groom your body, so you, alone, are in charge of how you appear to observers. You get to choose what to express and what to hide, what to display and what to mask. It's a lot of power, don't you think? Since you've got to get dressed anyway, why not take the opportunity to broadcast a few key pieces of information about yourself to the observing world? Doing so can build pride and confidence, establish your uniqueness and help you decide which aspects of your inner life you'd like to highlight and share.
One of the easiest ways to broadcast respect for yourself is to dress with care. Comportment, demeanor, dress, grooming and overall appearance constitute the first levels of information about ourselves that we offer to the observing world. They may not be the most important, but they are the first, which makes them worthy of effort and attention. Dressing with care means finding clothing that fits and suits your unique figure, giving thought to the day's activities and participants before choosing your ensemble and selecting garments that make you feel comfortable, powerful, proud, and truly yourself. Dressing with care will look different on every single one of us, and that is a marvelous good thing. But dressing with care also means the same thing to us all: making sartorial choices that showcase our best selves. When we dress to show respect for ourselves, people around us cannot help but sense our confidence. If you want others to respect you, you must respect yourself first. And show it.
The Look Good, Feel Good Connection
The cycle of self-loathing is inextricably linked to the cycle of self-neglect: feel bad, look bad, feel worse, look worse, and on and on. But I maintain that a cycle of self-love can be perpetuated by a cycle of self-care. If you feel awful about how you look and allow yourself to look as awful as you feel, you may spiral down. But if you feel awful about how you look and work against that negativity -- beautifying yourself with the tools you have at hand -- more often than not, you can spiral up. When you put effort into your appearance, you are less likely to hide from mirrors, eat nothing but crap and withdraw from social situations. When you put effort into your appearance, you are more likely to receive compliments -- important sources of external feedback that encourage you to continue putting effort into your appearance. When you put effort into your appearance you don't wallow, you move. Caring about how you present your physical self to the world makes you more present in your body. Presence in your body feeds itself, creating more care. The cycle of self-care feeding self-love, creating more self-care allows you to broadcast a profile of self-respect and power. It reminds you that you can control how you feel about yourself. And that's powerful good stuff.
Everyone can use personal style as a tool for cultivating self-care and reflect self-respect. No matter how tall you are or which birthday is on the horizon or where you carry the most jiggle, you can learn to flatter your figure. You can utilize your natural beauty to reflect your undeniably amazing self outward to the observing world.
And when you do, you may find that you've kick-started the machinery of self-love.