12/12/2014 05:56 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2015

Need Help With a Transition? Get an Accessory!

ac•ces•so•ry (əkˈses(ə)rē/)
1) a thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive.
2) contributing to or aiding an activity or process in a minor way; subsidiary or supplementary

Not too long ago, my fiancé and I took the time for a weekend getaway. We spent time relaxing, having leisurely meals, and doing a bit of window shopping while strolling down quaint New England streets. A hat shop looked particularly appealing, so we ventured inside. The proprietor, a self-proclaimed "expert" in millenary, assured us that he could find and fit us with the perfect hat. He went to work on my fiancé and, indeed, found one that was quite dashing on him. Next it was my turn. I had been trying on a variety of ladies models, when he said, "I have the perfect one for you!" and grabbed one from the men's side. My skepticism soared as he placed it on my head. My only comment was, "Uh, have you watched Breaking Bad?" I was mildly horrified that this was the hat that he chose for me, and yet, there was a part of me that said "go for it!" And I did.

I am not sure what it is about that hat, but when I wear it, I feel a new level of confidence. It's as if I know that people may be looking sideways at a 50+ year old silver-haired woman wearing a porkpie hat... and it doesn't bother me a bit. Perhaps I am channeling my inner Walter White, minus the urge to drive into the desert and become a new cartel lord. But maybe it's that the hat is giving me permission to step into a new part of myself that, left to my own devices, was a little slow on the uptake. And it's not the first time an accessory has pushed me to a new dimension.

Years ago I was working for a conservative corporation and dressed accordingly (think navy blue suits, white blouses, silk scarf bowties...). The inner rebel in me started dating a doctor...who had purple hair and wore wild clothes. I just couldn't go there myself. My sister, recognizing my not-so-hidden desire to break out a bit, gave me a pair of sandals that had a big daisy on them. She told me to take some "baby steps" by starting with them. Those sandals stayed in the back of my closet for probably 5 years before I dared wear them...and then was able to take more risks as a result.

Next there was the bracelet. A few years after the sandal episode, I was in the process of yet another transition, but was having a hard time defining who I was or wanted to be. At lunch one day I admired the bracelet of a friend: silver and jeweled and jangling. Again, nothing I would ever wear. So, as soon as I said I liked it, she whipped it off and handed it to me. "It's yours!" she said with a smile. After a few feigned protestations, I accepted it gratefully. I loved the way it felt on me. I loved its funkiness and how it drew attention. I decided then and there that I would not wear anything whose style did not complement this bracelet. Again, my accessory was what I needed to allow myself to take yet another step into being my true self.

So the next time you are feeling stuck, like you need a change but you are not sure how to do it, look to an accessory. True to its definition, it may be just the thing that contributes to the process of making your life more useful, versatile or attractive. And maybe a little more fun in the process.