…think about THIS first.
May is coming to a close, and with its big sky and warm air, the promise of summer fun is just around the corner. Are you planning to meet those adventures dressed in cool, breezy new clothes?
A look around the stores reveals narrow sleeveless tops, floaty, flirty hemlines, and rack after rack of itty bitty bathing suits. Wearing these cute designs, the models all look so light, young, energetic, fresh, and appealing.
But try these fashions on yourself, and the image you might get can be less than welcome: tired and heavy. Soft in the middle. Just plain dull.
Not exactly the look we’re going for.
For most ordinary people, a lot of that skimpy activewear just doesn’t flatter. But far worse is the negative energy in the “baring of assets” that happens every year about this time. It might not be put out there in words, but the message we receive is that young, sexy, and thin is the only acceptable way to be, that “perfect” is not only attainable but entirely the norm.
We are smarter than that, of course. Yet the endless barrage of artificial standards seeps in just the same, creating an undercurrent of false expectation. For real individuals like you and me—not models, but un-airbrushed, flesh and blood, perfectly average people—that annual parade of summer fashion doesn’t add up to carefree fun but instead devolves into self-judgment.
I hear you. It’s pretty hard to look forward to a season of travel, sunshine, and adventure when everywhere you turn, the focus is instead on what you’re wearing—or not wearing, as the case may be.
The picture is disheartening, isn’t it? But regardless of whether we personally favor “classic lines” or like to push the limits of fashion, I think we can all agree on one thing: Our clothing should not define or dictate our attitudes. We deserve better.
We can’t do much about what comes down the runway each year, but friends, we do have some control over how it affect us. How about a mindset reset?
What if we were to take some of those limiting ideas our culture has handed us about beauty and turn them, like that pile of swimsuit-shopping rejects, inside-out? Then we’d be able to focus not on the surface but on their true content.
If we look first at what our inner selves are made of, we can construct a more positive mindset, that, in turn, comes out in how we carry ourselves and even how we look.
Myth 1: “The clothes make the (wo)man.”
Our outward appearance does create a strong impression—that’s an inescapable truth. But an impression is all that is. The lasting image you create, the one others will remember, is not what you wore but how you wore it.
Think for a moment about someone you regard as a personal model or mentor—a parent or grandparent, perhaps, or a friend who bravely stood by you through your darkest time, or an accomplished senior professional under whom you trained in your early career.
What do you admire most about this person? Does she have directness, drive, integrity? Is his ambition or courage a trait you’ve depended on? Does her skill give you a sense of awe? When you face a challenge, do you ask yourself how he would handle it?
Now try to recall, what was that person wearing the last time you met?
You see where this is going. If a person’s true character shines through, that is the impression that lasts—not the outer trappings.
Now turn those same questions about your personal mentor on yourself: What are the traits that make you, you? What are you like as a friend, a partner, a professional? What talents and skills do you bring to the table? What are your greatest strengths?
…and does any of that change because yesterday you skipped Pantone’s color of the year and opted for your personal favorite shade instead?
Of course not. Like the “little black dress,” your personality, given the appropriate care, is suitable for any occasion and will never go out of style.
Myth 2: “You look great in that dress!”
What could be wrong with a compliment like that, right? But I once knew someone who said something even more flattering: You make that dress look great!
It’s a subtle shift that delivers an enormous impact. Why? Because the dress is not the point (even if it is a great dress!). The person wearing that dress is the one who deserves, and receives, the compliment.
If you’re often the victim of your own negativity, this is exactly the kind of thinking you can adopt to start moving toward a more uplifting outlook, particularly during stressful times.
Set aside the idea that things happen to you and focus instead on your rational, solution-minded responses. Forget the “buts” and “what ifs” and look at present fact.
Now press “pause” on all that self-talk that looks for what you did wrong that might have contributed to some present trouble. Instead, focus on what works well for you, right now. What makes you shine your brightest? What brings you joy? What inspires you to keep on going, even when situations appear to be tough?
When you catch yourself “wearing” those qualities, make a point of noticing. Enjoy that moment as a victory, and congratulate yourself: You make a sense of humor look fantastic. You handle difficulty with such grace. You meet a disaster with “can-do” and courage. You have such a strong faith.
Keep your spotlight on those ideals. They are timeless basics upon which you can build an entire wardrobe.
Myth 3: “If the shoe fits, wear it.”
Okay, so this old saying doesn’t actually give fashion advice. But an important message about image and expectation is buried in there, just the same.
What if you’re simply not inspired by this season’s hot new shoe (or color, or cut, or…)? What if everyone you know says that trendy look would be gorgeous on you, but you look at it and think, Meh?
I say, then don’t wear it.
Let’s not complicate our lives unnecessarily for the sake of fleeting fads—fashion, fitness, or otherwise. The honest truth is that if you’re going to be uncomfortable, you’re not going to be happy. The latest design may look fabulous on the outside, but if you don’t feel fabulous when you’re wearing it, it’s not the right one for you—and you are in no way obligated to choose it.
And as you know, this truth extends far beyond selecting your summer wardrobe. Do you feel fabulous in your body, spirit, work, relationships? If not, it may be time to consider making a change to something that suits you better.
Here’s a timeless truth: “Fashion fades, only style remains the same.”
Do you know who said that? None other than fashion icon Coco Chanel.
Her point is so simple and so important: Your own preferences, your own personality, YOU are what matters most. What is your style? The trendiest new design will fall flat if it doesn’t accurately reflect the person wearing it—but the plainest clothing looks amazing when it is worn by a woman who is positive and self-assured, who exudes joy and confidence in everything she does.
Seasons may come when not a single thing you find on your shopping excursion will appeal to you. Maybe this year’s fashions just don’t match your sense of style—or maybe those long rows of swimsuits don’t actually look good on anyone outside a glossy photo shoot. So, you can dismiss them without a single other thought. So called fashion is largely sewn out of fiction, the stuff of imagination.
But you? You’re real. You have talents and gifts and depth—dimension. I’m betting everything you’re truly made of can’t comfortably fit into a junior size 1. Thank goodness for that!