Oh I love that Brendon Burchard. What other people think has always taken up too much space in my head until bang… about 2 years back, along came this line that smacked me in the face and got me immersed in all his writings. But on to the reason for this post..
As a Personal Stylist I often lend my former therapist ear and listen to client’s insecurities. And it’s not just body image insecurities most of us have, but also the hesitance to level up a wardrobe or break out of a style rut. Many clients simply don’t know how to create a wardrobe they love and that’s fine… that’s where I come in to help. I teach clients about dressing their unique body, creating a signature style, how to edit the closet and how to shop. Style problem solved.
But what I’m writing about here is style insecurities, like those self-limiting beliefs we all hold… the confidence issues many of us have, feelings of self-consciousness that are hard to shake, and simply the general discomfort that comes about when we seek out a better sense of style.
Even as we start to move and make progress, many women worry about what others will think of their new style. “What’s everyone going to say?” Or we’re so used to our comfort clothes and our usual way of dressing that suddenly leveling up feels unnatural and wrong. Or the worst of all, clients tell me they fear what others are going to think. “They’ll say ‘who does she think she is’”... to be wearing that or to be looking like that. I’m a stylist and I do the same thing! In fact, that’s what lead me to write this post. “Who does she think she is?” is one of those darn, pesky internal things I could never get out of my head.
I have a good example. When I was a Social Worker, as an in-home Family Therapist we could get pretty casual with our clothing (but still neat and professional) because we worked with an underserved population of children and families, usually of lower socioeconomic status. If we were going to change people's lives, a key step to getting in the door was presenting yourself as relatable, “dressing down” if you will so we could connect with our families… have them open up to us.
Well, having always loved style even when I was in this role for 10 years, I would decide to step it up a notch every now and then. I would choose to wear something “nicer” and more professional for conferences and trainings or just random office days. Well, God forbid you do this around the wrong people, “Why are you dressed like that today?” Or “what’s up with the nice clothes? Do you have an interview later today?” Say wha? And all of the uncomfortable attention is on you. Even it if was a well meaning comment, the self-consciousness would kick into overdrive for me. How about you?
I still remember the most annoying comment (from a male coworker no less) “Geez you dress like you’re in Vogue magazine or something, not social work in Philly.” Rude. First of all, he was one of those “negative Nelly” types so it felt like this unsolicited comment was actually a judgement and not meant as a simple observation, much less a compliment. Furthermore, on that particular day I was simply wearing “nice” jeans, a fun pair of boots, and a big ole chunky cardigan. The open draped fronts of the cardigan would overlap one another and it had one of those belts around the waist, remember those in the early 2000s? Certainly not something that justified anywhere near a Vogue Magazine comment.
Regardless, the comment stung a little… in part because I think maybe it was meant to sting and in part because I care too much what other people think (someone I wasn’t very fond of anyway).
Yes, I know we’re not supposed to take these things to heart and if it bothered me then it’s my problem, right? I get it and I would honestly hear this comment again without a second thought if it happened today.
Can you picture comments like these? Has this ever happened to you? I had a client (styling client) describe it to me once like this, “I feel like if I start dressing better, people will ask me why or they will point it out.” I felt so bad for her. She even went on to explain that she’s hesitant to try a bold new hairstyle because she doesn’t like that everyone would talk about it. She’d feel too subconscious and embarrassed! Darn it, why do we do this to ourselves?
It’s probably not as bad as we make it out to be. Back to my work example, really most of us coworkers said nothing at all and if we did, it would be to cheer each other on when we saw someone leveling up on their style at work or simply just dressing to feel better at a very tough job! No crime in that. The negative Nellies would only strike everyone once in a while and it’s probably their problem anyway, not yours. You’ve heard it before right? The jerks, even if they are few, really come from a place of “Oh shit. They look nice today. I didn’t do that for myself so how dare she do it?”
Self-consciousness can prevent people from being who they are, expressing what they are feeling, doing what they want to do, and all because they are afraid of what other people will think or say about them. Jim Taylor, Ph.D.
If you at least become aware that we all do this and it’s normal, it can start to diminish over time. And anyway, 99% of us are completely stuck in our own heads! Lots of people walk around with the same inner-dialogue and the same insecurities. They don’t care about you as much as you think they do. The battle is in your own head…. It’s usually a mind over matter situation people. Wearing something outside of your norm is uncomfortable so you’d rather hold yourself back from the desire to branch out more or level up in your sense of style.
What to do about it? Well, the one real-life example I can give you is through my kids. I take my own ridiculously harsh thoughts (my self-limiting beliefs) and I imagine it’s my kids saying it to themselves. You see, as my boys grow my perspective changes with it. The things I used to say to myself sound like this…. “I’m in the mood to get dressed up tonight but will people point it out?” Or “if I wear this super trendy x,y, or z people will be like ‘who does she think she is’?”
I flip it around and imagine how I would respond to my children if they felt this way. What if they crushed their own little sprits talking this way? I wouldn’t stand for it!
Picture the innocence of kids. They wear what they like, they don’t mind singing out loud in public (or like my boys making fart noises and singing about butts) and better yet, they’re not scared to do the dang floss dance and Orange Justice wherever they go, wherever they are! It would break my heart they ever held their true selves back out of fear what someone else might say! So let’s use that perspective on our own selves too, please.
I wish I could wave a magic wand and get you over your style self-consciousness. But the truth is that you must gradually push yourself into the new style you’d like to try. Take your time!
As with most changes, developing a new personal style is a marathon not a sprint.
Reach out to me here and let’s have a chat about Style Confidence, I am here to help!