2 steps forward, 1 step back – the positive body image dance

the relative joy of entrepreneurship.png

Friend and fellow entrepreneur Christina Boyd-Smith passed on this graphic illustrating the progress of entrepreneurship. It has a few swear words in it. Words I have NEVER uttered. I swear.

Positive body image is just like entrepreneurship – two steps forward, and one step back. Sometimes it’s three steps back. Sometimes you trip. Sometimes you fall spectacularly. But you pick yourself up and keep going.

I have been struggling with maintaining positive body image lately, and I figured it’s time I write about it. News flash – I don’t have it all figured out! Not by a long shot. But I’m still trying. 

When I started thinking about this post, this graphic popped right into my mind. The “WTF happened?” part in particular. Things with body image can be all “champagne!” and then BOOM, they’re not. It might even be the champagne that contributes to that. (Or maybe it’s the chocolate. Or both.) It can start by catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, or seeing a photo of yourself.

I could write a long list of things I don’t like about my body. At the top of that list right now would be that I’ve gained enough weight that a lot of my pants are feeling really snug. I’m also in the midst of finally letting my hair go grey. Sigh.

But why does there need to be a list? Or if there is a list, why isn’t it all the amazing things about my body? And why aren’t gaining some weight and grey hair amazing? Thinking about all of this makes me want to eat more chocolate. Which then makes me feel like a failure. And so it continues…

Does this spiral of negative thinking sound familiar to you? Yours might have a different spin to it, but the black hole of negative body image is powerful for so many of us. Throw in a peri-menopausal mood swing or twelve and it’s a supernova.

breaking the spiral

I can get to a pretty dark, negative place in my feelings about myself – I spent a lot of years hating and hiding my body, and I got really good at it. Learning to like my body has been a slow process, and it is a path I have to take consciously. It isn’t second nature or effortless, and it very likely never will be.

How do I break the spiral?

When the negative body image thoughts get going, the first step is to say, “Stop.” Say it in your head or out loud if you need to, but definitely say it. Disrupting the pattern of thinking is key.

It’s really important not to be hard on yourself for the negative thoughts – acknowledge that you are feeling them. What helps to change them is to move through them to a different place. Saying “Stop” is a way to acknowledge them and begin a new trajectory.

Then ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend if she were saying these things about herself and her body?” Then SAY THOSE THINGS. To yourself. Out loud if you need to! Say them again. And if you find yourself arguing with the kind – and true – things, say “Stop,” and try again.

As for the too-tight pants. This could be a trigger of negative body image every. single. morning. Here’s the thing – they are just pants. And the number on the scale is just a number. To be honest, I haven’t weighed myself – I don’t need to – I know the number is higher because of the too-tight pants! No need to feed the shame cycle with seeing the higher number on the scale. Here’s what I do instead:

I put on bigger pants.

Ones that fit my body right now, today, this week, or however long I’m at this current weight. Another news flash – weight can fluctuate or change as much as your mood during peri-menopause. Wearing too-tight pants just makes you feel bad. So don’t do it! Heck, maybe I’ll wear a skirt or dress today!

And then I tell myself: Which pants I’m wearing, the number on the scale, the number of grey hairs on my head – these things do not determine my self-worth. How I treat myself, how I let others treat me, how I treat others; these are the stuff of self-worth. How I show up in my life is what makes me ME. Not the too-tight pants.

How I treat myself, how I let others treat me, how I treat others; these are the stuff of self-worth. How I show up in my life is what makes me ME. Not the too-tight pants.

two steps forward

My two steps forward for positive body image are taking care of myself and dressing in an intentional way. Making an effort to keep my body healthy and strong with good food, exercise, mindfulness, sleep (another peri-menopause rollercoaster), and permission to indulge sometimes keeps me in touch with my physical well-being.

Embracing my body as it is right now and dressing intentionally to feel my best keeps me in touch with my psychological well-being. Feeling good about what you are wearing helps you to feel good about your whole self. Dressing intentionally is a way to say “Stop” to the cycle of negativity in a tangible, visible way that also helps you bring your best self to the world. It’s called “enclothed cognition” – your clothing affects your confidence levels and overall psychological state.

I will always have the one step back in the positive body image dance, but I’m still moving forward. With each setback, I use the practices I’ve learned to treat myself with the compassion and kindness that I deserve. I want that for you too. Every person – particularly us women – deserves that.

wear well, feel well

Many people feel that 2016 was a train wreck of year. I have both a lot to be grateful for this past year and a lot I’d like to leave behind. I am trying to begin the next one with hope and purpose.

Leadership and life coach (and friend) Hanna Cooper has a great exercise with a little twist for beginning the new year that I find to be really useful:

Make a list of the “challenges, losses, or failures” of your past year.
Make a list of the “successes, accomplishments, or wins” on a separate piece of paper.
Make a list of the things you have learned on another.
Once you have acknowledged both your successes and challenges, tear them up. (!!)
Using the list of what you’ve learned, make goals for the new year.

It is surprisingly liberating to tear up your successes along with the challenges. It equalizes the importance of the two, which I need to remind myself of often. And, really, it’s what you’ve learned, from both successes and challenges, that informs you when moving forward.

One of the things I have had to work at again this past year is to embrace – and love – who I am. This includes both the physical and emotional me. They are connected after all, in the obvious way and in that how you feel about your physical self affects how you feel emotionally overall.

I have a continuing journey with positive body image, and when you start to feel unhappy with your body – be it related to weight, aging, its limitations, or something else – those negative feelings can worm their way into everything else.

For women and men alike, the clothing you wear is a significant factor in how you feel about your physical self. It both reflects and impacts your emotional well-being.

adam galinsky enclothed cognition quote.jpg

The psychology term for this is “enclothed cognition.” I’ve also seen the more layperson term “ensemble empowerment” to describe it. The bottom line is this: what you wear affects how you feel. It can change your mood, determine your level of confidence, and impact how successful you feel. It can alter, positively and negatively, your body image and your feelings of self-worth.

What you wear affects how you feel. It can change your mood, determine your level of confidence, and impact how successful you feel. It can alter, positively and negatively, your body image and your feelings of self-worth.

It’s true. I know firsthand that when I don’t really dress for the day, even one where I have no appointments – meaning I’m wearing whatever I threw on to take my daughter to school or go to the gym and then start working at home without getting “dressed” – I feel worse. I feel less confident; I’m less productive; I have less energy and feel all around icky and irritable. Dressing intentionally, even when it’s very casual, changes my whole outlook on the day and on myself.

The same goes for when you are wearing something for the wrong reasons. I used to wear very oversized clothing in an effort to hide my body. I also would pretend I didn’t care about how I looked, trying to mask my negative body image. It was a pretty miserable place to be, and that is what was really showing.

Wearing clothes that suit you – meaning they fit your body well (no matter your body type) and reflect who you are in your life right now – feels good. They help you to feel confident about your appearance and that confidence shows. It sends a message to you (and, bonus, to others as well) that you care about yourself – that you are being intentional in showing up in the world as your best, true self.

We have to get dressed every day. Wearing clothing that is very worn or old, holding onto clothes that no longer fit because you hope they will fit again, or ignoring that your clothing doesn’t reflect your current life or personal style brings a cycle of negativity to your life every single day.

Wearing clothing that is very worn or old, holding onto clothes that no longer fit because you hope they will fit again, or ignoring that your clothing doesn’t reflect your current life or personal style brings a cycle of negativity to your life every single day.

Dressing intentionally breaks the cycle of negativity. It disrupts your old habits, bringing mindfulness and even joy to the process. When you wear something that you genuinely like, feel confident about, and know reflects the real you, that spreads to the rest of your life. You can feel the difference in yourself, and other people notice it too. It can actually change how you interact in the world.

Give it a try. Put more thought than usual into what you wear tomorrow. Pay attention to good fit, color, and expressing your personal style with how you pair things, accessories, or fabulous shoes. Notice how it makes you feel to wear something intentionally. Wear well, feel well.

If you’d like a hand in making being intentional with your wardrobe a goal this year, let me know. I’m here to help you feel your best in your clothes, which, in turn, helps you to be your best, authentic self. And that’s what we all hope for, isn’t it?

 

dressing intentionally

make it happen quoteA common theme that emerges when I do an Initial Consult with clients is feeling like they are wearing the same clothing over and over again. It’s hard and overwhelming to figure out different outfits or what looks good, nothing fits anymore, things feel old and outdated, there’s not enough time to branch out, or all of the above. Does any of this sound familiar?

What often accompanies this pattern is personal dissatisfaction and a growing lack of confidence, which can result in pretty much giving up trying anymore. No surprise that none of this lends itself to feeling good about yourself!

Dressing intentionally breaks the cycle of negativity. It’s the primary element of what I help my clients do in our work together, because dressing intentionally gives you the tools to embrace – and express – your true and best outer-self. Which in turn helps you to feel your best on the inside too.

Dressing intentionally breaks the cycle of negativity.

That’s why I love my work, by the way. I know firsthand how painful it is to want to just disappear into the woodwork, and I also know what it feels like to shift from having given up to experiencing the joy that dressing intentionally can bring. Helping others to make that shift is so gratifying!

Dressing intentionally means taking some time (more when you first begin, but less as you get used to it), to think about what you are wearing – the whole package from head to toe. It does not mean having to pay attention to fashion trends all the time and conform to them, even if you don’t like them. (If you do like them, go for it!)

It does mean defining your own personal style and finding cuts and colors that suit your body and skin tones. It does mean creating balanced lines with proper fit, the right cuts, and the right shoe. It does mean adding polish to an outfit with accessories such as a scarf, jewelry, or belt. It does mean “dressing up” for yourself, just to feel good.

When you do this, a transformation can occur:

Being excited about what you see in the mirror.
Feeling confident in how you see yourself and how the world sees you – and that confidence spreads into other parts of your life as well.
No longer feeling bogged down by clothes that make you feel crappy and by the time you spend in frustration of figuring out what to wear.
Having more time for the things that are important in your life.
Being empowered to be who you want to be – when your outside authentically reflects your inside, the results are amazing!

This is what my Year of Style service package is all about – being in a partnership with me to learn the tools and strategies for dressing intentionally and practicing it with guidance and support throughout.

Here’s what I say about it – SUPER FUN! Here’s what one of my Year of Style clients has to say about her experience:

“I have been retired for some years. The need to dress “up” was no longer there and my “oh-so-casual” style became more and more oh-so-casual. My closet was full of things that I had had for years, some of which I had never worn, some that I used to enjoy but no longer did and wondered why.

The items that I did wear were quite worn. I had the idea that I needed a uniform to wear and that would solve my problems. Clothing shopping was a nightmare that I couldn’t face because I no longer knew even where to start.

The Year of Style called to me as a way to have some guidance and hands-on direction and instruction.

Some goals that I set for myself with Nancy as we began my Year of Style

When I go to my closet, I want to feel like I am standing up and in control and happy about getting dressed.

I want to become my own expert on myself and my fashion sense and style.

I would like to feel in control of my wardrobe planning: to understand its needs, to feel confident about going about procuring them, to enjoy shopping enough to do it.

How it’s going so far

Clearing the closet was remarkably freeing. I can open the door and look in there now and feel good. As we tried on and discarded items, Nancy was able to tell me how and why something no longer worked for me, and I could then see it too.

Going shopping with Nancy was an amazing experience. I tried on and enjoyed items that I never would have thought would work for me, and now I have many things that are fun for me to wear.

I am challenging myself to dress “up” at times, even around the house. I am enjoying it. I am wearing occasional jewelry for fun.

Something that I didn’t expect to have happen that I have noticed is that I no longer seem to see myself as fat. Somehow, though my body has not changed in these few weeks, I am not as critical of it. Strange.”

That last statement is not strange to me. One of the things I address with my clients is working towards positive body image and helping them to see the beautiful person I see. Finding your personal style and combining it with cuts and colors that suit you can dramatically change how someone looks. It replaces discomfort with confidence. It creates balanced lines that help you feel your best. It is the difference between feeling defeated and being intentional. Again, transformative.

Ready to make it happen? Contact me today for YOUR Year of Style and the confidence and empowerment it will bring.

bikini rebellion

how do you get a bikini body

So the bikini. What feelings do you experience when you think about wearing a bikini? With your body, as is, right now. Fear and shame, or a big, “Hell, yeah!”

For pretty much my entire life since beginning adolescence, I fell into the first category. I LOVE to swim – I was on a swim team for years, but suddenly stopped in high school. I hated wearing swimsuits. Not just bikinis; I hated wearing all swimsuits. In a swimsuit, all my body image issues were painfully exposed to me.

Well into adulthood, I still hated them. I always covered up with a towel or shirt whenever possible. A bikini was out of the question. I couldn’t bear to show my stomach.

Ironically, it was at age 44 that I decided to say “Eff You” to the body image monsters in my brain. After giving birth, which changed my waist, left me with (more) stretch marks, and did something weird to my belly button area making it wobbly and “schmoogy.” Add aging and weight fluctuations to that, and there’s sagging skin here and there, general wiggles and jiggles, and cellulite. Awesome!

And yes, it is AWESOME. All these “flaws” are the roadmap of my LIFE, on my body, representing MY amazing experiences. Having my beautiful daughter. Gaining the upper hand on negative body image. Trying hard to age with strength and empowerment, rather than succumb to the unrealistic, ridiculous “ideals” our culture tells us we should meet.

These “flaws” are the roadmap of my LIFE, on my body, representing MY amazing experiences.

blue bikini

So the bikini. I wear one now. And guess what – I LIKE IT.

I have worn one since my family spent a year in Europe in 2012, and I saw that every woman – literally, every one except me – was wearing a bikini when swimming. No matter her age, size, body type, or weight.

Talk about standing out like a sore thumb – people actually did double-takes at my tankini that covered me all up. They did double-takes because they thought it was weird that I would cover myself up like that for swimming and time at the beach! It vividly illustrated to me how our – the United States’ – cultural norms around women’s bodies are completely ridiculous.

If all of those women could do it, so could I. So I tried it. I’m actually physically more comfortable in a bikini, because having less wet fabric against my body makes me less cold. I still have niggling negative thoughts sometimes, but that’s where #bikinirebellion comes in.

#bikinirebellion

Last year, lifestyle and fitness coach Neghar Fonooni started the Bikini Rebellion as way to fight against the idea of a “bikini body,” meaning that to wear a bikini you have to look a certain way. The movement has exploded, and on all social media platforms women are posting pictures of themselves rocking a bikini.

Who says we can’t wear a bikini if we aren’t of a certain body type? Who says we can’t wear a bikini if we ARE of a certain age? If you want to wear a bikini, WEAR a bikini. If you don’t, that’s your choice too.

That’s the thing. To me, bikini rebellion isn’t about the bikini, per se. It’s about embracing yourself, including your beautiful body, AS IS. Meaning, don’t deny yourself self-love and feeling beautiful. Do it now. Wear that something that you’ve always wanted to wear, but felt like you shouldn’t because of X, Y, or Z. Be it a bikini, or a party dress, or skinny jeans, or shorts, or a swimsuit of any sort. Wear it, and love yourself for it.

Live your life. ENJOY your life.

Don’t deny yourself self-love and feeling beautiful. Do it now. Wear that something that you’ve always wanted to wear, but felt like you shouldn’t because of X, Y, or Z. Be it a bikini, or a party dress, or skinny jeans, or shorts, or a swimsuit of any sort. Wear it, and love yourself for it.

the big, bad internet

I’ve just posted photos of myself wearing a bikini on the Internet. I am a person who has historically hated wearing swimsuits, much less being photographed in them. What the heck am I doing?

There’s the ugliness that so many people feel free to engage in through the anonymity of the Internet. And once an image is out there, it’s out there forever. Once it’s posted, that’s it – you no longer have control over it. These are valid concerns.

But that’s just it. There’s something extremely empowering about taking control of how you perceive your own body image. And putting THAT out there for others to see feels amazing. Saying to the world, “I am embracing my body and showing love for myself by doing this,” is what it’s really about. That is the power of the #bikinirebellion movement.

I am embracing my body and showing love for myself by doing this.

You don’t have to post a photograph on the Internet to accomplish that. Do what works for you. My bikini photos are my way of grabbing negative body image by the horns and showing it who’s boss.

What makes you want to grab the bull by its horns? What can you do for yourself today that makes you feel strong, confident, and amazing?

bikini power

Bikini Power!

hiring a personal stylist – no way, not for me – or IS IT?

Client Insight
“I have had very little or any practice or any interest in paying attention to fashion stuff. It’s just not part of my identity, and I have prided myself on that. Hearing the news is more important to me than paying attention to my clothes! It’s more important to be with my child than to go shopping for me. It just truly does not matter. But at the same time, it DOES matter to me.”

Wardrobe consulting? Really? I can just do that myself! Besides, other things are way more important than how you dress.

My first career was in environmental education. What the heck does that have to do with wardrobe consulting? A LOT. It led me to my current work and is the foundation for my passion for embracing personal style and practicing sustainable consumerism.

In the world of non-profits and work focused on the “social good,” fashion is not the first thing people think about. I know all about mission-driven work; the focus is on just that – the mission.

No one cares about how you dress, right? Sometimes it’s even considered to be trivial or vain to care about it. But guess what – it’s not.

Fashion is a part of the bigger world of style. And STYLE is super important – for everyone – because personal style is how you show yourself to the world. It’s what makes you YOU. It’s how you show the inside you on the outside.

Let’s face it –no matter your field, your outer appearance is the first thing people see, and it says something about you. We draw conclusions from what we see. It’s human nature to do so. That is important, but not really the main point.

Here’s the point: feeling good about the outside helps you feel better on the inside, because you are being true to yourself. 

“Fashion doesn’t only express who you are to others but also to yourself. Psychologists have coined the term “enclothed cognition” to describe how clothing alters the mood and mind-set of its wearers.” – Ben Barry, Chronicle of Higher Education

Feeling good about how you are dressed helps you feel good overall. It helps you feel confident and lets the awesome person that is YOU shine. It allows you the time and freedom to focus on the things you feel passionate about in your life – your work, your family, your creativity, you name it – and to express yourself authentically while you’re at it!

Client Insight
“It’s like your nicest china – you never use it. You go through your whole life and never use it – it’s sad. I just wear the same things over and over. It would be nice to be more intentional and to celebrate who I am – to show who I am through my clothes.”

but…personal styling?

It’s not for everyone. You have to be in the right place for personal styling. And when you are, it can mean all the difference in the world.

When I say “being in the right place,” I mean that you are ready to take steps to care for yourself. It does NOT mean that you have to have all the answers figured out – do we ever, really? You are, however, open to the possibility of feeling great about how you look and willing to expand your idea of that. Again, you are ready to feel GOOD.

Client Insight
“Mostly I’ve ignored grappling with my image. I reacted instead when things were getting worn out. I hate to shop. Putting it on the calendar makes it a priority.”

Working with me means having someone in your corner as you take those steps towards embracing your actual, beautiful body – not denying yourself until you have the idealized, fictitious body our culture tells us we should have. It means having a partner in the journey, giving guidance and support all along the way to help you find your personal style and clothes that work and that you love.

For some folks, it may not be about body image as much as it is about the prioritization of time. It is more efficient and effective to work with a wardrobe consultant, saving precious time for other important things, but still being attentive to taking care of yourself.

Client Insight
“Having a buddy makes it a thousand times better most of the time. You get vastly more done in less time, plus you actually do it! It’s the work of prioritizing what you have to do, even though you don’t want to do it. You are so much happier later.”

Working together, my clients and I accomplish ten-fold what they would on their own. I bring efficiency, effectiveness, humor, and best of all, empowerment to the process.

A Wardrobe Consult for a typically-sized wardrobe yields a closet purged of items that no longer work (and are literally hiding the ones that do) as well as tens of new outfit combinations in just three hours. A Personal Shopping session (2-3 hours) results in multiple outfits and the knowledge of how to wear them instead of a frustrating, demoralizing, and fruitless search.

I take the mystery out of knowing what sartorial choices are best suited for your personal style and body type. We all have different strengths and skills. Just like I greatly benefit from others’ expertise in running revenue projections (My eyes instantly glaze over. Seriously.), others are completely overwhelmed by figuring out how to put outfits together. It’s just not their thing, even though they want to look good.

In my business, I still think of my work as mission-based. I support people in finding the clothing that will help them feel good, so that they can get on with their amazing lives. Without the stress of a non-functional wardrobe. Without the frustrations of shopping unsuccessfully. And WITH the confidence that comes from knowing you look good and feeling like your outer self reflects WHO YOU ARE.

Client Insight
“I’m deciding to get help. I’m prepared for the day better if I feel like I look like I want to. And that enables me to be the rest of who I am.”

*Client Insights used with permission.

shedding the sweaters: embracing your body

Every Spring I go through a little mini-crisis relating to body image.

What? As a wardrobe consultant, I’m supposed to have it all figured out, right? Not even close. I have made big strides in embracing positive body image in that I see the negative messages for what they are and mindfully dismiss them. I do this most of the time. I still have days, though. And I try to be forgiving of myself and to give myself the same care I give my clients, friends, and loved-ones.

There’s something about shedding the sweaters – literally wearing less clothes as the weather gets warmer – that triggers the old anxiety for me. Layers of oversized clothing were my old way of hiding my body.

peanuts snoopy steals security blanket

Those cozy sweaters are like wearable security blankets, and I resist giving them up, even though I’m THRILLED with the warm sunshine. I have to wean myself from sweaters, usually by switching to tailored jackets or lighter-weight layers – but still layers.

shedding_sweaters

Add aging into the mix now, and it gets even messier. Those “Around the Web” ads on the Web that come up promising quick fixes for “crepe skin” are particularly horrid. Skin changes as it ages, and we’re supposed to think that is disgusting, not just a natural process. It is exhausting to think about all the things we’re supposed to hide, camouflage or fix – at any age.

Let’s BE PROUD of our bodies, and especially our skin with all its freckles, wrinkles, and marks! It means were here LIVING. Get over it Internet.

shirtdress_cropped jeans

So when it’s time to shed the sweaters, I do my little thin-layer thing – using camis underneath (just another version of a security blanket), fitted tunics and short dresses over cropped or skinny jeans, a close-fitting denim jacket as a shirt with a fun silk scarf. And I slowly start to reveal more skin and more body definition. By the time it’s warm enough for shorts and sleeveless tops in Minnesota, I’ll be ready!

Embrace your body – it’s the only one you’ve got. Take some slow, deep breaths and mindfully tell yourself, “I am beautiful. I deserve to show that to the world.” Say it again. And again.

Keep saying it until you feel your heart rate slow, your body calm, and your mind catch up with what you know deep down is true. You are beautiful. You deserve to show that to the world.

stacy london’s The Truth About Style

You likely remember TV-show What Not To Wear with Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. I recently read Stacy London’s latest book, The Truth About Style, part memoir and part style makeover stories. Honestly, I just loved it. London is an engaging writer, and her personal stories are authentic and resonant. And now she’s kind of my idol.

stacy london_the truth about style

Do you see her silver streak? It makes me SO happy! Read why.

The stories of the women she worked with for the book are a good cross-section of many of the issues – body-image, self-worth, significant life-changes – that we all face and also reflect different personal styles, ages, and body types. Throughout the vignettes are plenty of good style tips as well as laugh-out-loud observations delivered in typical Stacy London bluntness. She has a way of speaking truth about body image, style, aging, and more without disparaging others – in the same way a great stand-up comedian is one who is side-splittingly funny without excessive foul language, misogyny, or bigotry.

Before I read the book, I didn’t really know much about London’s backstory other than she is a fashion expert. She had a painful (literally and figuratively) childhood and adolescence as the result of a severe skin condition, and she talks about it frankly in the book. The fallout from her condition led to other body-image issues, including disordered eating.

I realized that her ability to work so genuinely with “real women” stems from her very first-hand experience. She has not had a charmed life, and her grit (and intelligence) is what got her where she is today. And she has impeccable style. She knows how to work with women to find the clothes that help them look, and thus feel, GREAT. She’s all kinds of awesome.

When I first launched my wardrobe consulting business, a friend described me as “a greener, sweeter What Not To Wear.” That made me smile, because What Not To Wear is where it all began for me. Watching that show 11 years ago was the beginning of my personal style journey, which ultimately led me to starting my own business.

I spent a lot of years hiding my body. The 80s and 90s were great decades to do that with their respective baggy and boxy styles. The looser the better, in my book. My dad is 6’4″, and I would raid his closet for Men’s XL Tall shirts (I’m 5’8″, and the shirts came down to my knees). That shifted some as I moved forward in my professional life, but not a lot. I would experience physical symptoms of anxiety if anything was too form-fitting.

I remember stumbling on What Not To Wear when my daughter was a toddler. It was typical reality TV with over-dramatization, but there was something about how Stacy London and Clinton Kelly interacted with the makeover winners that resonated with me. It was obvious that they truly wanted to help these women embrace their bodies “as is” and feel good about how they looked. And they knew how to make it happen. Of course, to be good television, often the women were extreme in their previous clothing choices. But even so, Stacy and Clinton gave really good style advice that was applicable to everyone, including me.

I always loved clothes, just not on myself. What Not To Wear caught me right when I was embracing that it was time to put aside the negative messages I’d held onto for SO. MANY. YEARS. For my sake. For my daughter’s sake.

The show gave me the tools to find clothes that worked with my body, rather than hide it. And I felt better about myself as a result. The better I felt, the more accepting of myself and the more confident I became. How you look on the outside really does affect how you feel on the inside.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. We all do. But I have a much better perspective now and know to consciously step back and see the old, negative messages for what they are – a big bunch of hooey.

Reading The Truth About Style was a nice reminder of how much I love Stacy London’s honest, humorous approach that is backed by deep understanding and caring, as well as a passion for style. The book would make a great holiday gift for anyone who’s interested in embracing her true self and showing it with personal style.

a self-love mantra

cup of self love

 

“May I be happy, may I live in peace; may I be strong, may I live with ease.”

My acupuncturist (a LIFESAVER in addressing blasted peri-menopause symptoms!) gave me this meditation during my last appointment that she described as “creating puddles of love.” First say it to yourself for a bit, and then, moving out in ripples, to those whom you hold very close (loved ones), then to others who are close (friends), and then to those who are close, but you aren’t particularly feeling the love for right now.

She said, “You’d be surprised at how powerful it is to say this to someone you are challenged by right now. It releases so many things.” On her way out of the room, she added, “Be sure to say it to yourself A LOT first!”

I said it to myself a couple of times and quickly moved on to my family. So much easier to think loving thoughts for them, rather than myself! I realized this and went back to me a couple of more times and moved on again.

When I got to the “challenged by” ripple, the puddles became a murky mess. As soon as I started on it, self-shaming began. As I held someone in kindness, I jumped to thinking the challenge with this person must be because of MY personal failings.

Then I started getting a little agitated and argued with myself, “Of course, it always takes two to tango – this conflict is not entirely my doing or because of my ‘failings’.” Not very meditative! I needed to start over with myself. Again.

Why is it so much harder to express self-love than self-loathing?

I had coffee with a friend, and we talked a little about it. We agreed that it’s so easy for some women (including me) to hold on tightly – and I mean TIGHTLY – to negative thoughts about ourselves. Even when, intellectually at least, we know they aren’t true.

This is particularly evident with body image. I see it in me. My clients. My friends. Young women. Older women. Elderly women. Me.

A funny and thought-provoking video short where bestselling-author and speaker Brené Brown discusses blame nails it. We blame others – and we blame ourselves – because it’s easier to blame than to let go of the illusion of control. Letting go of negative thoughts lets go of control, which makes us feel vulnerable. Even when we’re letting go of something negative.

To embrace the idea of being beautiful, no matter our body type, weight, height, age, etc., is to be vulnerable. And that is hard.

We get constant messages that tell us we aren’t beautiful unless [fill in the blank]. To claim my own beauty in the context of those messages makes me feel vulnerable. “What if I’m wrong?” “What if I’m deluding myself, and everyone knows it but me?” It’s easier just to hold on to those negative messages.

Instead, try the self-love mantra: “May I be happy, may I live in peace; may I be strong, may I live with ease.” Consciously allow yourself to feel happiness, peace, strength, and ease. To do so means accepting yourself for who you are, right now. It feels vulnerable, and it also feels really, really good.

grey matter

I recently met a friend I hadn’t seen for a few months for a walk. We hugged, and she said, “You’ve decided to go grey! I love it!”

To which I responded, “Decided? Sure, I guess you could say I ‘decided‘ to go grey.”

She laughed, and I did that laugh that’s more of a forced squeak accompanied by a slightly frozen smile.

Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t offended in the least by her remark. It’s just that when you’re in your late 40s, all kinds of aging stuff happen all at once. (Can you say peri-menopause? But that’s an entirely different post – don’t get me started.) The grey hair is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

What my friend noticed is that I am no longer covering all of my grey with color, particularly right around my face. There’s still plenty of color in my hair, but not as much as there could be! My hair stylist (I love you, Bee) has been using her incredible talents to blend my grey with high- and lowlights to create a natural look for more years than I care to remember.

In the past couple of years, the hair around my face has become fully silver-white – a prelude of what’s to come eventually for my whole head. The added highlights there began to look brassy and decidedly un-natural. I also have the good fortune of fast-growing hair, meaning roots show at a rapid rate, which can be hard on the budget. So I decided to bite the bullet (this I did “decide”), and no longer color the hair around my face. Bee crafted my hair color to allow a powerful silver stripe there, which I like quite a lot. And there’s plenty of grey elsewhere, blended with lowlights.

Enough grey to be asked once if I qualified for the senior discount. That one did not elicit a laugh – not even the frozen squeak laugh. That one just floored me. Mostly because it was a woman much older than me who asked, not a teen or 20-something who might think anything older than 30 is just plain old (eloquent rebuttal at Forever Amber). I have to be honest; that one stung.

Since I’ve embraced (sort of) my grey, I get many more comments about my hair – some from friends, some from complete strangers. Most (but not all) of them are positive: “I like your grey hair.” or “Good for you for going grey!”

It is interesting that people feel compelled to comment on it at all. Friends, I get – they are noticing what’s new with me. I appreciate that they are paying attention, as long as they’re kind about it! But why do strangers feel the need, and the liberty, to comment about a natural aspect of aging? Are we that uncomfortable with it that it is an oddity?

Alyson Walsh, British style writer/blogger of That’s Not My Age, recently had an article written by the Guardian about her decision to embrace her grey. She had an “Ouch.” moment when the article was published, to which I can completely relate. She handled it with thoughtful grace that I can only hope to embody.

Everything about my business stems from the foundation of positive body image, and I am on a continuing journey towards this just as much as my clients. I have good days, and I have bad days. It sounds cliché, but aging for me has brought wisdom and a stronger sense of self. My 40s are the decade where I’ve learned to love myself for who I am, both in body and mind. Again, I have bad days. But they are now DAYS – no longer a mindset. My silver stripe (and all the 1000s of other grey hairs on my head) represents that for me.

As our bodies change with aging, it has implications on what we wear in many ways. I’ve written before about the idea of “age-appropriate” clothing, which also is trending on many style blogs. Alyson Walsh prefers the term “ageless style,” which I quite like. I feel that focusing on context- rather than age-appropriate clothing is a better approach. Women should wear styles that make them happy, regardless of age. Context is the considering factor.

I’ve had to incorporate my change in hair color into my wardrobe choices. My hair and complexion look different with my clothes now. I have had to rethink colors – less browns, more cool colors. White actually works better for me than before. My style has evolved a little as well to be more tailored/classic with more neutrals. It’s actually fun to style the silver stripe with clothes – it’s a built-in accessory!

Hair color is an intensely personal choice. The irony is that everyone sees it – it is likely one of the first things someone notices about another person. Many women (and men, for that matter) choose to cover the grey. Some would never consider color at all. Some are “hybrids,” like me. And some make choices they never thought they would make until actually faced with the reality of going grey, losing hair, or another aspect of aging. There’s no wrong choice, even though our culture has a lot to say about it.

Aging, especially for women, gets a bad rap. And, that, I fight against. I’m trying to wrap my (grey) head around my own aging, some days more gracefully than others. I do know that being true to yourself – meaning doing what feels right to YOU, not what the media or strangers or even friends say you should do – goes a long way.

nancy dilts on sustainable style

Last week I had the opportunity to guest post on Already Pretty, Sally McGraw’s amazing blog that explores style and body image. Sally not only is an all around delightful person, but also is an extremely talented and sensitive writer. It’s an honor to collaborate with her.

Check out my guest post, Nancy Dilts on Sustainable Style, to read about the passions that guide my work and also The True Cost, a new documentary about the impacts of “fast fashion.” And be sure to subscribe to Already Pretty while you’re there!

 the true cost graphic