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

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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.

3 myths about wardrobe consulting

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Saint Paul Magazine recently published a feature article about nancy dilts wardrobe consulting (fabulous article – super exciting!!), and for the last few weeks I’ve been getting the question, “Have you had tons of phone calls since the article?” The honest answer? No.

It makes me a little queasy to say that here. But it’s true, and frankly, I didn’t expect to get a huge increase in calls right after the article. Not because the article isn’t amazing or I don’t think my work is important or worthy – I KNOW it is.

Being in this business for several years, I also know that my clients don’t engage in my services impulsively. And that’s ok. In fact, for my work with clients to have the most impact, they need to be ready – ready to embrace feeling good and open to stepping outside of their comfort zones to accomplish that.

Some things that hold people back, though, are just plain myths.

myth 1: it’s too expensive

My tagline is “style for everyday: new to you – true to you.” New-to-you refers to my focus on practicing sustainable consumerism.

A lot of my clients have never shopped consignment before working with me. They are floored when they realize the quality of clothing they can get at 1/3 or less than retail prices. Even when you factor my fees into the overall investment, you are still spending less than you would on fewer items of retail clothing, and without the guidance, support, efficiency, and success you gain when working with me.

Here are some numbers to make it real: during a 3-hour personal shopping session at a consignment store with a client, we found 28 high quality top brand/designer items to rebuild her wardrobe – including two pairs of boots, two pairs of shoes, and a belt – for $300. I looked up the retail prices of each item, which totaled at a whopping $1,900.

The client had selected my True To You Style service package, which includes a 3-hour Wardrobe Consult in your closet, personal Style Guidelines and a digital “lookbook,” and a 3-hour personal shopping session for $525.

By working with me, she invested $825 overall, less than half the retail cost of the clothing alone.

myth 2: i can do it myself

Sure, you can do it yourself. But this I know: it will take longer, it will be harder, and you won’t have the same results.

When I tell clients we will get through their (typically-sized) wardrobe in three hours, they are amazed. I know from personal experience that going through your own wardrobe by yourself takes at least twice that long. The emotional energy required and sheer number of decisions to be made make it much more difficult to do solo. I also help clients create new outfits with the clothes they already own, adding energy and increased function to their wardrobes.

Clients are also completely certain that we will never spend a full three hours at one store when personal shopping or find more than 2 or 3 items. Most of the time, clients find as many as 20-30 items in a 3-hour personal shopping session, unless they choose to purchase fewer. And those are items that fit well, reflect their personal style, go with other items being purchased or items at home, and – best of all – make them feel excited about how they look.

myth 3: i’m not worth it

Women often put themselves last. We are inculturated to feel like it is frivolous to spend money or time on ourselves. We feel our needs are not worth as much as others’ needs. Some of us simply don’t have very much time to spend on ourselves because of the demands of work and life. I often hear women say they won’t address their wardrobes until they have accomplished some other thing, like weight loss or getting in shape.

Here’s the kicker: being intentional about how you dress – right now, as is – helps you to accomplish your other goals. Scientific studies show that when you feel confident in how you are dressed, it has a positive psychological impact, allowing you to have greater success overall. We are all worth taking care of ourselves, no matter where we are in our journeys.

the myth-busting truth

I’m a busy girl on a budget too, so I know about making choices with my time and my dollars. I also know that taking care of yourself, including how you are dressed, is an essential part of your overall wellbeing.

When you work with me, this is what you gain:
  • Assistance in identifying your current personal style and embracing it
  • Objective and supportive guidance in making your existing wardrobe more functional through purging things that don’t work, reimagining ways to wear the items that do, and identifying gaps to be filled and items to be replaced
  • Effective and efficient shopping support for rebuilding your wardrobe to meet your current needs in an affordable way
  • A closet full of clothing that WORKS for your body and personal style, instead of an overwhelming clutter of items that cause frustration
  • A better understanding of how to put clothing together to make intentional, polished outfits that reflect your personal style and suit you
  • Positive, honest advice and feedback and open communication (And even some laughter!)
  • Countless hours of precious time and energy saved
  • Renewed confidence and joy in your appearance and feeling your best

Working with me is about so much more than the financial investment or feeling like you shouldn’t. It’s about taking care of your outer self, which is really about taking care of your inner self too. It’s about having someone who can help make daily dressing SO. MUCH. EASIER. Which allows you to live your life feeling good about how you look, right now, today.

Today is a perfect day to start the process of feeling great about how you look.

I always ask new clients how they learned about my services. I won’t be surprised at all if for the next year, and beyond, I hear, “I saw you in Saint Paul Magazine, and I’m finally contacting you!”

What’s stopping you from connecting with me today? Because really, today is a perfect day to start the process of feeling great about how you look.

 

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.

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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?