This pandemic has changed everything about styling for me. As the owner of SUST Style and Counselling Psychologist, I am interested in how to use fashion and accessories as a tool for self-expression. Fashion should be fun and frivolous; it's an escape from the mundane and a chance to let our imaginations run wild. But beyond that it can have a deeper purpose to express our true selves to the world and in doing so bolster our self confidence.
Usually we are taught to dress in what is appropriate for other people so that they can judge us in the best light. I call that outside-in styling. Can you remember the last time you dressed for a date, a job interview, a dinner party or other social occasion? When figuring out what to wear, did you focus more on trying to control how the other might see you rather than on how you see yourself?
I grew up doing outside-in styling so much that I didn't know who I really was and what my true style was. But beyond that, it impacted my self esteem negatively because I was allowing another's' evaluation of me (good or bad) to determine how I felt about myself. It meant my self esteem fluctuated according to whether I thought others' thought I looked fat, tired, overdressed, underdressed, good or bad; the mental chatter was endless and exhausting.
As a psychologist, I know that healthy self esteem is meant to be constant but I didn't realise how inside-out styling could be an amazing empowerment tool. When dressing, I purposely ignore that critical voice and focus on what I want and how I can style myself to achieve it. Inside Out styling typically starts with checking in with how I feel and if I am feeling good I wear clothes and colours that bolster this feeling and what I want to project. Eg, if I have a meeting I visualise how I want to feel and act, I create a positive mental image and work to achieve that when styling my clothes.
If I am feeling a tired and lacking in inspiration, I know this can be a trigger for the critical voice to creep in and for my mind to go towards external judgement and evaluation. That's when I focus on all of my good qualities, I actually have them written down so I don't forget and in reminding myself of my strengths I move back towards equilibrium.
If you can do one thing today towards inside-out styling, I would encourage you to write a list of your best qualities and pin it on the wardrobe door. Next time you go to get dressed, take a look and breathe it in. Then decide what to wear to reflect that best self to the world!
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