Most people believe that style is like an “it” factor, like it is something you either have or you don’t. That’s just not true. Anyone can have a personal style, but you have to do the work to discover yourself first. Personal style is a form of self expression that occurs after deep inner exploration. When someone struggles with their personal style, it’s almost always because they have become disconnected from who they are now, in this moment.
It’s easy for us to look back on how we used to dress and comment on how much our bodies have changed, but we don’t usually take the time to reflect on how much we have changed, beyond what size we used to wear. It can be challenging for a lot of us to give ourselves grace instead of judgment when we think of our bodies. Clothes that no longer work for us give us unwelcome, sometimes aggressive feedback about our bodies. Whether we’re trying on jeans that we forgot were too small, or we’re just going through our closets and coming across clothes that no longer fit, it’s unwelcome feedback. By holding onto clothes that no longer fit, it’s a constant, daily reminder that you are not accepting your body for the way it is right now. You keep those clothes because of the thoughts that say, what if you’re that size again. We’re convinced we’re just trying to be prepared by holding onto clothes that don’t fit, but what’s actually happening is you’re subconsciously repeating to yourself that you’re not enough. The reality of the situation is that if your body changes again to where you are wearing a different size, you’re going to want new clothes that feel like who you are now, not the version of you that used to wear that size so many years ago.
Your body changed, and so have you
Think back to the person you were five years ago, and compare them to the person you are now. How would you describe the version of you five years ago, and how much have you changed?
Maybe you used to feel like you were stylish. You used to enjoy shopping. There was a time in your life when shopping felt easy. (If none of this feels like you, it’s ok, we’ll talk to you in a minute.) Then, life happened, and now you look in your closet and feel uninspired, bored, and like you have nothing to wear. You wear the same things, and if you’re being honest, you’re not in love with any of it. Scrolling on social media and shopping online feels overwhelming, and you don’t even know where to start, so you don’t. Or maybe you buy some things an influencer recommended, but when you try it on, you can’t help but think, it just doesn’t look right on you.
Maybe you always hated shopping. You always struggled to find clothes that fit your body, so you got used to settling for clothes that were ‘just okay’. Now you’re at a point in your life where you’re not going to certain events, because you don’t have the right thing to wear. You don’t want to stand out for wearing the wrong thing. You want to feel like you belong there, just like everyone else. But you hate to shop, so you continue to wear clothes you don’t love, and the cycle continues.
Both scenarios have the same root cause – a need for healing and self rediscovery. In both situations, there has become a disconnect from the person that you are. Not the roles you play in your life, who you are outside of all of that. The first step in your healing and self rediscovery is to ask yourself the question, “Who am I?” I challenge you to answer the question “who am I”, and try to respond without including any roles you have. Outside of being a mom, a business owner, a caretaker, who are you? How would you describe yourself? If that question is making you anxious and uncomfortable, ask yourself “how would those closest to me describe me if I wasn’t in the room?” Ideally, the people closest to us would say the same things to our face as they would if we weren’t with them, but adding “if I wasn’t in the room”, ensures authenticity and honesty with our response.
Once you have at least three words written down about yourself that aren’t roles, I want you to think if any of those words can be reflected in your current personal style. If you have a favorite outfit, I bet at least one of your words shows up in that outfit. To go even further with this exercise, I highly recommend downloading my free guide for the 3 Questions to Discover Your Personal Style. The guide goes even deeper to help you expand on your answers, creating a beautiful experience to hold space for yourself.
Confidence and style go hand in hand, but why?
People who have a stronger sense of self have a much easier time finding and executing their personal style. Why? Because your personal style is just an extension of who you are. It’s an outer expression, a visual representation of who you are inside. When you are confident with who you are, you’re confident with your decisions, and that directly applies to what you choose to wear. People aren’t confident because they’re stylish, they’re stylish because they’re confident.
Let’s go back to that influencer outfit that you bought – the one that just didn’t look right on you. It just wasn’t the same. I totally support getting outfit inspiration from social media, absolutely. Get inspiration wherever you feel the spark! But use it as inspiration, not copy/paste. When you copy/paste an outfit, it can feel like outfit plagiarism. You’re trying to make it work on you just like it worked on them, but it’s not happening. Of course, from the perspective of a personal stylist, there are a lot of reasons why the influencer outfit isn’t working on you. It could be an issue with sizing, fabric, coloring, proportions, accessories, styling details, etc. However, in most cases, the outfit isn’t working, because it’s not aligned with who you are, and how you want to show up in the world.
When we start to explore different ways of expressing ourselves through style, it can feel really daunting. The energy that comes along with it can often be anxiety inducing. When we’re anxious, we doubt ourselves and our decisions. The hypercritical people in our lives are like predators in the wild, they can smell your doubt. They swoop in and make passive aggressive comments about what you’re wearing, or they make a judgmental joke about it at your outfit’s expense. Then you retreat, tail between your legs, not ever wanting to step outside of your comfort zone again.
But what if I told you that entire scenario could go completely differently. Instead of copying an outfit, you choose to wear pieces that make you feel so good. You put your outfit on, and instead of feeling anxious, you naturally radiate confidence. Trust me, when you like what you’re wearing, the confidence glows. The glow from your “I know I look good” energy shines too bright for the hypercritical folks to even come near you, and instead the compliments start flowing. Now don’t let this part of the process throw you off your game. Receiving compliments can be tough for some of us. If hearing and receiving a compliment is a challenge for you, just say “thank you”, as the complete sentence that it is. You don’t have to say anything else, just “thank you.” I promise, it gets easier. Someone who is stylish is doing the work. A stylish person goes to therapy, calls themselves out on their own bullshit, and really could not care less if you like their outfit.
They’re wearing the clothes for themselves, not for anyone else. When you start showing up for yourself, authentically as yourself, your whole life starts to change. Your style is just an added bonus.
Susan Padron is an intuitive personal stylist, an award winning author, podcast host, and has been featured in InStyle and many publications accessible all over the world. She works with her clients to find a personal style that is a true reflection of who they are as a unique individual, while simultaneously helping them to navigate through their limiting beliefs. Rather than focusing on fashion trends and body types, Susan curates a style for her clients that is accessible, versatile, all while dressing their soul. She is a tattooed, queer mom, who is always ready to give you the gentle nudge or emotional hug, whichever you need, so that you can give yourself the permission to be you.
Susan lives in New Jersey, with her husband, their son, and their “zoo” of adorable animals.