A Two-Step Practice To Build Authentic Confidence In Your Style
*Image by Erin Evangeline
I sat there on the edge of the bed and watched her examine herself in the mirror.
She tilted her head to one side and then the other as she took in what she saw. She ran her hands down the sides of the outfit, the fourth outfit she had put on since I arrived. She stood up on her toes then dropped to her heels. As she turned around to face me, she forced a small smile but her eyes told the truth. After four attempts of trying to find a look she loved, she was starting to feel a bit defeated.
“This just isn’t your look.” I said to her.
“None of them are my look. I’m starting to think it’s me and not the clothes.” And I could tell from the tone in her voice and the drop of her head that she did, in fact, believe that she was the problem.
Here’s the tricky thing about feeling confident in our appearance and how you show up in the world…
You’re not set up for success. The messages you hear, the images you see, the very nature of the beauty, health, and fashion industries all reinforce the idea that you could always be better. There’s always smoother skin or a smaller size or a new, stylish outfit to be had. And getting hit with that day after day, year after year can make it hard to step in front of that mirror and look at yourself sometimes.
I make my living coaching women to feel confident in their appearance so that they’re empowered to show up and share their gifts with the world. I’ve sat on the edge of beds and leaned on the doors of fitting rooms as a part of my job for years. But as I sat on the bed that day and watched a dear friend, a woman I know to be truly amazing, doubt herself because of an outfit, my heart broke.
We’ve all been there in front of that mirror not loving what we see and judging ourselves for it.
And we each deserve to love who we are and feel empowered to show up confidently as we are without judgment. Because of this I want to share with you what I shared with my friend that day. First, it’s not you. You’re lovely. You’re amazing. You’re just as you’re meant to be. Right now. Right here. Just as you are in this moment.
Second, just because you like a look doesn’t mean that look is for you. Liking a look is only one part of the puzzle. Who you are, what you need from your look, what you’re trying to say with that look, how that look works with your lifestyle, body, and life are all factors that need to be considered as a part of your appearance along with the look. Your preferences for your looks and appearance are highly influenced by what you see around you. And if what you see around you doesn’t represent who you are in every way, then it’s likely that you’ll end up liking a look that doesn’t fully work for you.
Third, if you love a look but it doesn’t work for you, you’re not the problem. The same look can be both amazing and a complete disaster. Because looks aren’t complete until they’re connected to a person. Looks aren’t things that are objectively good or bad because the true purpose of a look is communication. You use looks as visual communication to give people a sense of who you are and what you’re about. That’s it. And, as with all communication, alignment between message and meaning is key. Your look is the message, you’re the meaning. If the look doesn’t work for you, then it’s simply the wrong message. That’s not a judgment on you or the look. It’s just a misalignment.
So, knowing these three things, what do you do? How do you reconcile the look you like with who you are? How do face that mirror and see something that’s not working and not judge yourself?
These are the two steps that I shared with my friend that day.
They aren’t an instant solution. They’re a practice, a ritual you use when you step in front of that mirror to start to shift how you approach and think about your looks and appearance so that they’re empowering and focused on serving you.
Step One: Feeling
Before you look in the mirror ask yourself, “How do I want to feel in this look?” Pick one to two words that capture that feeling.
When you look in the mirror ask yourself if your appearance makes you feel like the feeling you identified. If the answer is yes, take a second to take note of why. If the answer is no, take a second to identify something you could shift or change about the look (not you!) to get you closer to that feeling.
Step Two: Communication
Just as you did in step one, before you look in the mirror ask yourself, “What do I most want to communicate about myself with this look?” Pick up to three words that you want to communicate.
When you look in the mirror ask yourself if your appearance communicates these things. Once again, if the answer is yes then take note of why. If the answer is no then take a moment to identify what you can change or shift about the look (not you!) to get closer to the right message.
A note on this exercise: As you’re starting out it might be challenging to determine if your appearance sends a certain message. Initially the answer might be, “I don’t know.” That’s okay. If that happens, turn the question around and ask yourself if the look doesn’t send the message. That’s usually an easier question to answer at first!
As my friend went back to the mirror in her fifth outfit, we both kept her words in mind. She was heading to a party in her honor. A party she was extraordinarily excited and grateful for. She wanted to feel special in her look because she felt special being honored by this gesture from her family and friends. She also wanted her loved ones, many of whom she hadn’t seen in months if not years, to know that she was happy, thriving, and confident in who she was. She felt she had finally stepped into her own and wanted them to know this about her as a part of this special day.
She faced the mirror, tilted her head side to side again, ran her hands down her sides and turned to me with a slight smile in her eyes and said, “It’s a happy look for sure, but I don’t feel special enough just yet. Let’s try the next one.”
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Jessica Jo Fisher is a confidence coach for women who want to step into their full, authentic self. She believes all women should feel empowered to show up just as they are, claim their space, and share their gifts with the world. Her unique approach allows women to move beyond feeling that they have to change how they look or who they are in order to be worthy and able to achieve their dreams. With extensive training and experience in the worlds of design, style, and education, Jessie brings a radically different take on the purpose of beauty, looks and style. A take that’s truly needed in today’s highly curated, visual world.