Retain Your Individuality and Be Yourself

I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or just mind over matter, however I am finding that I am not nearly as judgmental as I used to be—about almost everything. I came across a quote from Gwyneth Paltrow: “The older I get, the more open-minded I get [and] the less judgmental I get.” In my 20s and 30s, I would readily look at someone and sum up who I thought they were and the personality that went with their behavior. More often than not, it wasn’t flattering.

Women have a talent for noticing other females as they walk by. We can tell you what someone is wearing from head-to-toe, with just a glance. It’s not always used for judgment purposes, it’s just something we do instinctively, I think. What I’ve noticed about myself lately is I don’t harbor any cynical thoughts about what a woman chooses to do with her personal style. I have a greater appreciation for how women present themselves and it’s overall admiration. Is that maturity on my part? I’m not sure, but let’s call it that.

I started to think about the reversal of that and the feeling of being judged by others. While we were out this past weekend, I wondered if women looked at me and judged who I am by how I looked. Did they assume that I didn’t have any issues with my weight and have always been a size six—that it came easy for me? That I must not have any children who seem to be blamed for mothers not taking care of ourselves.  That I don’t care about how my hair looks because…well, let’s just say humidity isn’t my friend. Of course, I assume too much and perhaps not a single person even noticed me. However, being a female, I know how women think—not all women by any means, just in general. 

I’m not quite on board with the “I don’t care what people think” school of thought just yet, but I’m working on it. I wonder if someone is judging me for my nose piercing or if they think my breasts must be fake or that my shirt is inappropriately low-cut or my leather pants are a bit much to have dinner at the local taco joint. It’s is a full-blown job being comfortable in my own skin and having these thoughts don’t help. And why should I care what others think?

I shouldn’t.

It’s discouraging and brings down my confidence. We women have enough to deal with and need to feel a sense of camaraderie with those who would understand—judgey-judy doesn’t wear well on anyone. I want to project what I feel on the inside by how I look on the outside. Some days I feel sexy, on some I feel energetic, and on some I feel impossibly introverted. So I will wear the sexy low-cut top, or cut-off shorts with a cute t-shirt—and on the introverted days, I may just stay home in yoga pants and a tank top (but they’ll coordinate!).

My best friend—someone I’ve known since childhood—is enviously comfortable with who she is. It’s the most beautiful thing about her. If she wants to dance in the middle of the grocery store parking lot to a song blaring from a car driving by, she’s gonna dance. If she wants to wear a short, black dress cut down to her navel with high heels to the aforementioned taco joint, she’s gonna rock that look. You will notice immediately that she loves who she is as a woman.

And, she has never been the judgmental type, with always a positive thing to say about everyone—no matter what. The topless, drunk girl at the festival doing cartwheels? “Well, okay then…you go girl!” I love this about her and being in her presence encourages me to be the same. In fact, it makes me feel good about myself. The difference between us is that she may do a cartwheel too, whereas I wouldn’t want the attention it would provide—oh, the judgment. (Just kidding, I wouldn’t do the cartwheel as I did it once a few years ago and thought I was going to die. My insides felt like I stirred everything up with an old, wooden spoon.)

The goal is to not apologize for who I am and not care what others may think of me. The only person I need to answer to is myself. I know this. And because I know this, it is something I will work to correct it as the feeling of being limited for fear of judgment is exhausting. I want to be as comfortable in public as I am at home with my family. 

I do encourage my 15-year-old daughter to be confident with who she is and express her personality however she wants—with age appropriate limits, of course. She’s better than me about not worrying what people will think. I do step in when she is about to leave the house in a shirt that looks like she practiced origami with it before putting it on. However, I let her wear it if that’s what she wants. Maybe it’s a style or maybe it’s laziness, but either way, it’s her choice. Rock that wrinkled shirt!

“Always be yourself. Retain individuality; listen to the truest part of yourself.”

~Marilyn Monroe

The Devil Isn’t The Only One In Prada

So maybe I don’t wear Prada, but the devil shouldn’t have all the fashion fun. One of the fabulous benefits of weight loss is the need to go shopping for new clothes. I’m not a huge fan of shopping (unless it’s books or antiquing) and don’t venture into malls as a fun way to kill time. However, this was an exciting excursion and I was curious what size I would be needing. I have to mention, I don’t think we really understand what size we are until we’re in the dressing room—and it varies sometimes on the store you’re in. 

My first stop is always White House Black Market. It isn’t because they have beautiful clothes and great sales—it’s the personal stylist that comes with every visit.  No need to be a celebrity to have you’re own stylist here. When I’m in WHBM, I know that they get me and I never feel pressured. My love for this store started one day last December when Charnel walked into my life—or fitting room, as it were.

Charnel is a stylist for WHBM in their Millenia Mall location here in Orlando—a petite woman with a lot of personality and personal style—and, she is fabulous! I had ventured to the fitting room area with a few things and she was there to get me settled. The first thing she asked was my shoe size. I didn’t come in for shoes, but that wasn’t her point. She told me that the only way to determine whether the outfit worked is if I was completed assembled. Charnel was right—it made a huge difference. When I came out of the fitting room to show Michael the outfit, he was floored. 

“You’re getting those shoes! And everything else you’re wearing!”

“Shoes transform your body language and attitude. They lift you physically and emotionally.” – Christian Louboutin

The shoes were a dark blue, patent leather high-heel that seemed to go with everything. Charnel was there to offer her advice when I stepped out and had a few other items in her hand for me. With Michael’s reaction and the good vibes emanating from being in some sexy shoes, I was feeling good. I didn’t readily like what Charnel handed me, but I tried it on anyway. Not only did everything fit perfectly (without her asking my size), but I loved it. This happened several times within the next hour, well past closing time—I hadn’t even realized and no one said a word. However, I quickly apologized when I realized I had stayed so long. 

I didn’t leave with the shoes as my frugal nature allowed only the two pairs of pants and three tops—besides, I had some black heels to go with the skin-hugging, black pants I purchased. 

So naturally, when I was down twenty pounds in weight, I knew where I wanted to go. Charnel was already busy with another client, so another stylist named Kim helped me. She wasn’t as spunky as Charnel, but super helpful. And like my previous visit, I was brought some sexy shoes to try on with my outfits. I laughed when Kim brought me some skin-tight, black leather-like pants in a size four. Just like Charnel said back in December, Kim said, “Trust me.” They fit! Mostly because they were stretchy, but let me tell you, I haven’t worn size four since I was four. 

Charnel popped her head in to check on me constantly, she cheered me on and made suggestions. Her personality is so contagious and she has a way of making you feel like a rock star. Although Kim did an amazing job styling me, Charnel is my spirit animal (as the saying goes). I left with the size four pants, two small tops, two pairs of jeans in size six—and the sexy sandals Kim suggested. I haven’t worn the “leather” pants yet, but I definitely will. 

Having clothes that fit you properly is essential in feeling good about how you look. Sometimes you need a stylist to show you the possibilities, if not, take a friend whose style you admire. I have deliberately avoided the usual choices I make with clothes and try on things that I normally wouldn’t. There is no “age-appropriate” clothing when it comes to how you want to look and feel. When I look in that fitting room mirror, I have more appreciation for what I have worked for and like what I see. 

To make room for the new clothes, it was time to get rid of those size 10-12 items from my wardrobe. At my daughter’s suggestion, we went to Platos Closet—apparently they’ll pay you for clothes in good condition. They didn’t select very many of the items I brought in, mostly the purses and wallets (there was no joy sparked from them anymore, so they had to go too). But, I left there spending far more than they gave me.  I should mention that I was against buying resale many years ago, before I learned the absolute comfort of a worn-in pair of jeans. The reality is that if you go to a reputable resale shop, their selection of clothes are usually in excellent condition, or may even have the original tags still on them. I actually picked up a WHBM top, new with the tags, just a few days ago at one of my favorite resale shops. 

So again, don’t continue to wear clothes that don’t fit you. It will completely taint how you feel about yourself. When I was growing in weight, I reluctantly bought clothes in the appropriate size, but felt better about how I looked—the muffin-top isn’t a style I appreciate for myself. When my weight went the other way, I bought a few things that fit better rather than wear something that made me feel frumpy. This isn’t about what others may think of me, but how I wanted to feel when I left my house. If you feel good wearing tank tops and pajama pants, then do so. It’s all about what makes you feel good. 

“A woman is never sexier than when she is comfortable in her clothes.”

– Vera Wang