I like my part-time retail job for 2 reasons: the first is that it gives me a much needed social shot in the arm a few times a week, and the second is that it gives me great insights into the shopping habits and motivations of women. I was working yesterday during a 40% off sale and the place was packed. I saw a woman heavy laden with tops, dresses and pants, and went over to ask if she wanted me to start a fitting room for her. She gave me a grateful look and said yes, then explained to me that she was shopping for the first time in a year and a half since she’d had her baby, and was pretty overwhelmed by the task of outfitting herself to go back to work. I love challenges such as these, so I quickly started her a fitting room and came back to help her pick out potential work pieces. She was very pretty and had a nice figure. She probably didn’t think so as most women carrying a little extra weight disparage themselves to no end. She had a nice full bottom and hips with a comparatively slender waist. The first thing you noticed about her though was her dark hair, great skin and incredibly friendly and open demeanor. I liked her. She told me that her husband was always begging her to wear more colour, and she wanted to, but when it came time to dress she’d cling to neutrals like a drowning victim to a life vest. She said she already owned tons of black pants and t-shirts. I picked out some great tops with fitted waists, flared hips and gathered bosoms that are great under jackets for work, and she said she’d give them a try. I knew it before it happened, but I hoped against hope she’d surprise me; after half an hour in the fitting room, she walked out with a fallen look on her face and a few neutral coloured t-shirts in her arms. What happened??? I talk to women all the time with the same problem, and the problem is you. It used to be me, too.
I used to see pictures of clothes I loved, clothes that looked so good on the hanger, clothes I even bought on occasion, brought home and on the hanger they stayed. I used to have a husband who’d beg me to wear colour. I used to look at other women and wish I had the guts to pull off what they were wearing. I didn’t aspire to be Lady Gaga or anything, I just wanted to dress like a grown-up. The problem was, I didn’t feel like a grown-up. You could have shown me a woman who looked exactly the same as me wearing an impeccable suit, a deliciously flirty dress or even a fierce pair of jeans with killer heels, and I would have sworn up and down that while she was clearly pulling it off well, I could not. I had no confidence, and I let the weak part of me dictate what I could and could not do. I regret spending so many years being scared, and when I meet women now who won’t take the leap I know they’re capable of taking, it makes me very sad. It’s not about clothes, it’s about who you are. And when you become a Mom, you have to consider what you’re modeling for your children. Cognitively you know that you have a responsibility to show them that they have unlimited potential locked inside of them…but what are you actually showing them?
I just watched the Wizard of Oz, and was struck as I always am by the lesson of the four of them asking the Wizard for things they’ve had all along. What are you asking for that you already have? The courage to wear a dress that isn’t black does not belong to the perfect, it belongs to all of us. Let’s all stop telling ourselves what we can’t wear, can’t say or can’t do, and go out and show the world and our kids what we as women CAN do. Preferably in heels 😉
*Practical Tip: You are what you think about. So if there’s something you’d like to wear, pick a day to wear it. Get up that morning, shower and do your hair. Put on the outfit, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself “I look great! I’m going to have an amazing day.” Then walk out the door, and any time you feel that twinge of embarrassment at not wearing your usual uniform (that’s all it is, discomfort from doing something new), repeat your “I look great” mantra. Smile. Guaranteed by the end of the day, someone will tell you what you’ve been telling yourself all day. When they do, smile and say thank you, and nothing else. This is all I did to change from the jeans and flats girl into the dresses and heels girl I wanted to be. I promise you, you can do this anytime you want and it will work, and eventually the confidence you’ve been faking will magically turn into something you truly feel. And then, you’ll be looking for your next challenge! Good luck 🙂