How often do you pass by styles you see in stores or online because you think you can't wear them - or because you've already sworn off certain things for your body? I imagine it's more than you'd like to admit. Just this week, I heard several clients say these exact phrases to me:
"I never thought I could wear that!"
"I would have never thought to try that style!"
"Are you sure I can wear that?
"But my waist isn't as thin as it used to be, so I can't wear pants that accentuate my waist."
These types of phrases are common amongst women I work with. And it's no wonder why. Women are classically hard on themselves, especially when it comes to our bodies. Harder on themselves than anyone else around them. In fact, I know with certainty (because it also happens to me) that we tend to see our girlfriends, moms, sisters, female co-workers and other women in our life with a ton of grace, but leave no grace for ourselves.
Our inner critics are so strong that they create a skewed perspective of our bodies. Only allowing us to see what is flawed, imperfect, or not fitting a certain standard that we (or society) creates for us. When we have a skewed perspective of our bodies, guess what happens? We create all these rules for ourselves about what we can - and can't - wear. I've seen women's lists of "can't wear that" become so long, that they are left with so little to work with. They become afraid to try new things or take risks with their style.
And it's no wonder we are hard on ourselves, because we have been flooded with messages about the way our bodies and womens' style should be since we were little girls. Over time, we all develop a set of beliefs and rules about style - consciously or unconsciously. A large percentage are unhelpful and detrimental. Maybe we learned it from media, culture, our family, the patriarchy, our moms or aunts, or some mean kid at school who teased you about what you wore one day. Irrational or not, we cling to these rules as testament. And most of the time, we don’t even realize that we’ve adopted these rules and beliefs, but they are undoubtedly influencing how we behave and the choices we make in our style.
Over the course of many years, these long-held beliefs and rules erode our ability to show up in a way that feels authentic - and prevent us from embracing the style we really want for ourselves.
These expectations and rules and beliefs we repeat to ourselves about our style or our bodies is exactly how we get stuck. It's why we get bored with our closets, why we are frustrated with shopping, and why we loathe what we see in the mirror each day. Getting to the bottom of what's keeping you stuck is why when I work with my clients on defining their style - we don't just vision and dream and name the style they've always wanted, but we also dig deep into what may be holding them back from fully embracing that style. I've learned there aren't too many new blocks... women tend to carry around some very similar stories about style and their bodies.
Some common beliefs/thoughts/old rules about style I see that hold women back include:
I can’t have great style if I don’t have money.
As a mom, I can't spend time or money on myself, that's selfish. I need to devote all of that to my kids.
Style/what I wear isn't important. People should see me and respect me for my mind.
I can’t be beautiful if I am not a certain size.
Because of my body type, I can only wear certain things.
I will stand out too much if I don’t conform to what everyone else is wearing. I will be less approachable and relatable.
I have to dress like others at work to fit in or be successful.
I’m a mom and I have to dress appropriately.
I’m 40 + and I will look like I’m trying too hard, or trying to be young.
Adopting a new perspective
A big part of what I do is help women step outside of themselves to see a new view. Gain a new perspective about their style and their body. Help them abandon old beliefs and rules and thoughts about style that no longer serve them. Teach them about styles that will work for - not against - their bodies. Help them see that there is beauty in them. And learn to love what they see. Honestly, some days I feel more like a therapist than a stylist! But I am happy to play that role because how we feel when we get dressed will impact our entire day and those around us (brain science backs this up!). Brain science shows that how we feel when we get dressed impacts how we interact with others, our mood, our personality, how we show up (or if we show up). So if I can help even one woman show up more confidently, and feel empowered to conquer their day, it's worth it to me.
3 Ways your Inner Critic is Killing Your Style
So what about this awful inner critic? We all have it, and know it's doing us no favors. But have you ever thought about how this harsh inner critic is killing your style potential? Heres's three ways you may not have thought of:
#1 It creates a skewed, non-fact based view of our body.
As I mentioned before, our inner critics are so harsh that we can get into a rut of only seeing what is bad, wrong, imperfect, not up to standard, not good enough, etc. It's so much easier to focus on the flaws, instead of the good, am I right??
We have to consciously flip the script and retrain our brains to see what's good about our bodies.
I am not going to lie and say I'm above this harsh critical thinking. (I'm an Enneagram 1 for crying out loud! 1's are known to have the harshest inner critics around.) As a result, I have to get pretty crafty when it comes to combating this thinking.
One of the tricks I commonly do is imagine how someone I love (my husband, kids, mom, sister, friends, etc.) would see me. If you are of the Christian faith, perhaps you think of how God sees you. Do they focus on the flaws? Heck no! In fact, many times, they don't even see those flaws AT ALL. I've caught myself saying something critical about my body to friends and they literally stare at my with a blank face, wondering what the heck I am talking about. Proof right there that our inner critics are HUGE LIARS! (Side note: I'm so thankful for those friends and women in my life that are able to call out my inner critic on this B.S.! I hope you have many women in your life that do this for you, too!)
Another trick I use is to get out of my illogical, irrational brain, and back to the facts. Meaning, KNOW your body type instead of ASSUME you know it. I can't tell you the number of times that I had my clients take their measurements, and when I told them what their body type was, they were completely surprised. Facts are power baby! When we have facts and measurements to work with, we can do a better job of picking out styles that work with - not against - your body.
Actions you can take today:
Write down 5 things you love about your body. If you are struggling, imagine what someone close to you would say. Read it every time you have a negative thought.
Know your body type. No more making assumptions. Get down to the facts. Read my blog about the different body types and how to measure here here.
#2 Even after our bodies change, we still hold onto rules that no longer apply.
Ouch. This one is tough for so many women. I see this all the time when women lose weight, but also conversely when they gain weight. (Hello, pandemic bod!) When women lose weight, it's common that they continue to believe they have the body they once had. (and along with that comes all the rules for dressing their larger size). Conversely, when women gain weight, we create new rules that aren't necessarily rational. (Like you once had killer, toned arms because of playing athletics in college, and now after normal aging and lack of time to spend on your bod, you refuse to show your arms, even though they aren't as bad as you think.)
Here's another one. Has someone ever told you that you couldn't wear something, or teased you about how you looked? Regardless of whether or not this person had any basis for making these comments (in 99.9% of cases, they were total lies and had NOTHING to do with you), we tend to internalize these comments, and sadly, it can terrorize us for years. It's so common to hear that women hold onto mean or teasing comments about their size or a feature of their body - even way back from their childhood or teenage years. And after all this time, they are still holding onto these irrational rules and beliefs that either they created for themselves - or that someone else so rudely created for them.
What does this sound like in real life?
"I do not look like the models on the website, so I can't wear that style."
"I can't wear short skirts because my legs are too long."
"My stomach isn't flat, so I wear big flowy tops to hide it."
"I am not thin so I cannot be stylish, or beautiful."
"Someone once teased me about being chubby, so now I believe it."
"I have large thighs, so jeans don't work for me."
"My arms are flabby so I can never wear sleeveless shirts."
"Wearing black will make me look thinner, so that's what I wear."
"My breasts are small so I am not feminine, or womanly."
"I was teased about my large boobs when I was a young woman, so I always cover them up."
Are any of these resonating with you? What things have you said about your body that are irrational? What rules have you created that don't really apply anymore?
I hope you are beginning to see that we have to question our thinking if we want to move ahead. And question where our beliefs came from.
Actions you can take today:
Ask yourself these questions, and reflect on them honestly:
How am I using clothes to cover up or hide, rather than highlight, my body?
What rules have I created for myself - related to style - that are irrational?
What rules has someone else created for me - related to style - that are irrational?
#3 It keeps us stuck in a rut of buying the same styles and colors over and over.
I am all for finding styles and colors that work for you and then hitting repeat. That said, when we (irrationally) believe that certain things work for us - and others don't - we limit our options and what we allow ourselves to buy. And when we buy the same styles over and over, we become bored with our wardrobe pretty quickly.
Be honest: Do you have a closet full of v-neck t-shirts, in every single color? Only skinny jeans in dark wash? Only black clothing? 5 million cardigans?
We are all guilty of this. Even me. And I've seen inside lots of womens' closets so I can vouch it's true that we all get stuck in ruts. It can be hard to try something different... often because it's a risk, it may be a total fail, or it involves more work (Ahem, where are my people who hate return shipping?!).
But I'm here to tell you that sometimes taking a style risk (especially calculated ones) can work out amazingly!
Here's a simple personal example: A couple years ago, I bought something in a rust/brown shade on a whim. I have been a gray/black girl all my life. The thought of buying something brown was completely foreign to me, not even on my radar. Maybe because I wasn't drawn to it, or maybe because buying black and gray was my MO. Either way, I just didn't do it. Then I had my colors done, and realized that black is in fact NOT great on my skin, but rusty brown tones are. And once I tried it on, I realized - WOW, brown shades actually look really good on me! It's a silly example, I know. But I can't tell you the number of times women have told me they don't (or will not) wear a certain color. The truth is, every color works with our skin, it's just a matter of finding the right shade.
And now, a story that's a little more serious: I played trumpet for most of life. In high school, we would have competitions where we needed to dress up. I remember one day in particular at an individual music competition in my hometown where I had to perform a solo in front of a judge. I showed up that day in a dress that was short, several inches above my knee. After I performed (flawlessly, by the way), my trumpet coach who I greatly respected and admired, told me that I should consider wearing pants or a longer dress in the future, because when I raised my arms to play, my dress got even shorter, to an inappropriate length. Having long legs made it even worse as it made my dress appear shorter. I was embarrassed beyond belief. Mortified! Always a rule follower and never wanting to offend anyone, I vowed to never ever wear a short dress to perform again. Unfortunately, to this day, I am overly conscious of wearing shorter length skirts or dresses. I rarely buy them for fear that I will come across as inappropriate. But, in reality, I know that buying a short skirt does not make me inappropriate, just uncomfortable and self-doubting.
So, what is your story? What category of clothing have you X'd out of your wardrobe? What color do you refuse to wear? Do you even know why you don't wear these things?
Actions you can take today:
Need help seeing your body in a new light?
You don't have to go this alone. Working with someone who is trained to help you find the best styles and colors may just be the thing to help you breakthrough this noise from your inner critic. I'd love to help you feel 100% confident in your body and see the beauty you possess right now. Book a free 30-minute style consultation with me this week so we can chat about the challenges you are facing with your style - and I can share how I can help you solve those problems, make style fun again, and create more ease in your closet and your life. You won't regret it!
Hi, I'm so glad you're here! I'm a Personal Virtual Stylist and owner of Style Decoded. I'm a Midwest born fashion lover on a mission to help women show up with more authenticity and alignment at work and in their businesses through their style, and feel 100% confident in their own skin every day. Styling is my passion but it hasn't always been my job. I spent 20 years of my career in client service, advertising, developing brands, blogging, podcasting, and creating marketing and social social strategies for my clients, ranging from Fortune 500 giants to individuals building their personal brand online. To say I know a thing or two about marketing and branding is an understatement! Now, I love teaching women how to define and own their unique personal brand through style. Interested in working with me? Set up a free 30-minute style consult on my calendar at a time that works for you to chat about where you struggle with your style - and to learn more about my styling services and packages.
Want more from me?
Or, sign up for my weekly style newsletter to be the first to get my style tips, outfit inspiration, exclusive shopping finds, and new events and programs I'm offering.