A few weeks ago I was invited to do a presentation about my business. Afterwards someone asked me to talk about the most difficult client I had ever had.
I had to think about this for a moment. Not because I’ve had tonnes of difficult clients and there were too many to choose from, but because I knew that there was something important I wanted to say, and I needed to let the right words come to the surface of my mind.
After a few moments I had it.
It isn’t about one client in particular, it is about a mindset that many clients come to me with.
That mindset is that they are not good enough to have nice things, that they are not beautiful so they don’t deserve to feel and look beautiful, that they are worthless so they are not worth spending time or money or thought on. That they are only ever allowed to make do rather than make the best of themselves.
It’s a mindset that affects all of us from time to time. I have it myself on some days. For some people though, it is something that makes their lives miserable every day.
It’s miserable because whether we like it or not, unless we are naturists, we have to get up and get dressed, every single day of our lives. Some days, depending on what we do, we have to dress multiple times, if we have a uniform for work, if we’re going out, if we do a hobby that involves wearing specialist kit. It all means looking in the mirror, making choices about how we dress, thinking about how we look and eventually, going shopping for clothes.
If we hate how we look. If we can’t bear to look in the mirror. If every time we look in the mirror we are critical and shout at ourselves for not being someone different, that’s a punishing lifestyle to sustain right there.
And it’s a vicious cycle. We hate how we look, so we don’t allow ourselves to have nice things, which means that we look worse than we could, which makes us hate how we look, which means we can’t allow ourselves nice things, and so on.
Also, people can very often become frightened of changing their style, because it means confronting the beliefs they have about themselves, looking at themselves properly and making changes that other people might notice and comment on, and for people who hate the way they look, being noticed is a whole other nightmare.
They look at themselves in the mirror, and instead of being kind to themselves, celebrating what they do have to be pleased about and how they do look, they spend the time thinking about the gap between the way they are now and the way they want to look, or the person they want to look like. Many people fall down that gap into depression and self loathing and find it really hard to get out again.
When someone else looks at them, if they have to think about how that person perceives them, they will inevitably run the same patterns. ‘She says I look great, but she’s being kind. She is deliberately not saying that I have fat ankles, or that I don’t look like Gigi Hadid, but she’s thinking it.’
For what it’s worth, this is what I have learned over the years:
Nobody is looking at you like you look at yourself. Mostly, people are too busy thinking about themselves and how they look to give you more than a passing glance.
Your image in the mirror is not who you are. Your image on a photo is not who you are. It captures a single moment in time, that’s all. Your body, your mind, your face, are all mobile and they change all the time. If you don’t feel good looking in the mirror now, go away, change your attitude and come back and look again. Everything changes. Stop judging yourself on a single, frozen moment that will never come back again.
Stop thinking about what you might look like in future. Focus on what you look like now and celebrate it. What I have learned over the decades is that nothing dates us like fashion. It ages badly. You might think that you will look terrific if only you have this item or that item. In twenty years time, in a photo, it’s going to look as daft as everything else that was super on trend. Enjoy the moment, don’t allow yourself to be trapped or defined in it.
Sometimes, when we fear that people are being critical of our looks it is because our own discomfort at how we look can turn into critical thinking about others. When we are uncomfortable in our skin and that feeling is overwhelming and we can’t deal with it, we tend to push it out onto others to give ourselves a break. Then we fear that other people are doing the same to us. When we start to talk to ourselves kindly, be more accepting of ourselves and celebrate ourselves, our need to tear others down lessens, and we can relax, because we can be generous to others and see the good in them. It gives us more confidence. It allows us to walk taller and own our own worth.
When this happens we can even tell others what we like about them. We can say: ‘I love your hair,’ ‘Your skirt is great, it really suits you,’ ‘Your figure is amazing’. When we share those things with other people, it comes back to us. We are changing our attention from negative to positive and it can have a truly miraculous effect on how we feel and see ourselves.
If someone says something nice about you, they mean it. The fact that you can’t accept that compliment is something for you to work on.
No matter how hard you work on yourself, make up, size, hair colour, beauty wise, there will always be something you are not happy with, because it is never about the outside and always a sign that something inside of you is not comfortable. When you figure out what the inside things are and address those, the outside things will look after themselves.
You always deserve to feel good about yourself. Always.
You can effect change from the outside in as well as the inside out. If you are feeling bad about yourself, but you treat yourself with kindness by wearing clothes that make you feel good, you will start to feel better on the inside, because the vicious cycle can always be reversed into a cycle of kindness and love and generosity.
You are perfect, right now. Just the way you are. You are unique and wonderful and you deserve to feel fabulous in what you wear and how you think.