Am I practicing self-acceptance if I still have a desire to look nice?
This question popped in my head a week or so ago, when Lancelot and I were doing some work around the house. Lancelot was putting on an old t-shirt, and commented, “Let’s get comfortable. It’s not like we have to get dressed up for anyone or anything.”
I agree! And I also disagree. Comfortable is good, and we don’t have to get dressed up. However, I take issue with the idea that being comfortable and dressing up – or at least, dressing nicely – are mutually exclusive concepts. It’s actually been my experience that the sloppier I dress, the worse I feel. There’s something to be said for wearing ratty old sweatpants on a rainy day, or snuggling in a fleece sweatshirt when I have the flu. When the sun is shining and I’m feeling normal, however, I have found that dressing nicely lifts my mood and makes me more me.
I don’t always get a chance to shower every day. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone. It’s just a fact of our lives right now – sometimes, I have to settle for a ponytail, a headband or even a hat. When I don’t get a chance to primp a bit in the morning, I feel grungy. I feel unsettled, even if I look presentable, and I act uncomfortable, too. On the other hand, when I have freshly dried hair and a few minutes to do something as simple as add a colorful scarf to my yoga-pants-and-t-shirt uniform, I feel more comfortable in my skin.
I have felt like a frumpy, unstylish stick-in-the-mud for most of my life. As a girl growing up, I tried on the ESPIRIT clothes the cool girls were wearing, but they didn’t look quite right on me. (Maybe it’s because I wanted to wear matching ESPIRIT from head to toe, and added a Debbie Gibson-esque hat on top.) I’m pretty sure I was the only girl in my Gamma Phi Beta pledge class that didn’t own a pair of black pants, and I had no idea what to wear with said pants once I actually bought them. When I became a new mom, a similar dilemma faced me – I didn’t own a pair of yoga pants. (The horror!) I was 20-or-so pounds overweight and few of my clothes fit me, and anything I wore just screamed “Frumpy Mom.” It was an all-time low for me, a time where I hated my body and everything that draped across it, and I embarked on a mission to change my feelings of frumpiness for good. I started binge watching old episodes of “What Not To Wear,” I joined Pinterest and poured over the fashion pins, and I started throwing away the clothes that made me feel drab and unstylish, replacing them slowly with jeans that weren’t from Old Navy, and shirts that actually showed my body shape. I even bought yoga pants, and figured out what to wear with them. I stopped gravitating toward the boring old basic black loafers that would “go with everything” and started buying sparkly red ballet flats and impractical turquoise Gladiator sandals. Somehow, I’ve gotten more use out of the fancy shoes than I ever did out of the boring old loafers.
The months I spent finding my own personal style were frustrating and confusing at times. It was hard to look at a closet overfull of stuff and try to figure out what reflected my inner self the best, especially considering most of the clothes were purchased for a Marketing Director and I had morphed into a Stay-at-Home Mom. It was stress well spent, though. There came a day when I looked in my closet and liked what I say. Shortly after that, I even liked what I saw when I looked in the mirror.
I’m not sharing this story to say that today I am an uber-stylish fashionista or anything even close to that. I have simply found my own personal style. I now know that the wrap dress that looks amazing on everyone doesn’t actually look good on me. I’ve embraced lace-trimmed camisoles, ballet sweaters, ruffles, silk, lace and chiffon instead. These things reflect me, and discovering my style has been pretty important to me.
As a stay-at-home mom, I could get away with wearing leggings and jogging suits every single day, and no one would bat an eyelash. I often do. There are also days where I throw an embellished blazer on over my jeans, or wear a particularly sparkly necklace for no reason at all. It’s not to impress anyone. It’s just to say to the world, “This is me. I like my life. I’m proud of my choices, and I like my place in the world.”
I want people to know that I’m proud of who I am. That’s why I think it’s okay to want to look pretty. It’s not that I want to look pretty in spite of the fact that I accept myself as I am. I want to look pretty precisely because I accept myself as I am.
No, it doesn’t matter what I wear. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’m just trying to reflect how I feel on the inside to the outside world. If that means I wear pearls at preschool pickup, or jeans at a semi-formal affair, so be it. I’m good enough, and I still want to look pretty.
I know that Lancelot said we didn’t have to get dressed up for anyone or anything, but that’s only partly true. I do have to get dressed up for somebody and something today.
The somebody is me, and the something is my life.