How to Listen Your Way to Great Style

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I snapped this photo in front of my local Lululemon when I was walking through my neighborhood last Sunday.  It’s a great bit of wisdom.  How often is it that we find the best direction and advice simply by listening to what our inner voice has to say?

A few weeks ago my mom bought a new car.  After driving around in a pretty innocuous beige Saturn that looked like most cars on the road (seriously, finding her car in a crowded parking lot was a nightmare) she purchased a super cute and zippy Volkswagen Beetle.  She has coveted this car since the first time they were popular.  Finding out this would be Volkswagen’s last year producing Beetles, along with her car being on its last legs, was all the impetus she needed to make her purchase.  My sister and I weren’t able to be with her when she bought her car but we cheered her on in a group text as she did it.  We lovingly named her car Herbie, texted cute Volkswagen GIFS back and forth, suggested she buy those wacky accessories designed for Beetles, like the toy car crank and eyelashes for the headlights, and my sister and I were genuinely pleased to see her buy something that really called to her.

I tell you this story because it is a great example of how joyous it can be to listen to what calls to us, particularly when it comes to personal style.  While making her purchase at the dealership, my mom texted me and my sister a bit nervous.  She started wondering if she was being silly or attention grabbing for buying a car like this.  In the past she had always chosen the safe route with big purchases.  Yet, if you know my mom, you know that this fun car is her through-and-through.  She’s turning 66 this year, has been a widow for over 20 years and after losing my dad created a fresh life for herself at 45.  She’s fiercely independent, is always learning, always growing and always evolving.   A woman who doesn’t live a generic life should not be driving around in a generic car.

As stymied as my sister and I were by my mom’s concerns, I think it is perfectly normal to have hesitations when choosing to live out loud for all the world to see.  This is why so many people play safe with what they wear or, in my mom’s case, what they drive around in.  Playing safe means you can go through life unburdened by the anxiety that can come with living authentically, but it can also mean pushing down those authentic feelings and desires that want to be expressed.   Expressing oneself can feel scary, especially to someone who is hyperaware or worried about judgment.  Yet, I ask you, have you ever truly judged someone else who wasn’t afraid to be themselves?  Isn’t it funny how those who are afraid to step out are often the ones who secretly wish to be as alive as the ones who aren’t afraid?

This is why we need to listen to and move towards what we are drawn to, if for anything to be more joyous and happy in this world.  Your happiness is your gift to the world.  Have you ever denied yourself wearing something that you wanted to wear but were afraid of judgment?  Did you ever not buy something because you feared you would look silly or get laughed at?  Do you remember how you felt when you didn’t allow yourself to lean into that little voice that encouraged you to do it or try it or wear it?  It feels a lot like dumping a bucket of water on a glowing fire.  It’s so sad.  Personally, I’d rather risk being stared at or judged over dampening my own spirit.

What we choose to wear is the great opportunity for what we feel, what we value, who we are and what we have to say to be more fully expressed.  It’s the intangible made tangible.   How do you feel when you wear a color that makes your heart sing, or a print that makes you giggle, or when you have worn and accessory that looks like art to you?  How much more headstrong and confident are you when you know your clothing supports you in feeling that way?  We have to appreciate how absolutely game-changing expressing ourselves through tangible objects we surround ourselves with and wear can be.

How to Listen Your Way to Great Style

If you aren’t listening to the inner you when it comes to your personal style or any other areas of your life, here are some tips on how to listen your way to great style.

Listen to for the pulls

I had a desire for gold clogs for years.  I don’t know why and at this point I don’t bother figuring out why I want something, I just go with it.  After years of searching I finally found the pair I wanted.  Some people love my clogs other people find them absolutely hideous.  I don’t care.  I find them fun and silly and I love wearing them.  The joy I have gotten from wearing them has been worth every penny.

As a knitter, I also stumbled on an Avocado sweater pattern in my Instagram feed last night.  Falling in love instantly, I posted this to my Instastory.

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This is what I mean by the pulls.  Listen to them, they are trying to tell you something.  They require no reason, no justification, no explanations.  The closer we listen the easier we can capture and find our own personal style.

Know that sometimes your inner voice can be confusing and/or inconvenient

Our inner voice isn’t looking to play safe nor is it going to want to keep doing the same things you have been doing.  Sometimes you will find yourself pulled in a direction that feels surprising or a particular item will call to you that makes absolutely no sense.  Go with it and at least explore it.  Nobody ever changed anything significant when they kept with what they knew.

Listening to yourself can make you feel vulnerable

Expect to feel vulnerable and unsure.  You’re doing something different, it shouldn’t feel normal or expected.  It should feel exhilarating and a little scary.  One of my favorite quote is by Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Recalling one of my favorite first clients I worked with, I remember her saying that when she started working with me she felt like a caterpillar working its way to becoming a butterfly.  When she called me she had reached the point that she felt like the tight bud and knew that the pain in not changing would be far greater than the pain it would take to change.

Be careful you’re not projecting

Next, make sure you’re not projecting.  Projection is a self-conscious defense mechanism where someone projects their own undesirable thoughts and beliefs onto someone else.  This can be a natural reaction when you are feeling vulnerable.  Suddenly the world appears to be staring at you or judging you.   The chances are slim that anyone actually cares enough to bother, but projection makes it seem like they do.  Just take some deep breaths and realize that it’s not judgment from others you are feeling, you are simply processing your own feelings of vulnerability.  I have learned to love that feeling of vulnerability because it means I am growing.

The world wants you at your best

Truly, the world wants you at your best.  Best doesn’t mean perfect or acceptable to everyone.  Your best is your most self expressed, alive and authentic self.  In a world that has gotten so sorely homogenized isn’t it time that we all began to listen in to what calls us and to trust it so that we can give to the world the true gift that we already are?

Everything you need to know about yourself is already within you.  The next time you feel called or pulled, listen to it.  It wants you to know something, it wants to direct you.  Let it.