As I return to blogging after taking my summer hiatus, I have been thinking a lot about fresh starts.  September is the perfect time to think about this as we prepare to put our swimsuits and lazy summer mindsets away.  Even if back-to-school is long in your rearview mirror, the mentality never leaves us.  If September had a scent it would likely be called something like Fresh Coat of Paint Smell.  There is just something so fresh, bright, open and new about this time of year.

I decided to research the mentality of fresh starts when I started working on this post and how it can effect our success in reaching our goals.  It turns out that, yes, fresh starts have been studied and are actually quite effective.  A fresh start mindset can promote aspirational behavior and its findings indicate that we can create fresh starts out of thin air.  So while September often feels like a fresh start, you don’t have to wait around to times like this create one for yourself.  All you have to do is declare it.

So why do fresh starts work?  Well the research indicates that a fresh start has the ability to separate us from past misbehavior and move us towards higher order thinking.  I also think that this separation from our past allows us to move forward in a much cleaner and absolved way.  I don’t mean absolved in a way where we don’t take responsibility for our past behavior or don’t right our wrongdoings, but in a way that feels lighter and less burdened.  It simply means that we are committing to changing our trajectory and mindset even if we don’t know how to get there.

This was basically me this summer when I created my own fresh start by taking the time to focus on the me on the inside.

My fresh start

It all started when I hit a crucial point where I had begun to feel sick and tired of feeling sick and tired of certain behaviors and ways of thinking that just weren’t working for me any longer.  Why did I have anxiety in particular areas?  Why couldn’t I seem to overcome X, Y and Z?  How could I become more loving, kinder and more trusting?  How could I live more deeply, be more present and more joyous?  How could I grow as a person?  I felt like a wind up toy that didn’t have the capability to turn around when it hit a wall and go the other way.  I knew I needed to learn how to turn around with some help.

My first step was to get back into therapy again.  After all, this is what anxious over-achieving NY’ers do.  I found a woman who accepted my insurance and was exactly who I needed to see.  I knew this because she is probably the kindest and softest woman I had ever spoken to, and it freaked me out.  I didn’t grow up in an environment that used kindness as a motivator, I needed to learn this.  She was perfect.  I came to her with my problems, she asked me about my childhood.  I’d leave feeling like she didn’t fix me, I’d walk home and realize that her job wasn’t to fix me but to let me talk and share my feelings.  Another thing I never learned how to do.  Over time I started to feel more and more whole. I started to notice that the kindness I was learning to give myself through therapy and telling my stories was affecting my behavior towards others.  Well let me clarify this.  If you know me you know I have never been an uncaring jerky a-hole, but I did have decades worth of suppressed sadness, rage, anxiety, anger and fear that I had never learned how to deal with or validate.

A week after my first therapy session I also decided to go to church.  Now this is a tricky one to talk about and I feel I need to handle respectfully because I have no intentions of offending anyone who has a different belief system than I do and I respect whatever belief structure someone values.  In my case, the problem with me and church has always been that I knew I could not go back to the Catholic faith where I was raised.  I also have an extremely liberal view of religion and spirituality.  There was no way I was going to attend a church that didn’t support gay rights, that believed I needed to be saved, a place that believed in original sin or hell or required me to believe that the earth was created in seven days or that dinosaurs never roamed the earth.  I had long developed a strong sense of my own spirituality and had assumed that church would never be part of the equation because I would never find a place that was as spiritually liberal as I needed it to be.  I was okay with that until I found myself craving a spiritual place and community.

Much to my surprise I found my home with the Unitarian Universalist faith and, even better, found a congregation not far from my home that has been around since 1833.  I won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty of what Unitarian Universalists believe, if you are interested you can read more here, but in a nutshell it is a liberal religion characterized by a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”.  They assert no creed, but instead are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth.  These traditions come from a deep regard for intellectual freedom and inclusive love. Congregations and members seek inspiration and derive insight from all major world religions.  Since visiting the UU church I have come to realize that I have always been a Unitarian Universalist, I just didn’t know it.  Over the summer, my congregation became my new spiritual home.

What people don’t tell you about fresh starts

Fresh starts are exciting because they have such a clean feeling to them.  However, what most people don’t tell you about making a fresh start is you basically walk around feeling like a raw nerve for a while.  If you really start to swim out and take on the hard work of change this feeling is practically inevitable.  This is how I felt the first few weeks attending therapy and church.  While my life looked the same, I was seeing everything through a new lens and I felt incredibly vulnerable.  On the other hand, I also felt awake and alive.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing or where I was going but I found comfort in knowing I was heading somewhere different.  Despite being way out of my comfort zone, I just kept going, I just kept swimming.  That vulnerable, raw nerve feeling reminded me I was growing and it felt good to grow.

What is your fresh start?

Whenever I write posts like this I always feel an obligation to loop this back to personal style because this is, after all, a blog about personal style, not a “read about how Bridgette is fixing her life” blog.  So let me get to my point.  This month I am celebrating my 16th year in business.  The trends may have changed over the years, but what has remained constant is the reason why women call me for style help.  Yes, on the surface it’s about women seeking help with their wardrobes, but beneath this reason there has always been deeper and more meaningful reasons women reach out, like a desire to be more fully self expressed,  to be happier, more confident, to achieve particular goals, be more secure, and so on.  Just like I sought out therapy and a deeper spiritual path as a means to find more peace with myself, quite often I am part of a client’s journey of their own growth, their own fresh start.   It’s this reason, not fashion, that has kept me interested in my job.

This is what makes fresh starts so interesting because, essentially, it’s not the actions that we take that matter as much as the commitment we make to ourselves to grow.  It’s the brave person who is willing to choose temporary discomfort and vulnerability over the comfort of just going with the motions.  So as we begin September with that “new school feeling”, let’s all use this opportunity to consider our own fresh starts and learn to be gentle and kind to ourselves as we bravely reach for the next rung in our own personal evolution.  Whatever the action will be for you it is the right one, even if it is calling someone to help you purge your closet.

If I am to be part of that fresh start it truly would be an honor to offer you my guidance in helping you live more boldly, more expressed and more comfortably in your own skin.  And if I’m not to be part of your journey, it is with my encouragement that whatever road you choose for your fresh start be one that brings you the greatest peace and joy.

To fresh starts!