I don’t think I can recall a weekend where I haven’t worked at least a little bit. My work schedule has been insane since the middle of last year. The first three months of 2022 were challenging and I have described those months as holidays, COVID, March because that’s all I remember. I remember the holidays, getting COVID on my birthday in January and the next thing I remember was looking up and it being March 1st.
At that point, the writing was on the wall, after 19 years of running my business by myself, I was at a point where I couldn’t afford not to bring in help. This terrified me. With business growth comes growth in revenue, but years of business income fluctuation and some scary lean years in the past also gave me some risk aversion and fears of overextension. So in an attempt to take non-committal baby steps, I dipped my toe in the water and hired someone who would just handle small tasks five hours a week.
Business continued to soar, I still worked weekends, I was still exhausted, and one morning I cried in the shower. It wasn’t just the physical toll the pace was having on me but the emotional one. I laughed at the sky remembering my word of the year, expansion, and that quote about making plans and God laughing. In all of this expansion, the thing I forgot about was that while things may have expanded, I didn’t emotionally, physically, or mentally prepare for it. I realized it wasn’t the situation that needed to change, I did.
If I’m being honest, despite the grueling schedule, the fast pace, and even the tears into my shower tile, I love every second of how my business has grown and changed. I LOVE IT. I built my business from nothing. It was a concept 20 years ago this year before the term personal stylist even really existed. I built it step by step on my own after walking away from a lucrative fashion design career and a bright future because it made me miserable. I don’t have a wealthy husband, I didn’t even know him when I started my business. Through the years, I have humbled myself, felt like I was going backward, fought, clawed, and failed a few times to get here. I will take this breakneck pace I am living right now with amazing clients, and incredible projects to get to wake up and do what I love over the years I spent agonizing about how I was going to survive.
So, no, this is not me complaining about how busy I am, because I hate when people do that. What I am writing about is how I had to learn how to deal. What I learned was that when changes need to be made, usually and most often these changes have everything do to with you. What I learned from my three months that I barely remember was that while my life and business were changing, I wasn’t. I was still operating like my old self. I still had the mentality of being a person trying to keep a business alive vs. someone who had a successful business. When I began to make changes, I began taking my own inventory. Instead of meandering into my day, my alarm now goes off at 6:30 am and I am usually up before it. When the first assistant I hired needed to move on I hired another one who now works 15 hours a week, vs five, and actually helps with styling work. Instead of keeping lists or keeping things in my head, I have a color-coded spreadsheet that is used to manage client workflow that is now triple the size it used to be. I began operating my business and my life with the mentality of someone who runs a successful business.
Most importantly, I learned how to create the necessary boundaries to help me take care of myself. Life will sort of force your hand on this one because you will either create boundaries or you will become a pile of goo with you involving yourself in stuff that isn’t yours to deal with if you don’t. I learned to say no and saw my way out of things that didn’t have anything to do with me. I got forceful where previously I wasn’t, cut to the point on matters, and, okay, on the way to building these boundaries, I perhaps got a bit impatient, aggressive, snitty, and sarcastic with people. I was and still am a work in progress. But I found my voice in places I didn’t always have one before. I am bolder, stronger, less apologetic, and have claimed my space. Either deal with that or get out of the way.
Change Impacts All Areas of Life
So this past Sunday, I was sitting on my couch eating breakfast, and I could see into my bedroom and view my closet. I had an epiphany. I thought about the connection I have referenced before about the way women manage their wardrobes and how often it reflects what is going on in their lives (post here.) It was then I noticed the connection in how much more streamlined and on point, clear and focused my wardrobe has gotten this year as I have also gotten clearer, more focused, streamlined, and on point with myself. More boundaries in my life, more boundaries with my wardrobe. Interesting. I know what I like, what I don’t, I don’t apologize for it, don’t hem and haw over things that go in my closet. It’s yes, no, or move on. Putting even more boundaries and clarity around my style and my wardrobe has made my life and shopping easier.
If you want an easier time getting dressed, you need boundaries in your wardrobe and with your style. You need to take a position and you need to let the rest go. In my very active Facebook Group, when members post photos of their outfits, I can see the difference between members who know and feel comfortable with their style and those who consider themselves works in progress. There are no apologies, no excuses, and there don’t even have to be words accompanying these photos, you can glean from the photos that these women take up space in their worlds. This isn’t a judgment call towards those on their journey still trying to map it out. However, to those on their journeys, I will give you a shortcut. At some point, you are going to have to decide to commit because I can assure you, those who do have it figured out did exactly that at some point. Sure, you can be the person who is always trying to find your style, like it’s out there floating around in the ether waiting for you, just as I was clinging to the identity of being the person struggling with my workload while wondering when it was to change. Or you can be the person who decides, commits, and take charge.
Style Confusion or Internal Struggle?
I love the saying, “you can’t ride two horses with one ass,” which often refers to a person’s indecisiveness and can stem from the inability to create internal boundaries. Internal boundaries differ from external boundaries. External boundaries are tangible, like setting limits with people or putting a time limit on an activity. Internal boundaries involve your mental and emotional world. It’s the trust within you to make a decision. They make it so you won’t get emotionally hijacked despite what is happening around you. You stay centered. When you start negotiating these internal boundaries, like looking for approval from others or seeking validation, or avoiding making and sticking with a firm decision, you begin to lose credibility with yourself. This is where indecision kicks in, along with doubt because you’ve stopped trusting yourself.
From this standpoint, could it be that your never-ending search or lack of commitment to your style has nothing to do with a search somewhere out there in the world and more to do with your internal boundaries that need to be explored and strengthened? I bet you know exactly what you like and don’t in regards to fashion and style. Maybe it’s time to pay attention, commit, and finally, stop the search?
You Will Fail, and You Will Need to Let Go
Nobody is expecting perfection, in fact, it’s a guarantee you will fail along the way. I’m not asking you to have it all figured out. I’m simply asking you to commit; to be willing to take up some space without apology and take an actual position. No exposition, no justification, no definition, no silly style label, just commitment. The rest, you figure out along the way, asking for help when you need it.
I’m also asking you to let go. Commitment and boundaries require that you also release things that once worked, or maybe didn’t. It’s amazing how strongly we hold onto things that never really worked in the first place. After my breakfast and my closet epiphany that inspired today’s post, I headed to Easter services at my Unitarian Universalist congregation. While we have Judeo-Christian roots, we’re not a Christian faith, so we respectfully acknowledge what the Easter holiday means in the Christian tradition but focus more on the metaphorical concept of death and resurrection and starting fresh. Each year, our service includes this ritual where we each burn flash paper, also known as magician’s paper. When set to fire, this paper flashes a brilliant flame in the air for a second before burning out. We each light our paper and as it flames, we mentally let something die so that we can resurrect ourselves fresh and start anew. It was my symbolic moment to finally let go of any final traces of the struggling person who fought hard to get me where I am today. It was finally time to let her rest. As I watched my paper brilliantly light and extinguish in the air, I thanked this person for working so hard to get me here. In that flash, she was gone.
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Wow. These are some powerful thoughts!
First, pop the champagne and throw the confetti. Congratulations on building a successful business from an idea to a thriving reality. Your eye for design, your generosity in sharing what you know and the way you assist women of all ages, sizes, backgrounds and interests coupled with your hard work is a powerful combination. Thank you for that.
As I approach 60, I’ve come to realize that there have been many ‘stages’ in my life, all of them (well most of them) authentic at the time: young professional, working mom, graduate student, single mom, executive. Those stages are still an important part of my life, but it was important to let go of the stuff that accompanied me then (clothes, books, hobbies, etc.) to be able to fully move on. Its a process, for sure, but hanging on to the stuff of past stages makes it more difficult to fully embrace who I am today, or where I want to go.
Thank you so much for your kind words and wonderful encouragement, Cheryl. What keeps me going truly is the fact that there are people out there who want me to. Why else would I otherwise? I believe that the world gives you in return what you put out and I believe in generosity of spirit, the sharing of ideas, service and that there is always enough for everyone. Even as a business owner, I don’t like the concept of competition or that I have to get mine. We have to help each other succeed whether that means helping another business owner or sharing advice on why a neckline looks wonky. We can’t hoard.
There are absolutely stages of life and as I am getting older I am realizing that much of this wisdom just naturally comes with time and it is sort of sucky that much of it doesn’t come until you are starting to round into the final lap, but it does make you appreciate more and I think the pandemic helped accelerate that. We all just seem to be less interested in that which doesn’t serve us, but definitely, age is like an accelerant. Years ago, I learned this ritual that just popped into my head that somewhat applies. It was about clearing clutter. It said, that when clearing a space, you always leave at least 10% of that space for new things to enter your life. Even though I live in a super small space, since hearing that, I’ve always practiced that ritual. It’s a mindset for me that I am always allowing to let new things in. Clear the space, be open to what’s next. Anyway, somewhat relevant, but it just popped into my head. Thanks again for your comment and lovely support!
Wow, the combination of “commit” + “leave space” is powerful.
Thanks! Yes, committing definitely doesn’t mean becoming rigid or closed off. It’s important to maintain curiosity and openness to life.
I think you’re right. I’ve been hemming and hawing for ages. I know I will call you when I stop that behavior.
You’ll know when you’re ready. It’s the day you just decide you’re done.
You are one hell of an interesting woman. Still loving your line about finding Waldo on the Planet of stripes.