As an adult, we're supposed to give up our security blankets (full disclosure, I still have a stuffed animal sitting on my bed). But at a time when I feel my most insecure, I find that I still look outwardly for security, mostly in the form of what I choose to wear. Why is it that my clothing can have such an outward effect on my mood or my confidence? I wanted to talk to an expert, so I reached out to Pricilla Martinez, a life coach with Blush, to get her take on the relationship between our emotions and what we wear.
I emailed Martinez, "I find that I often pore over my closet but struggle to put things together in new ways. In the end, I tend to fall back on a simple formula: jeans, cute but comfortable shoes, and a more standout sweater or top," and asked her a question I'd been mulling over for a while: Why do I always revert to a uniform? "When we feel insecure, we cling to the things that have proven to be comfortable or effective. Sticking to what you know can give you a sense of confidence over familiar terrain," she noted, adding, "it's not a problem until you're bored with it."
It turns out that I'm not exactly bored with it, but I've definitely noticed more and more how instinctive it is for me to instantly fall on my dressing crutch for work. Knowing that I can easily revert back to an ensemble that I know works provides me a sense of security on those days when I'm creatively frazzled. I understand exactly why designers revert back to uniforms over and over again—it's one less thing to think about. But in a field where putting together unique looks is practically a résumé requirement, understanding my motivation and then moving past my habits are key.
While a work uniform may be one thing I have (at least partially) figured out, there's one area that tends to leave me feeling defeated or particularly insecure: dressing for nights out with my friends. So what was Martinez's take? Keep reading for her evaluation.
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"When we're getting ready for a night out or an event, there's a lot of pressure to look different or 'better' than you normally do," says Martinez. "I also think that as women, special occasion clothing can make us feel more exposed than usual. Thinner fabrics, form-fitting silhouettes, not to mention the dreaded shaping undergarments, make us just want to put on the sweats and turn on the television." The performative quality of going-out dressing, of becoming a "most attractive" version of myself, and the pressure involved weren't something I'd spent too much time actively thinking about, but it was a more subconscious choice. Since dressing up isn't standard for me, it's unsurprising that going out of my comfort zone instantly gives me that buzz of anxiety.
Her recommendation seems to fall in line with my own personal habits: "Make sure you are dressing for yourself and not others" she says. I may spend an hour sifting through every top and dress I own to finally settle on an ensemble, but at the end of the day, I won't have any fun if I don't feel comfortable in what I'm wearing.
The bottom line, according to Martinez: "It's usually not about the clothes." Reverting to a single outfit when I'm feeling insecure or struggling to find an ensemble that works when I'm out of my comfort zone are all human reactions. Insecurity isn't ever going to go away, but understanding it is the key to moving on.
Below are Martinez's five tips:
1. Be honest with yourself about what is really bothering you, because it's usually not the clothes.
2. Give yourself plenty of time to decide on clothing, accessories, hair, and makeup for big events. If you are looking for things the week or day of, you're going to be stressed.
3. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready the day of the event or occasion.
4. For everyday clothing, it's okay to plan your outfits ahead of time. You don't need to lay them out, just have a general idea of what goes together.
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Hopefully now you're armed with some advice to help when you're feeling insecure too.