Most people are unhappy. Have you noticed that? I’m beginning to believe that it’s just part of the human condition to feel constantly restless, dissatisfied, and envious of others. We hang so much of our self-worth on comparisons: How do we measure up to other people in our income tax brackets? Neighborhoods? Social circles? And, when we’re feeling particularly vulnerable, how do we compare to the fabulously wealthy, tremendously successful, and impossibly beautiful? And that paradigm sets us all up to feel slighted and dumped-upon and unlucky.
And yet unhappy people are often terrified of change. The current situation may seem boring or difficult or unfulfilling, but doing something to alter that situation? That’s just opening Pandora’s box, right there. Changing a bad situation opens up possibilities for even worse situations.
As you may have guessed, observing this vicious little cycle makes me about as happy as stepping in a steaming pile of dog poo. I often feel the urge to take chronic complainers by the shoulders, make my eyes go all big, and say, “BUCK UP OR SUCK UP! Grow a spine and change your situation, or learn to appreciate what you’ve got!”
But I don’t. And here’s why:
Sometimes change does make things worse. Sometimes leaving your horrible, soul-sucking, dead-end job means you can’t find more work and have to live on Ramen for nine months. Sometimes ending a toxic friendship makes you feel so lonely that you cry yourself to sleep every night. Sometimes hiring a repairman to fix that long-broken light fixture leads to the discovery that your house is infested with termites. I get it. Change may be the only way to improve your lot, but it is fucking scary.
Nevertheless, change is what powers life, and I believe that embracing change slowly and mindfully can be beneficial in a thousand indescribable ways. Finding small, manageable ways to change yourself and improve your outlook builds confidence, creates peace of mind, and opens you up to the possibility of, someday, undertaking larger, more daunting changes. For instance, I believe that making relatively small changes to your appearance, body, grooming, and personal style can utterly transform your outlook, attitude, and self-image. Such a minor-seeming, insignificant-feeling alteration can have a huge impact, setting off a slow but far-reaching domino effect of positive change that will continue for years to come.
If you’re feeling constantly restless, dissatisfied, and envious of others, change your look. Changes to career, relationships, geography, and finance may have huge, terrifying repercussions, mainly because those changes involve other people. But changing your look is singular, self-contained, all about you. It may elicit some curious comments from friends and coworkers and family members, but mostly it’s a change that is entirely within your control. YOU are the only person who decides how you dress, what you wear, how you wear it, when, and why. That’s a lot of power, and it can be used to shape your feelings about yourself as a participant in the world’s events.
See how confident and relaxed I look in the picture at the top of this post? That is not an act. I am confident and relaxed. And sure, that’s partly due to the fact that it’s my husband behind the lens and I’ve been doing daily outfit shots for nearly two years now, but I attribute the main to the changes I’ve made to my personal style. I used to be ashamed of my non-lingerie-model body and slunk through life in clothing that didn’t actually appeal to my tastes and preferences, but hid my supposed flaws from public view. I hated what I wore, but couldn’t see any other options. And although I could project an air of confidence back then, I didn’t feel it. I felt insignificant, boring, wrong, out of place. After years of attempting to change my body through crash diets, I finally realized that my body was what it was and I might as well work with it. My exploration of personal style made me more aware of my body and my health, showed me that there isn’t a single type of gorgeous body, provided me with a previously untapped outlet for artistic and creative expression, led me to blog which rekindled my love of writing, introduced me to a huge new world of stylistic thinkers and influencers, provided me with several new streams of income, unlocked untold amounts of personal confidence, and connected me to YOU.
I’m not saying that it’s the only answer or the perfect answer. I’m not saying that switching from heels to flats will transform you into Michelle Obama or Oprah. I’m saying that there is such a thing as gateway change. That tweaking your external appearance can, amazingly, inspire the courage you need to make more substantive changes.That something as simple as honing your personal style can, eventually, lead to actions and choices that will alleviate those nagging feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction, and envy. That investing time and energy in creating a style that makes you feel joyful, confident, and entirely yourself can only lead to good, good things.
Changing your style can change your life. Take it from me.
Sally McGraw writes daily style and body image blog Already Pretty, which provides tips and advice for women who want to look and feel fabulous every single day.