You know the It girl? Throughout her childhood and adolescence, she sets the bar for must have name brands and trends for all of her fashion disciples. Because of this It girl, kindergartners across the state own the same pricey pair of ugly leather sandals, as well as an even pricier pair of ugly winter boots. She casually glides from her mother’s luxury SUV into the halls of her elementary school (it must be the effect of the pricey ugly shoes) with her generic monogrammed backpack (so let me get this straight, I’m supposed to buy the kids uniforms and backpacks then pay extra money for someone to stitch something on them as well… and buy them a whole separate wardrobe for after school? Nope.) setting the “keeping up with the Joneses” standards for her classmates almost as high as the excessive oversized bow atop her darling head. As she enters middle school (or honestly earlier because real lives are irrelevant today), every piece of clothing or accessory is chosen to maintain the approval of her Instagram followers because God-forbid, she ever build a face-to-face relationship based on something deeper than the plunge of her blouse’s neckline (but Mom, I can’t take that one down; look how many likes it got). The craziest thing about this trend following It girl is her destiny of being chained to a social norms fashion standard that traps her in a bubble of mediocrity for her entire life as she dresses like all the other good, affluent mothers at the PTO meetings. No battle in life expires without first opening fire on one’s own insecurities. I believe so deeply that fashion is important, defining, and transformative for individuals… even if I live by the mantra, “Just wear something black.”
I could relentlessly mock the multi-billion-dollar fashion industry and its control over the lives of robotic humans across the country, but fashion is art. If the wearer of the clothing is mentally-well, owning a healthy view of self, fashion is an effective vessel for expression. It doesn’t have to be an all-consuming money-game enslaving individuals to a lifetime of coveting and an insatiable desire for a larger closet. What one wears is both a reflection of her inner-self and a manipulative that can alter her view of self. As a therapist, one of the first questions I ask individuals who struggle with depression is, “Do you groom yourself and dress well routinely?” Dressing attractively (and in an outfit that makes you feel confident) is an instant mood lifter. Treading in a society that consistently sends the message that mediocre attempts to build successful relationships, families, and careers are ineffective, a little confidence boost can be the difference in giving up on and achieving your dreams.
As a child, I was imaginative, pretend-playing, independent, and perceptive. I fearlessly played with the big kids and roamed my neighborhood earning scrapes and bruises “until the street lights came on.” I was bold… at home. I wish I could say the same for the youngest, most innocent version of me when her feet marched (more like tripped) across the school campus, but I was painfully insecure, attempting to blend in, and failing miserably. As I reflect on those important identity and self-esteem shaping years, I am unsure if any of my peers actually knew who I was. I would clumsily stumble over my own lanky legs and big feet adorned with the off-brand version of whatever pricey ugly shoes were It at the time, never making eye contact and saying very little to the less mediocre students.
I vividly remember a turning point in my life where three (ridiculous and hilarious) older boys thought my cynicism was entertaining enough to compel them to accept my awkward middle school being as I truly was. Feeling confident in my opinions and humor began my growth (or maybe spiral) into the boldly bitter me that was my adolescence. I felt freed from trying to blend in so while all the other girls wore their pricey but ordinary It girl uniforms, I overfilled my closet with thrift store steals (translation: other people’s dusty rags), beat up chucks, and rock (Emo) band tees. Honestly, my angsty, disheveled appearance was a pretty accurate reflection of my perception of self and overall worldview. I was chaotic, dark, and in pieces as I failed to balance my love of persons with my distrust of people and allowed panic attacks to eat away most of my potential.
Decades of mistakes, therapy, and spiritual growth resulted in a pretty mediocre adult me who is pretty okay with my own mediocrity. I can genuinely report that I am in no way compelled to attempt to blend in with the adult It crowd by way of colorful maxi dresses, floral kimonos (seriously, ladies. Mississippi summers are unbearably hot; would it be so image-shattering to ditch that extra layer?), and overpriced sandals (honestly, I simply feel if I wear color, people will expect too much). I feel even less compelled to rebel from the It crowd with dingy second-hand finds and ridiculous accessories that make me look more like a bad 90s anti-drug campaign than a professional wife and mother of three.
Self-awareness and self-acceptance are essential to happiness. When I use the term happiness, I’m not referring to a state of joy. I’m talking about contentment and finding a space each day to reflect on the beauty in the journey down whatever road of life you’re traveling. I came to terms with my own style, self-expression, and confidence years ago. I can tell you what it doesn’t look like: I think the unicorn and fairy explosion style is painfully tacky (it’s a lot classier to wear the same 15-year-old pair of converse with lyrics written on the sides in pen, right?). My seven-year-old, however, rocks the pastels, the neons, the florals, the rhinestones, the glitter, and (most importantly) the unicorns on the daily. She even went through a phase where she wore a crown EVERY single day. One might expect that I would buck this girly-girl, oversized sequin bow, colorful explosion as it bounces into my unconventional mom-mobile every morning. Friends, I’m so glad this diva knows what she likes. She genuinely doesn’t care about fitting in (yet). She just wants to shine and feel pretty, so ridiculous beaded accessories (I mean, it’s really costume jewelry from the dress-up bin), bows larger than her head, and tall printed pink polka dot socks are a regular part of her school uniform, and feel pretty, she does. Whatever makes you feel heard, seen, beautiful, and slightly less mediocre is worth it-even if I sound painfully superficial encouraging you to spend your time and money on the outward you sometimes. JUST WEAR SOMETHING BLACK. There’s a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.