My yoga teacher for many years, the late Lynn Pigott, had an idea of what a yoga teacher was expected to look like.
She thought that paying attention to her appearance—beyond being neat and clean—was shallow, and ignored yoga’s base of spirituality. Her home also reflected the choices of others, with furniture handed down from relatives.
I met Lynn when she signed up for one of my workshops, classes designed to help participants discover and express their authentic self. In the first class, as each participant introduced themselves, she explained that she never wore makeup or jewelry, never made an effort to style her hair, or venture beyond her uniform of yoga clothing, plain jeans and faded t-shirts. She said that she was happy with her work as a yoga teacher, but she wanted more of a social life, and wondered if paying more attention to how she presented herself would help. She also hired me as a personal stylist, and together, we used our coaching sessions to translate the new vision of her style into her life.
Lynn was about to start her journey to an authentic style—and to her authentic self. The authentic self is often invisible, hidden beneath the dictates of society and those around us. But it is there to be revealed. And you have to be your own Michelangelo to discover it.
The Dangers of Disguise
Society bombards us with visions of young, tall, thin, wealthy people, who look like they stepped out of the pages of Vogue, with seemingly perfect lives—images we can never live up to.
We often react by masking aspects of our personal appearance in order to meet these elevated, superficial standards. Aging is considered so undesirable that people go to any measure to create the illusion that they are younger.
These often unsuccessful attempts keep us from discovering our authentic self and our authentic style.
And style goes well beyond how we look and dress. It extends into our home, our work, the way we carry ourselves, the way we communicate, and perhaps even our eating habits, or the car we drive—every aspect of our lives.
The style of how you look, live and communicate is an energetic force that emits a powerful resonance. Masking who you are, in any way, changes that energy.
Inauthenticity wears many disguises, but they have one thing in common: They are all draining and waste your time and energy. They also mean you are disrespecting yourself; you have only one authentic self.
Learning to accept yourself unapologetically opens up new possibilities. Think in a more powerful way. Focus on your body as a vehicle for energy. Use your talents to empower others to make a difference in the world.
The Journey Begins
How do we find our authentic self? This is what I teach in my classes, and I describe it as a four-stage process: Discover, Design, Edit and Express.
In the discovery stage, one becomes more aware of the habits that shape who they are on a daily basis, which can be a painful truth to face. In Lynn’s case, it was admitting that she was unhappy without a partner. For others, it could be dissatisfaction with work or employers, or personal relationships, or accepting truths about your perceived physical flaws.
The next step is creating a plan. In Lynn’s case, it involved working on her wardrobe, hair and makeup. She was almost shocked to find herself in a class on grooming and style. For others, it could mean deciding to look for an entirely different line of work, or a different job with the same employer, or a new way of eating or a gym or yoga studio membership. You may be surprised to find out how change in one area soon “pinballs” into changes in other areas.
The editing stage involves eliminating the physical or spiritual clutter of the inauthentic self. For Lynn, it meant getting rid of much of her clothing and furniture. In another example, a freelance consultant might try to land new types of assignments. In that case, they would resist taking on their usual assignments, even if that seems easier. The status quo often provides a false feeling of safety.
For others, the editing stage might entail eliminating sugar from their diet, or going through their closet and weeding out those garments they haven’t worn in months or years.
The fourth stage is expressing the authentic self. An important part of finding your authentic self is creating what I call a style ID or profile. It is a system that uses your authentic, natural attributes of colors and design elements and clearly expresses your unique personality.
Lynn and I created a style profile together and designed a simple and easy wardrobe for work, leisure, special occasions and, for the first time, romance. She had her hair cut in a more modern and flattering style and learned how to use makeup for the first time. One of my stylists created a leather necklace with organic stones for her, which became her signature accessory.
Lynn began to express her internal self through her personal style, and during this time, she attended a yoga conference, where she met her future mate.
Your goals may be different from Lynn’s, but finding your authentic style tends to have a similar result: You feel the change almost immediately, as if a great burden has been lifted. And when you are free of pretense, you attract the people, situations and opportunities that are right for you.
Fredda is an empowering speaker, creative director for commercial projects and stylist for individuals. Learn more about Fredda’s work at freddastyle.com.