Thursday, April 19, 2012

Growing into my clothes

I thought that I had finally dismissed wanting to be someone else. I now know that we don’t get to become someone we were not originally designed to be. But there is something about my friend, Amy. Amy is vibrant, fun-loving, spontaneous, adventuresome, and friendly. We are different. I wish I was more like Amy; I like the way Amy dresses…it’s so Amy. In a vulnerable moment, I opened up with my friend, “You make it seem so effortless. Your clothes say who you are. How do you do it?”

Did I honestly want the real Julie to show? Too many times I have labored through clothing choices like an acne-faced teenager having to go to school anyway. Choosing outfits had somehow become finding the right cover-up for shameful blemishes. Should the outfit be ill-fitting, then I would reveal my own discomfort in a crowd of peers or strangers. If the outfit was lacking, others could not help but notice my own deficiencies. Should the outfit be out-of-place for the occasion, I could draw attention to my insecurities. Or, should the outfit be too ostentatious, I could be posing as something I have no business pretending to be. What to wear has been a struggle for a long time…until I dared to ask one of the many Amy’s I have known throughout the years.

I don’t know exactly when some of those blemishes had faded. I only know that the day that Amy shared her private tip with me was when I no longer needed as much cover-up. My conversation with Amy that day surfaced unfamiliar feelings. Is acceptance a feeling? I knew I didn’t want to be Amy; I want to be Julie.

“I use pictures,” Amy shared. “I cut out pictures of outfits I like from catalogues and magazines. I tape them up in my closet and use them as inspiration for creating outfits with the clothes I already have. And then I know exactly what to buy when I go shopping…the missing piece from the picture.” She radiated just like her aqua bathing suit with flashy cover-up.

Amy’s private tip encouraged me to choose sample pictures that reflected my own style and comfort. I could do that: Use the pictures of dressed models for inspiration and then personalize it. Mine my closet for what I already have. Where was I when I missed learning these basics?…probably in front of a mirror focusing on my blemishes.

Recently I packed for a week-long conference. I felt like an uninhibited child choosing outfits. The smiling women in my closet whispered, “Good choice, Julie.” Some were holding hands with children, some were walking in the park and some were smiling back at me. All affirmed me, “That looks like you, Julie.”

I flew to my conference having packed five ensembles approved by the voices in my closet. Having my clothes already organized, I was free to concentrate on the topic of the conference….dealing with obstacles that hinder personal growth, effectiveness and success. However, I discovered that I was not fully out of the closet when a well-known author, who was one of the conference instructors, happened to catch a piece of my conversation about my newfound freedom. I suspected he was hoping to hear about a recent breakthrough or insight gleaned from my participation in his program.

Embarrassed and flustered, I rambled on about my theory of adult Garanimals using catalogue pictures and matching coordinating pieces of clothing. “You know, the children’s brand of clothing that helps children grow in confidence by matching Hippo-labeled shirts to hippo-labeled shorts, or giraffe-labeled shirts to giraffe-labeled pants?” Confusion rippled across his forehead.

So what did I do?...kept talking. “I would like to at least have my exterior appear pulled together—even if what’s inside of me is still kind of unsettled."

This kind of statement, especially from a babbling, Garanimal theorist, would perk any counselor’s intuition: “You know what that means, don’t you?”

“Uh, I guess I’m using this whole Garanimal thing as a tool to relieve the stress about packing and dressing…” Still babbling, “Okay, so the outfits are a coping mechanism right now.” And it hit me that I wasn’t hiding behind my clothes anymore but becoming what the ladies in the closet already knew….I was growing into my clothes. “That’s why I’m here…to grow.”

To which he astutely replied: “Coping mechanisms are good…for awhile.”