Developing Personal Style: Getting What You Want

Developing personal style — the kind of grace and ease that we experience as someone’s powerful personal style —  usually evolves only after years of working on oneself.

I believe that a woman’s personal style begins to evolve naturally when she really gets to the bottom of what she wants — what she wants for her life to be about, and not what other people want for her. As women, raised to be people-pleasers, it often takes years before we can distinguish between the two.

Yet this is the source of personal brand and the style that flows from it: who are you? What do you want? What will your life be about?

Are you a dreamer?

Do you want to…

  • Have a six-figure business or larger?
  • Make a major impact on the world?
  • Leave a legacy?
  • Move up the corporate ladder and join the C Suite of executives?
  • Start a non-profit organization that helps people in need, the environment, mankind?
  • Retire with passive income so you can travel and experience the world?

Who wouldn’t want these things? Easier said than done, however. The first step is to truly believe your dreams are achievable.
Many articles, books, and workshops advise dreamers like us to act “as if.” Act as if we’ve already got our dream job. Act as if we’re already successful. Act as if we’re confident. “Fake it till you make it.”
All too often, I have seen people with big dreams and once they start to realize those achievements, they realize it wasn’t really what they wanted. You may say, for example, that you want to run your own business, but if you don’t actually want the added responsibility, if you don’t like sales or putting in the extra hours, acting “as if” will be an empty exercise.

Developing a Personal Brand and Style

What’s the solution? How does a person turn what they say they want into what they actually get? Here are some ways to begin.

Start slowly.

When people decide to make a significant change in their lives, they often try to do too many things at once and get overwhelmed or discouraged. Focus on one thing that’ll get you closer to the “you” you’d like to become. This way if you aren’t on the right path you can always iterate and move in a different direction.
This is true whether it’s a big goal or a change in your behavior, self-confidence or even the way you want to show up in the world.
Take baby steps.  “Try on” the new behavior or style and see how it feels before making a huge commitment to something new.

Face your resistance.

Change is challenging for most of us. Give yourself a leg-up by being willing to face any underlying beliefs that might be getting in your way? I find journaling to be a really effective exercise.  Give yourself some prompts then do some free association writing:

  • Why do I really want this goal?
  • What will my life be like when I achieve the outcome I seek?
  • What will I be sacrificing to focus on this big awesome achievement?

This will help you get to your motivations.  Sometimes we want things for the wrong reasons and it’s worth doing some soul searching before you start to visualize the outcomes you are seeking.

Don’t just set goals, visualize them.

Creating a visual representation of your future state is a potent and tangible reminder of what a customized, ideal life looks like. I love using Pinterest for this but all the research indicates having your vision board displayed where you can frequently view it, is where the power lies. So, if you create a “dream board” print it or make it your screensaver so you can see it often.
I recommend this for my style clients as well.  If you can’t envision the end goal, it is near impossible to achieve it.  Whether it is a big new career, a more confident version of yourself or an amazing image and style, a visual aid is proven to significantly increase your chances of success.

Start acting like it.

Once you’ve visualized yourself living “as if” you’re already becoming that person, start taking the actions that person would take. Actions can either reinforce the old beliefs or the new ones.
Do you know someone you want to emulate — a news anchor, movie star, TED speaker, business owner, expert at the top of your field? Ask yourself how would they react in this or that situation? Act like they would under the circumstances you are facing.
In my image and style business I actually created nine avatars for this exact purpose.  They are a tool to help my clients envision their future style. I ask them to dream about their future state, pick adjectives to describe how they want the world to see them and how they want to be remembered.  I ask them to consider their values. They narrow all of this down and write a personal mission statement to describe why they are living this life.

All of this leads to a better understanding of self.  Knowing who you are, your personal brand, is the right place to start such a process. Yet translating that into your wardrobe is not so easy.  If looking the part both online and off was simple, the average woman would not wear only 20% of the clothes in her closet.
What does it look like to be a leader who is feminine, kind, holistic and an out-of-the-box thinker for example?  It isn’t easy, but I created a tool.  The Success thru Style avatars are designed to help.  If you haven’t taken the Success thru Style quiz, give it a try. It will help you discover your personal brand in fewer than five minutes, assign you a style avatar to follow, and help you envision what that avatar might wear to show up to communicate who they are.

Hang out with people who are like what you want to be.

Role models are a great way to learn what works and avoid what doesn’t. Ask questions. Observe them. Change. Grow.
Honestly, pause for a moment and make a list of people you already know. Are there some influencers in your space that you aspire to mimic?  Are there people you respect that you want to spend more time with?
Remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who are they now and who do you want them to be?

Practice rigorous self-care.

Ask yourself, “How would these ideal ‘as if’ people I’m hanging out with treat themselves if they were experiencing similar challenges?” Then respond accordingly.
Honestly, do you treat yourself, your body, your mind, you psyche, the way you would treat others?  How does the idealized version of yourself behave?  Does she…

  • Get enough sleep?
  • Eat right?
  • Exercise?
  • Have fun?
  • Meditate or take time for self-reflection?
  • Take time for her spiritual self?
  • Treat herself to new things and experiences?

Take an inventory of how you are currently living, how you are treating yourself, how you are prioritizing what’s really important.  This will help set you up for your big dream!

Developing personal style? Change your environment. 

There’s no better killer of change than stagnation in your physical environment. Do you love your space?  Does it relate to who you are, your personal brand and image? Does it inspire you and make you happy?  Or are in you a cluttered space that makes you feel anxious and ill at ease?
We emotionally take in our space.  If you had to put adjectives to your environment what would they be?  Are you proud of your surroundings?  If not, take a minute and reflect on it and make a list of things you can do right away to improve the world you inhabit.
You might also think about aromas. Smell is one of our most powerful senses.  Do you have a scented candle or an oil diffuser that can add a beautiful ambiance to your space?
What about a bit of color therapy?  We know we react emotionally to color.  Red is a tool used by fast food restaurants to get us in and out quickly.  It increases our sense of urgency and might even make us anxious.  Whereas blue is a calming color and commonly used in children’s nurseries as a soothing technique. Yellow makes us happy; gray and black, not so much.
When I work with my image and style clients, I suggest they make their closet a place they love.  Is it well lit, free of clutter, do the hangers match?  Can they hang things in a logical organized manner?  If you want to change the relationship you have with your appearance, consider changing how you feel about the clothes hanging in your closet and the experience you have when you enter that environment.
Bottomline: Just changing your scene can be the impetus for a positive attitude and behavior change – and developing personal style.

Habits die hard.

It’s easy to become stuck with (or comforted by) old habits. We really are creatures of habit every day. We wake up a certain way, to an alarm or not, brush our teeth, grab a cup of coffee, take a shower, work out, and eat breakfast.  Then we do the same thing at night.  What time do you go to bed? Do you set your alarm? Take a bath? Read? Watch TV?  Stay up too late?
All day it’s the same.  If you want to change your life, change your habits!  One by one, every week or two add something new or remove something that doesn’t serve you.
The path to living your best life — and developing personal style — can be long and winding.  By setting your intentions on where you want to arrive, making sure it’s truly what you want, and then following these simple steps increases the odds of success.



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