Session 2, 5th December 2012
This morning’s coaching session with Kim was really good fun, and I use that word lightly, with an energy of playfulness. This is something of a minor miracle for me; fashion has not been synonymous with fun in my world over the last twenty years or so. It’s been stressful, full of comparison, inadequacy, needing to be approved of, constriction, confusion and frustration. No wonder I have scoffed and scorned at fashion mags, students and trends – my overarching experience has been one in which my stress levels increase, my adrenal glands get exhausted and I generally wind up feeling crap about myself.
I am aware that the outfit I wear to the session doesn’t necessarily fit with the colours work we did last week. My 1980s black and magenta batwing jumper with silver threaded through it isn’t a perfect match for my colouring, but it is oh so Elloa and I genuinely love it. That, I know my coach would say, makes it perfect. It comes in handy, too; in one exercise, I explore and discover what my Style Personality is, and vitally, what it has the potential to be, my £5 vintage store find from a couple of years ago aids me in completing the task. This exercise with Kim is actually really enjoyable; the sort of thing I would have hated to do on my own because of the potential it had to confuse me even further ended up being a positive experience of trusting my gut feelings, voicing things I haven’t admitted to before, and to allowing myself to be the centre of another person’s attention. As a teacher, I’m usually so focused on other people and their process, and it feels like a huge act of self-love to allow myself to be seen and heard in this way.
Prior to doing the above exercise, Kim and I review my mini goals from last week, and I am proud to report that I actually went into Boots and booked a seasonal skincare checkup at one of the make up/skincare counters. I have never done this before in my life; the women on those counters have always seemed like a foreign entity to me, almost clinical in their white tabards, their faces caked in artificiality which has always served to help me justify exactly why I’ve never approached them. ‘I don’t want to look like that‘ has actually been a neat little defence, a cover for the underlying thought: ‘I’m ashamed to go and speak to them because I don’t know how to be a woman, how to take care of myself. If I approach them, acknowledge them or speak to them, these women, these made up sales girls will see that in me and another layer of shame will be caked onto my being. Even ten times the amount of make up they wear couldn’t hide my shame.’ Woah. That gunk is much heavier than even the heaviest of theatrical make up. Time to change my mind, methinks.
Where did this fear and preconception come from? What did I learn from mum about being a woman? Mum wore a bit of make up, and had perfume (Chanel No. 5, as I recall), and strings of faux pearls decorated her dressing table. As a little girl I used to adore hunting through her jewellery boxes and make up bags, examining the blushers, powders, mascaras and lipsticks. It wasn’t like my mum was unfeminine. But I don’t really remember doing much with her, or learning much from her about how to apply make up, what colours suited me, how to play with it and when to wear it. I learned what I learned from Bliss, Sugar, Cosmopolitan, More, New Woman and Marie Claire. I rarely did anything with female friends – one makeover experience when I was twelve or thirteen left me feeling so vulnerable and ashamed because I didn’t know if the two girls in my class – not quite friends – had humiliated me or made me look beautiful when they did my make up. I couldn’t tell if I looked good or looked like a clown. What was their intention? This two-hour episode has etched itself somewhere deep onto my psyche and I’ve never really done much with friends ever since.
I also remember another time, when I was living in Australia, where I went to a counter and asked for some tips on my skincare routine. I was 22 years old, fresh faced and beautiful and the woman ‘helping’ me was in her fifties. She launched a tirade of judgment on my un-made up skin, and I blushed crimson and wanted the ground to swallow me up in one gobble. It’s not surprising, I now realise, that I have such an aversion to beauty counters.
I’ve also been noticing different browns this week and have begun to be able to discern browns that are muted and cool, which would suit me. Suddenly, I find myself wanting to try on a colour that I have previously declared I “don’t wear”. This process is fantastic! Change, which keeps all things fresh and new, is breezing through my life on a daily basis at the moment.
I study A Course in Miracles which advises scrutinizing every value and belief that you hold and asking yourself if it is helpful or not. The Course says that there are two thought systems in the world – one based on love, the other on fear – and that we live by one or the other of these thought systems at any given moment. If a thought is rooted in fear, it will only generate more of itself. Conversely, a loving thought will generate more love.
Some fearful beliefs that I have been carrying for years have come straight to the surface through the process of Style Coaching, rising to the top of my consciousness, ready for examining, questioning and letting go of. One of these is that I am undeserving of enjoying fashion, that fashion and clothes are something other women can enjoy but which I am excluded from. Another belief is that I don’t know how to be a woman. A third is that change won’t last. These are powerful and have the potential, if left unspoken and unexamined, to undermine the whole coaching process.
I think that in some ways, I missed out on certain rites of passage when I was a teenager and young woman, for lots of different reasons (family situation, anorexia, self-hatred and so much shame). I have carried a deep belief that I am less of a woman because of it, or am defective as a woman in a number of ways. I don’t know if I consciously expected these beliefs to surface during coaching, but I’m very grateful that they’ve appeared because now I can take responsibility for my thinking and take steps to transform my beliefs into something more positive.
I sense that there is a lot to undo in how I see myself in this area of my life. The ball is rolling and I have more homework to do this week to keep the momentum up. I’m excited because I painted my nails this evening for about the third or fourth time this year, which must be a record. I also put some nice eye make up on today, still subtle, not doing anything new or experimental (yet – although I have now owned to another human being that this is definitely something I’d like to play with) but for two minutes worth of effort, it delivers a lot of positive vibes that last all day long.
I feel genuinely excited about stepping into my Elloaness. Perhaps style, fashion, clothes and how I dress really could be part of how I express myself and play with my creativity. Perhaps I too am entitled to that experience; it isn’t just something that other women can have, but not me. For a long time I think I’ve tried to deny to myself that this is even important, and yet I have been unable to state with conviction that I have felt happy, confident and, well, fully me. Perhaps, starting today, that is all going to change… Perhaps, in fact, it already has.
P.S. I painted my nails after writing this post!