Style Coaching Session 3

It’s been a couple of weeks since my third Style Coaching session with Kim: Christmas has come and gone, and today hails the end of one year and the start of another. According to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar and prophecies, we have entered a new era of consciousness. I can’t speak for the Mayans, but I can say for sure that I am changing.

One of the beliefs that I have become aware of through the coaching process is an insidious little monster: Change won’t last. This belief has the potential to undermine any action I take, undoing newly tied laces of change and keeping me firmly on track to destinations of old. One glance at my life over the last ten years or so smashes that belief into a thousand smithereens.

Am I the person I was at the start of the century? Am I unchanged? Of course not.

Well then: long-lasting change may not be easy, it may come and go away again, but like anyone who has been truly determined to transform, who has fully committed that they want this new path more than they want the old one, change will come, and it will become solid, dependable, real. It is possible to choose a different way of thinking and of living. I’ve seen loads of inspirational people around me do this in so many ways.

This, I think, is perhaps the secret to any change in life – to giving up smoking, or eating sugar, to starting to exercise and doing it consistently, to learning a language, to being in a relationship – you have to want the new outcome more than you want the old one. When you do, you set out on an entirely different kind of path which leads in a completely new direction.

So begins session number three with Kim. Actually, that’s not quite true. The very beginning of the session involves me oohing and ahing over Kim’s eyeliner, a sultry purple, and her informing me that yes, this colour would indeed suit me, too. Kim checks in with me about whether I believe I can change, and I am able to firmly answer her, “Yes”. It’s already happening.

We spend some of the session honing my goals for the coaching process, which gives everything a sense of solidity and reality. I am really doing this. Dates and details are getting firmed up, and with Christmas around the corner, my requests to my sisters for gifts are very Style Coachingy – clothing vouchers, make up brushes and electric blue nail polish. I am delighted when I receive all three.

My new nail polish (but, ahem, not my nails)

My new nail polish (but, ahem, not my nails)

I’ve written in previous posts about the shame I’ve carried for years about not knowing how to be a woman in terms of grooming and so on. Kim talks me through nail care in our third sesh together; there’s so much more to it than I wanted to acknowledge. The old sense of fear kicks in around having to spend more money and time on it than I want to. The choice however is this: carry on doing very little in the way of self care in that area and keep criticising myself; carry on doing very little but change my thinking (very hard when you’re still doing the old behaviour – acceptance, acceptance, acceptance); try something new and think the old thoughts; OR try something new and think something new! I’ll go for option 4, please Bob (any Blockbusters fans out there?). We set a bunch of mini goals around me getting some base coat, top coat and cuticle cream. Sticking to them is harder. By New Year’s Eve I still haven’t got the base coat or top coat, and massaging my cuticles (aka my cutes from now on) has fallen by the wayside. Kim even wanted me to throw away my cuticle scissors, which look like an instrument of torture I must say. I am reluctant – and sorry to admit that they’re still in my make up box. Just in case of emergencies. I haven’t used them though, promise!

The Scissors of Doom

The Scissors of Doom

I’ve got another new goal involving Nige and an energy I want to call into my life… one area I’ve shied away from a lot is glamour and sexiness. I’ve just felt so uncomfortable with it. Kim said something very innocently that has stayed with me: “I’d always rather be overdressed than underdressed”. The stark difference of her attitude to mine has really stood out for me in recent weeks, and I’m starting to make a lot of changes in how I dress.

And people are noticing. I’m getting a fair few comments on how I look, on the changes I’m making to my make up and clothes. A gorgeous perfume makes its way into my life at Christmas. Hubby and I discover a new vintage shop in Darwen, Lancashire, and I fall in love with about six different things; Nige, who has really supported my process, offers to get me something for Christmas, and suddenly I have a wicked 80s mohair cardigan with huge batwing arms and a chunky plastic link bracelet with heart charms dangling off it in all my favourite colours to my name. I treat myself to a vintage 80s skater style skirt with deep front pockets in a nautical map print. This * is * fun.

My new watchwords, against which I am making my clothing choices are: Creative, Dramatic, Feminine. If it doesn’t fit into one of those categories, for the time being it ain’t getting in. I’ve done simple and natural for a lot of years and it’s time for a sea change.

I’ll close by saying that my old adage of ‘Can’t be bothered’ is fast becoming, ‘Be bothered’. And I am loving every minute of it. Right, off to take the old nail polish to get ready for a smashing New Year’s night out in another new purchase, a gorgeous feminine and rather dramatic frock.

Kim, working with you is rocking my world. xxx

For more information on working with Kim, call her on +44 7876 781 802

Style Coaching Session 2

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!
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Style Coaching Session 1

Session 1, 28th November 2012

Excited about my first session with Kim this evening. Hair, clothes, make up, shopping, how I feel about my clothes and wardrobe, the physical space I keep them in and my relationship with myself in these areas isn’t something that I really ‘struggle’ with, but it is there every day, a mild discontent tingeing the edges of my day, day in, day out.

I learn a lot in this initial session: Firstly, we talk boundaries, outline of the sessions and clarify what my priorities are. We settle on the areas of style, grooming (to include hair, nails, make up and skincare), shopping (mostly of the window kind at the moment) and finally, an overall theme or thread running through everything: femininity. I almost forget how to spell the word, which is pretty symbolic of my disconnection from it in my life.

Kim tells me that because of my fairly ‘structured’ shoulders (love that word!), I am, according to Style Coaching, an hourglass shape. Very flattered to be considered in the same grouping as Marilyn Monroe, although I know that Style Coaching shapes are different from the traditional ones that are used in women’s mags. Nevertheless, I feel pleased that there isn’t work to be done on balancing up my physique; I can simply choose clothes that emphasise my features and that I love.

I also learn that my colours are primarily muted, and secondly cool. The note to self that I have known all my life (apart from one unforgettable mistake in California) is, “Orange = bad”. I can get away with some reds, some pinks, but am definitely on the green/blue/violet/brown/grey end of the spectrum

It’s time to set some goals – eek. Making it real, concrete and clear through setting goals really hammers home that I am truly engaging in this bold act of self-care. My four goals are:

1. Style: To find my true sense of style with a big injection of Elloaness!

2. Grooming: To explore and experiment with grooming.

3. Shopping: To play with window shopping, looking at colours and putting myself into expensive clothes and shoes.

4. To embrace femininity.

Meeting these goals will be an act of demonstrating my self-worth, playing and developing self-confidence, and giving myself the freedom to choose how to dress and show up in the world from a place of creativity, joy and self-expression rather than a dread and sense of stuckness.

The session brings up some really interesting questions for me: What does femininity mean to me? I have garish pictures involving pink, fluff and American beauty-queen style pageants running through my mind, clashing noisily with feminism, interspersed with various dances and the image of Woman they portray – Argentinean Tango, Charleston, Waltz.

How would it be to wake up one day and decide that I was going to have a fifties style day, or just wear bright pink lipstick because I felt like it, or chose not to wear make up but had electric blue nails? (Answer: really, really cool.)

I’m given four pieces of homework and sent on my way. In seven days’ time I need to have done free writing on femininity, been to the counter in Debenhams/Boots and got free samples of skincare products and if possible, make up, collected and started thinking about shades of brown (brown!) in order to explore warm and cool colours – if you can do it with brown, you can do it with the other colours too, apparently: who knew?! – and finally , done an exercise on self-limiting beliefs.

So, Style Coaching has gotten off to a fabulous start. Having voiced my fears – that I can’t go and try on expensive clothes because I’ll be judged just like Julia Roberts was in Pretty Woman (even though I’m not, ahem, a hooker), has already helped to dispel them, and I feel freer already.

Give me three months and I reckon I’m going to be more confident, more stylish and more comfortable in my own skin than ever before.

Isn’t life fun?!