When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.
About four years ago I invested in a book to help me with a personal style and image journey. Style Statement by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte proved to be a valuable tool for that and many other areas of life. I do not remember how I stumbled across this amazing little guide, but it mysteriously appeared on the market around the same time that I was also struggling with issues about business branding.
That little book promised solutions according to the authenticity of one’s human design pattern. This was a new twist on the usual prescriptive advice about what job to seek, what color to paint your house, how to present yourself in public and so on.
Destination Maps & Branding
It has a Lifestyle Map with sections focusing on different aspects of your life — Home + Stuff, Fashion + Sensuality, Spirit + Learning, Service + Wealth, Relationships + Communication, Creativity + Celebration, Body + Wellness, and Nature + Rest & Relaxation. The exercises within it are based on questions that cause you to reflect on things that you love and why, things you have done that made you feel fulfilled and why, things you have enjoyed and why. No one can answer the why but you. Then you list words, words, and more words that correspond to the whats and whys. When you have listed them all, you start identifying consistent themes running through the whole of your life. Out of these themes comes the 80/20% word split that makes up your life’s ‘mantra’. The first word represents your default inner essence and the second word represents your creative edge and outer persona. The 80/20 split gives you a proportion of balance that keeps you from being disconnected or burned out.
Under the tutelage of co-authors McCarthy and LaPorte, I defined my personal style in two words. Afterward I applied these two words to develop an archetype for my business presentation. Many branding sites advise the use of archetypes to create the image you want your product or service to project. My style statement helped me to form a new archetype out of two that would not have sufficed alone: “The Innocent Sage.” It is nearly an oxymoron meaning something like “The Wise Innocent” or “The Ancient Baby.” In The Sea Pearl icon it took shape as a mermaid (ancient creature) with a baby (newborn).
My Foray into Personal Style and Image
Applying the style statement to my personal wardrobe proved more difficult. It was one thing to work out a style from the outside-in, but how can anyone be sure that what they feel on the inside will work on the outside? I immersed myself in the world of style and image analysis, reading everything I could get my hands on to answer the question. Much of the information gleaned from these sources and many, many following discussions proved valuable, but much of it also left me kicking myself for wasting the time. I had gathered lots and lots of information on color, style and costume, but it did not add up to a singularity of dress. I was searching for authenticity, not a costumed look that felt disconnected.
Finally, I hired John Kitchener, one of the most gifted image consultants in the world, to assess my ‘vibe’. He is the owner of Personal Style Counselors, a company specializing in the techniques of the great Suzanne Caygill, a pioneer in the field of personal image and color analysis. He got my essences astoundingly right–and pulled my puzzle pieces into a discernible picture of someone who began to look and feel like me! At last my outside began to resemble my inside.
It is a little known fact in the style and image world that a mysterious correspondence exists between our inner and outer personas, never mind the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” It seems to bear itself out over and over that people with certain colorings tend toward a high preponderance of corresponding geometrical shapes in the bones and features as well as predictable temperaments and personalities. (This is the basis of type-casting in the acting industry.) No one has ever nailed it down to a science, but I sometimes wonder if the study of this data was the ancient basis of Chinese face reading, phrenology, and prognostication about the direction someone’s life might take. Perhaps we will never fully know that part of the story. We do know that when an image consultant finally gets it right, the recipient has an “Aha! This is me!” moment.
A Perfect Truth
But this digresses from the original topic of the Style Statement book. I dug it out again after the consultation with Kitchener to see if it still ‘spoke’ into my life. Surprisingly, all the commentary from Kitchener (after it sank in for some months) perfectly corresponded to my original style statement from the book. Not only that, but the business brand I had chosen many months earlier also dovetailed with Kitchener’s analysis!
What a journey – but I love the destination! Sometimes the more we learn of someone else’s system the less we remember about our own truth. Let’s all help each other remember to trust our instincts.
A WISE FRIEND
It worked for fashion. It worked for personal business branding. Would this style statement hold up in other areas of life? The Style Statement e-book I purchased had a somewhat confusing layout, so I did not realize at first that the exercises I went through to find my style statement for fashion did not need to be done over for every other area in the Lifestyle Map. However, I did them over again to answer questions about my home decor and life style. The answers distilled themselves down into the same two words as before. There was no change in my style statement. It is obviously the elemental truth about me, what I love and where I want to go in life.
Compromises Intelligently Applied Make You Better Than You Are!
At the center of the book’s Lifestyle Map is YOU. I understand the Map within the context that every person is a world within a larger cosmos at which none of us is the center. We do not get every option we wish, but we can know ourselves and make the best choice available to us at the time. Just as everything changes us, so we also change everything around us.
In relationships, we have to make intelligent compromises. My 20% tendency to collect treasures (“flotsam and jetsam” I call these random accumulations) had been overwhelmed by my artist husband’s even stronger drive to collect the same. I made a conscious decision to quit duplicating his efforts since he’s already so good at it. My 80% free-and-easy nature couldn’t handle the excess of his rich taste. I need space. I need to breathe. My contribution to our mutual space was to unload a few things, paint the walls a soothing grey, and light candles. The decision gave me a clearer vision of where to concentrate my energies.
What is the upshot of the Style Statement book? It has helped me to understand where people begin and end. I am no longer getting sucked into other people’s trips nor sucking them into mine. Neither am I wasting my energy on projects that look exciting at the start but won’t matter to me 20 minutes later. Style Statement is not a rule book for everything in life, neither will it save you from having to do some things you do not like. It is a practical guide, however, for spending your energy and resources wisely when you have a choice.
Header photo: Clotho / CC BY-SA