“In an age where there is much talk about ‘being yourself’ I reserve to myself the right to forget about being myself, since in any case there is very little chance of my being anybody else. Rather it seems to me that when one is too intent on ‘being himself’ he runs the risk of impersonating a shadow.” ~Thomas Merton
Own your personality. It’s all you have.
You are a personality, and there’s nothing more unique than that. Neither your “official” palette nor your clothing recs will ever change that. What you want is to feel whole, acceptable, and complete in the presentation of yourself–that’s what this is really all about. You want others to like you. You want to be heard, seen, and understood.
Most style and image recs are given without regard to the personality being expressed. That’s all right. That makes sense from an objective standpoint. The objective approach is still the best springboard for developing your style, but it’s not the whole story. If you try to make it everything, you are likely to end up with a spectacular looking fantasy style that doesn’t work in the world you live in.
Some style consultants create unique images for their clients through typecasting. Actors often land movie or stage roles because they physically match a director’s idea of what a certain kind of character might look like. In fact, image consultants often report certain kinds of temperaments or personalities showing up frequently in particular combinations of coloring and body lines. This has never been proven absolutely, though I have come to be believe there is something to it.
There is a rhythm to the temperament, to the walk, to the modulation of the voice, that can give it all away if the style is inauthentic. Sure an actor may fool an audience for an hour or two, but real life is different. Your brain waves kick in and the script goes out the window. If your style isn’t real on some level, you will feel like a fraud, or at least like you put on somebody else’s clothes and makeup.
How does the personality express itself authentically?
Not only through line, color, and other people’s typecasting you, surely. What about the inside-out of a person? The way you talk, move, what you love, what’s important to you. And all of this figures into a lifestyle you may or may not have chosen–and then you have to stir the whole concoction together into some kind of palatable (and believable) style expression. What an order to fill!
I often think that everyone in this rat race needs a personal sabbath if only to remind themselves of what they love, what they believe, where they really want to go, and who is really important to them. Who do you wish you could be when you aren’t working? Is that really who you are or are you running from something you wish you weren’t? Perhaps you are missing something because your life goals are out of kilter? So much to ponder . . .
I read a book not long ago suggesting that the way to tackles life’s issues is not to become immersed in the enormity of all your problems at once, but to find one problem–just one–and solve it. Then when you solve that, move to the next one and the next. I decided to solve my easiest problem first–the personal style issue.
It was becoming clearer to me that the quest for that elusive “perfect style” that would make everyone love us, admire us, hire us, listen to us, was partly a fig newton of the imagination. I had been waiting for someone else to stamp me “finished and properly turned out” instead of stamping myself and owning my own presence in the world. I began to bolt from the convention of objective style analysis to solve this conundrum and started looking on the inside of myself. I know now that it’s the only way you can get your questions answered. It comes through knowing what you look like objectively, yes. But also what you really love, and what you–as a human being–are here to do.
When you get to that place, you are well on your way to developing a style philosophy that can be as practical or creative as you need it to be.
Featured illustration by John Tenniel, public domain.